However, near the end of the 2014 season, the unit started to show significant signs of improvement.
At Saturday’s Spring Game, the Hoosier defense picked up from where it left off by only allowing two touchdowns.
“Everybody is starting to get more comfortable,” senior defensive end Nick Mangieri said after the game. “We’ve got young guys at linebacker, and they’re starting to get used to the calls, and I think it showed today.”
On top of linebacker youth, there isn’t much experience coming from the IU secondary. Defensive coordinator Brian Knorr will be forced to replace both of his starting cornerbacks and his starting strong safety from last season.
The talented Chase Dutra should be able to step into the safety spot for Mark Murphy without too many issues. However, there is a big question mark as to who will replace Tim Bennett and Michael Hunter on the outside.
Padmore saw limited minutes last season, but he certainly looked seasoned on Saturday, refusing to shy away from contact and performing well in coverage.
Padmore said that he has learned how to slow the game down during spring practices.
“I was thinking too much,” Padmore said. “With the playbook and everything. Now that I know it I can just play faster.”
Open field tackling was a bright spot for the Hoosiers Saturday, one of the biggest areas that the defense needs to improve to take the next step.
“(Physicality) is very important,” Padmore said. “Coach (Brandon) Shelby and Coach Knorr, they emphasize that every day. Being physical tacklers, wrapping up and doing everything with velocity basically.”
”It’s the way you develop,” Wilson said. “The stronger you get the more self-esteem you have, and it’s good to see. It’s young guys going up, it’s good to see. You’ve got to be physical to be a good Big Ten East team, and we are trying to embrace and work on that.”
Physical play was seen at all three levels of the defense in the Spring Game.
The defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game while also demolishing pockets time after time.
The linebackers were ferocious in attacking the run game while managing to stay true to their coverages.
And the secondary made some hard hits, wrap up tackles and even forced a fumble.
“We’ve tried really hard to stop coaching schemes and start coaching playing hard,” Wilson said. “We didn’t run a lot of plays today, and one reason was to vanilla it up and dumb it down. It was really just get those guys out on the field and playing hard.”
All in all, there was a lot to be excited about defensively. But Mangieri noted that the defense’s mentality and approach to the game has been what has impressed him the most.
“People just have confidence when they’re playing out there,” Mangieri said. “All the guys on defense, there’s a good comradery between us. And when you’ve got that, you want to play for the guy to your left and right and it makes it a lot more fun.”Staff Analysis: Spring Game
Hoosiers Comeback QB Nate Sudfeld
Mangieri transitioning back to defensive end