As a true freshman, linebacker Clyde Newton turned heads. A year later, Newton is looking to avoid the sophomore slump and make a seamless adjustment to a new defensive scheme.
The honorable mention All-Big Ten Freshman honoree has a fresh outlook for 2014 and has looked to build on his first season, although it’s been an adjustment with new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr.
“Been a learning experience,” said Newton, who started the final four games of 2013 and played in all 12 contests as a true freshman. “Learning all my fits and learning how to do my job. Everybody getting to their assigned areas and getting all these plays in.”
On the depth chart, Newton currently sits behind senior Flo Hardin at the strong side position, but with so many interchangeable parts in the new scheme, Newton will see plenty of action, just like he did a year ago.
Last year, the 6-1, 230 pound linebacker recorded 32 tackles from the weakside, including 19 solo stops. Newton was also named the IU defensive player of the week twice for his performances against Wisconsin and Illinois.
Specifically, knowing where his man is at all times and dealing with pulling offensive linemen while in blitz coverage have been processes to learn in the new 3-4 set. Newton still believes that working on turning his hips is his main key to improvement that needs to be made before the season opens.
“I’m looking at the receiver and turning back at the quarterback,” Newton said. “I have good hips but I feel like I can make them better. It’s more of a technique thing, just how to flip them, just getting it down pat to where it’s almost perfect.”
Newton’s fellow sophomore linebacker T.J. Simmons has been impressed with the versatility of the unit, especially from the young group including Simmons, Newton, Marcus Oliver and Tegray Scales, just to name a few.
“It’s real good because they bring stuff to the table that others can’t do,” said Simmons about the strengths of each backer. “Like Clyde, relentless effort to the ball. It’s crazy how he can run to the ball, not everybody can do that.”
On the field, Newton was able to make an impact that few do as a freshman, but like many college students, the Punta Gorda, Fla. native had to adjust to being away from his family.
“It’s hard when you’ve got your family so far away,” Newton said. “They make an effort to come visit me. My brother lives in Chicago so he comes all the time.”
Newton’s brother, Leonard Bryant, was an IU defensive back from 2002-04 and Newton believes that Bryant playing at IU helped not only in his own decision to come to IU but also since he’s been here.
“I knew what Bloomington was about, felt like it was a good town, a good learning environment and a great place for me to come play football,” Newton said. “I feel like I can get fully developed. I felt like I’ll be pushed harder than most players around the nation here as we’re looking for a lot more. We’re trying to build things up.”
For a defense that finished last out of 124 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total yards a season ago, virtually the only place the defense can go is up.
Lofty goals have been set for Knorr’s first season. According to Simmons, the defense hopes to allow fewer than three yards per carry, force at least three turnovers per game and allow fewer than 17 points per game. While those feats would make the Hoosiers’ defense a top five unit just after finishing in the bottom 10, Newton believes it’s all about the attitude change.
“We have the talent, all the good players,” Newton said. “Everybody’s attitude is looking up.”
With less than two weeks until kickoff versus Indiana State, the Hoosiers are trying to get into the groove of mentally preparing throughout the week building up to Saturdays. While camp has gone well for the defense according to Newton and Simmons, it’s an ongoing process of improvement, as both players are just sophomores.
“We’re growing together, we know what each other can do,” Simmons said.
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