With a new defensive scheme on its way to Memorial Stadium this fall, the Indiana defensive line hopes to anchor the new 3-4 look.
The defense has been working at improving this offseason, and senior defensive end Bobby Richardson has noticed a difference in the way the unit that finished last in the Big Ten in total defense a year ago carries itself.
“The swagger is way different,” Richardson said following a practice last week. “It’s like a bond now, we’re a defense now. Before it was just 11 guys out there playing together, but now it’s more of a bond.”
The Hoosiers’ new defensive line coach Larry McDaniel is excited about the opportunity that the front has in store for the upcoming season. McDaniel has been impressed by the effort he has seen from the big men on defense, but commented on the importance of learning how to make that pay off on Saturdays.
“These guys work extremely hard,” McDaniel said. “Now the biggest thing for us to do is to channel that hard work into working smart.
“Hard work without having direction is just hard work. We’re just really concentrating on how we can take their attitude about working and put it in place to make the people want to work.”
Going along with working hard is gaining trust in each other and the coaching staff. With that trust, McDaniel believes the players will continue to build confidence week after week, which will be an important factor moving forward.
“That’s what we’re working to get these guys to, where they can step on to the field against any opponent and feel confidence in their ability and confidence in the defense that we’re calling,'' McDaniel said. "I think you’ll see that these guys possess that same kind of ability.''
The new scheme has the defense excited. While last season the Hoosiers had four hands in the turf before the snap in the 4-3 front, this season fans will see a switch to a 3-4 scheme, meaning guys are standing up on the line in order to match up with the spread offenses that are becoming more and more popular in college football.
“We’re going to be very multiple in how we approach things, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of static, non-movement,” McDaniel said. “In this day and age with the offenses you play, you’ve got to attack them. You can’t sit back on your heels, they’re just too dynamic.”
Richardson talked about how the new scheme impacts the responsibilities of the defensive line.
“Coming from what we used to play I had a specific gap, but now every call I have a different gap,” Richardson said. “It’s going to be more just left to right instead of straight up field now. So this whole summer camp we got to stay conditioned and do a lot of running.”
The senior defensive end from Tampa, Fla. started the final 10 games of 2013 at defensive tackle while leading all IU defensive linemen with 39 tackles to go along with 3.5 tackles for a loss and three pass breakups at the line of scrimmage. With a year of starting under his belt, Richardson, as well as fellow senior Chris Cormier, will need to be the leaders of the otherwise young group to have success up front.
“Like with anything, young guys are going to look for the older guys for the identity of the group,” McDaniel said. “So it’s important that I get with Bobby and Chris and let them understand where they are in the pecking order from the stand point of the young guys are looking at you and I need you guys to play and practice at a high rate, and I think when you do that, that translates to the way you play on the field.”
As for Richardson’s potential, McDaniel sees an opportunity for him to take a big step in his game this season.
“I think he’s an All-Big Ten caliber player, I really do,” coach McDaniel said. “Watching him on tape and watching how he moves and how he plays with leverage, I think that he can be potentially an All-Big Ten candidate.”