‘Violent’ was the word of the day for the Indiana defense as the Hoosiers continued fall camp on Tuesday.
Junior cornerback Michael Hunter reiterated the need to be a violent defense after Tuesday’s practice.
“That’s what you got to do to be great, be violent on defense, attack the ball, all 11 guys,” Hunter said. “That’s kind of what all the running was at the end of practice, to get more violent. At the end of the day we have to get more violent.”
In order become a violent defense the secondary needs to be more aggressive than what it displayed last season. Hunter said it starts with being more physical with receivers, which the new defensive scheme that incoming defensive coordinator Brian Knorr is installing helps the players accomplish.
“The new thing that I like about the defense is that we’re more aggressive,” Hunter said. “We’re more man-to-man, more press, more in receivers’ faces. In today’s game it’s all about timing, just throwing the receiver off a little bit.”
Hunter said that they must be able to keep from getting beat deep while staying aggressive. In order to do that, the players in the secondary are spending a lot of time working on their breaks to the ball.
“(We are) breaking on the ball better and we’re dropping into man,” Hunter said. “The key focus is making sure we prevent the deep ball and keep everything in front of us and be aggressive at the same time.”
Another area that the Hoosier secondary is focusing on improving during camp is creating more turnovers.
“It’s all about the ball,” Hunter said. “They can drive us for 15 plays, but at the end of the day if they don’t score those 15 plays meant nothing, so it’s all about getting the offense back the ball and preventing them from scoring by any means necessary.”
During Tuesday’s practice, Hunter missed out on creating a turnover of his own when he dropped an interception. Hunter said he has to take advantage of those types of situation once.
“That’s a missed opportunity,” Hunter said. “I’m going to hear about that in the meeting today. That’s an easy ball I got to catch and there’s no excuses for dropping that one.”
‘No excuses’ has been another theme of the secondary this offseason according to fellow starting cornerback Tim Bennett, who said they need to capitalize on all opportunities in order to be more successful.
“A big motto is ‘we have no excuses,’” Bennett said. “We have no excuses for missed plays, missed assignments, missed tackles. We have no excuses.”
One thing the secondary is doing in order to capitalize on turnover opportunities is running drills involving tennis balls in order to improve the secondary’s ball skills.
“It’s for hand-eye coordination,” Bennett said. “If you can catch a tennis ball moving 35 miles per hour, you can catch a football.”
According to Hunter, a year of experience is another factor that has the secondary gaining confidence in itself.
“I feel like as a whole unit, safeties and cornerbacks, we’re a lot better this year,” Hunter said. “Having a year under your belt is a big difference, brings comfort and knowing that you can get the job done.”
Part of that experience has resulted in more communication before the snap, which is where Bennett’s leadership is at full display.
“I’m more of a vocal leader,” Bennett said. “I’m always talking out there. You’re going to hear my voice nine times out of 10, but I’m always talking, trying to build the defense’s confidence up.”
Hunter said that he, along with safety Mark Murphy, need to help Bennett be leaders in the secondary in order to bring the group together and create a violent attitude.
“I feel like all of us have to be a leader because we have a lot of young guys in the second team,” Hunter said. “So me, Bennett and Murphy have definitely had to step up and be the leaders to bring the young guys together and also set the tone for the first unit.”