After his defense finished near the bottom of Division I college football last season, Indiana football head coach Kevin Wilson decided it was time for a regime change on the defensive side of the ball. Sunday afternoon, before the men's basketball team took on Illinois at Assembly Hall, recently-hired defensive coordinator Brian Knorr and defensive line coach Larry McDaniel were introduced to the IU media.
Neither had been in town long, and both said they had had little time to interact with the current players on IU's roster while out putting the final touches on recruiting before national signing day next week.
But the excitement from both men to come into a struggling program and start fresh in one of the toughest conferences in college football was obvious.
"I've had an opportunity to come into situations where we've struggled on defense and really significantly improved, so I see this as another one of those opportunities," Knorr said.
Knorr comes to Bloomington from Wake Forest, where he most recently worked as the team's defensive coordinator for three seasons. Before, he spent time both at Air Force and Ohio University as an assistant coach as well as four seasons as a head coach at Ohio from 2001-04.
During his college playing days, Knorr played for Air Force under center, lettering three times as the quarterback of one of the most successful eras in Air Force football. During Knorr's time as a starter, his team won 30 games, the most in a three-year span in Air Force history.
With his experience on the offensive side of the ball both as a player and as a head coach, Knorr said he understands better the importance of getting his group off the field to allow the offense time to work and put points on the board.
Of course, with the fast-paced Hoosier offense on the field, his players on defense may not get as much rest as he's used to, but he'll make sure they're prepared to play physical football.
"It's a challenge in college football because the rules continue to favor the offense," he said. "It's a challenge to be a defensive coordinator. It's exciting especially in this league.
"There's a tremendous diversity of schemes in this league."
McDaniel's trip to Bloomington and transition into the Big Ten may be even sweeter, though. He played for four seasons under former IU head coach Bill Mallory as a nose guard and was a captain his senior season.
He said that once he got the call from Wilson about the opportunity to return to his roots, he couldn't turn it down.
"In your career, you only get a few opportunities to come back home, and this is an opportunity to come back home," McDaniel said. "This place has a deep, deep, dear place in my heart, so when I had the opportunity to come back, it was right."
When he accepted the offer, McDaniel said he called his wife, followed by his mom and then Mallory because he said he considers him a part of his family after what he learned from him during his playing days.
"Other than my parents, he's the closest thing I have as a person," McDaniel said. "Everything I do is influenced by Bill Mallory.
"He felt good about it, and he knew what was going on because obviously the transition was tough for his family in one instance, but the transition was great for his family in another instance because I'd like to think as well as I think he does that any of his former players are his family."
McDaniel's line took on the Hoosiers last year at Memorial Stadium, falling 42-10, though they went on to finish the season 10-4, win the Mid-American Conference title and play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
He said he liked what he saw from the Hoosiers in general and is excited to get back into Big Ten football.
"It's a tradition-rich league, so from the standpoint of if it's not broke, don't fix it, and that's what this league is," he said.
Knorr said he's excited to join Wilson's staff with a team full of players who have gotten so much playing time while building up the young team Wilson's staff began with.
But while he and McDaniel are out in the homes of possible prospects over the next few weeks and beyond, IU's new defensive coordinator said above all, one thing stands out in players he wants to see in his defense.
"The number one attribute that we're looking for defensively is how important is football," he said. "If football is important enough, everything will take care of itself."