Positional Series: Linebackers

Indiana has some experience returning at linebacker but the performance of this group will go a long way toward telling just how much better the IU defense will be in 2013.

Chase Hoobler is out indefinitely with a stress fracture. The linebackers will have to use their depth in 2013.

Expected to start:

David Cooper/RS Jr/6-1/235

Griffen Dahlstrom/RS Sr/6-3/235

Steven Funderburk/RS Jr/6-3/235

The standout from last year's Hoosier defense, Cooper, is expected to have another big season. He totaled 86 tackles, 50 solo, and three sacks in the 2012.

Dahlstrom started the last seven out of eight games for the Hoosiers in 2012, finishing the season with 48 tackles, 29 solo, and one sack. He was also the winner of Indiana's Academic Excellence Award and on the Academic All-Big Ten team.

A junior college transfer from Iowa Western, a team that went 12-0 and won the 2012 NJCAA National Championship, Funderburk put together a 49 tackle season. He originally started at Tulane University before transferring to Iowa Western.

In the two deep

Forisse Hardin/Jr/6-1/225

Jake Michalek/RS Jr/6-2/243

T.J. Simmons/Fr/6-0/240

Jacarri Alexander/RS Sr/6-1/235

There is a a lot of talent in this bunch of players. Hardin, who had 48 tackles in 2012, moved from safety to linebacker during the offseason. Michalek has played mainly on special teams through his career but will get the chance this season to play more at linebacker. Simmons graduated early from high school so he could arrive in Bloomington for spring practice. Many believe he'll start right from the beginning and could be in the lineup in place of Funderburk. If not, Simmons will see a great deal of playing time his freshman season. Alexander started four times last season posting 30 tackles, 21 solo.

Others in the mix

Clyde Newton /Fr/6-1/220

Marcus Oliver/Fr/6-1/235

Jordan Wallace/RS Fr/6-0/234

Kris Smith/Fr/6-2/200

Some of IU's strongest recruits from 2012-2013, it will be interesting to see who gets playing time in 2013.

Help on the way

No linebackers signed for the 2014 class

Position Coaches

William Inge

Inge become a part of the IU coaching staff on March 6th, 2013 as the co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach. Inge has had a 12-year coaching career with stops at the Buffalo Bills (assistant defensive line coach), University of Buffalo (defensive coordinator and linebacker coach), University of Cincinnati (linebacker coach), and San Diego State (linebacker coach).

Position Strengths

1. David Cooper

Having someone on the field that has the star athletic ability is not only big for the linebacking corps but for the entire defense. The linebackers will have a leader in communication and someone to fall back on when needed.

2. Players returning

Cooper, Hardin, Dahlstrom, Alexander are all coming back with ample playing experience.

3. Junior college bond

Cooper, Alexander, and Funderburk are all junior college transfers. Look for these three to unite on the field and bring some fire power.

What needs to improve

1. Play making ability

It has been evident in recent years that the linebackers have struggled to stop the "big plays". Too many times when IU needed a stop or a defensive play the opposite would happen. The IU linebackers need to create momentum and get the IU offense on the field.

2. Open field tackling

There was some improvement last year in making open field tackles but it is nowhere near where it needs to be.

3. Vision

The William Inge hire and Kevin Wilson's focus on vision should bring improvements this year. The ability to stop the play at its first chance is crucial and IU will be getting closer to achieving that.

Kevin Wilson's take on the unit

"We need some guys to play significantly better at back, (with the) run and pass. William Inge is a good coach, we're doing a lot defensively. Hopefully simplify some communication and where our eyes go to cut it loose and play fast. We need Cooper, Griff, Jacarri and we need Flo Hardin to start playing like Big Ten defensive players that play linebacker in this league."

Player's weigh in too

Here's Cooper on what the fans will see from the linebackers that was different from last year:

"First of all they are going to see more aggressive play. They're going to see more plays being made, they're going to see more consistency and they're going to see more plays executed by the LB's. They're going to see more toughness , physicality and just downhill play. Just rockin' people."

Overall analysis

It will be intriguing to see how the linebacker position plays out in the non-conference schedule before Big Ten play. It could be a bright spot on the defensive side or it could be a spot that will need work. It will come down to a couple of things: communication, open field tackling, and vision. If the Hoosier linebackers can excel in those three categories then expect some success.

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