Indiana took a graduation hit on the ends of its defensive line with the departures of Nick Mangieri, Zack Shaw and Darius Latham. That's why a lot of eyes are on sophomore Jacob Robinson this month.
Out of Westfield, Indiana, the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Robinson jumped into the mix right away as a true freshman last season, appearing in all 13 games. Despite playing behind the three linemen already mentioned, he recorded five tackles and a big TFL in the team's huge win at Maryland.
Last week during the first day of fall camp he acknowledged that he does feel the responsibility in having to step up in his second season.
"I do," Robinson said. "But I take it upon myself to be the best I can be to help this team. "I am really excited for this year. I think I can do great things, continue to get better. Work on my technique, attitude. The attitude of getting after it, being aggressive and physical."
He feels prepared for the challenge.
"I got to play to play behind Nick Mangieri and I learned a lot from him," Robinson said. "This past spring was my first spring and then playing last fall, that really helps."
"The difference is I always go to the field and they always go away from the field," Robinson said. "It's a preset responsibility. When the ball is on the line I go to the field and then they go to the opposite side."
In Chicago last month Marcus Oliver called Gooch the best pass rusher last year among the linebackers. Now he'll see if he can bring that to the DL.
"He can bend around the edges, has some really good speed," Robinson said. "Has good strength as well."
Veteran Robert McCray could see time at either Robinson's spot or at tackle. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound junior had 17 tackles last year including 1.5 sacks and 5.5 TFLs.
"Right now he's in the mix at both outside and inside but primarily right now I think he's going to be at the end position, working at the edge," Robinson said. "In the spring we both kind of flip-flopped between tackle and end."
New defensive line coach Mark Hagen is optimistic about McCray's contribution.
"We only had him for a few practices this spring and a lot of what we do, especially at the strong side end revolves around him," Hagen said last week. "Jacob Robinson had a very good spring. A bigger guy that you could see working back and forth without overloading him too much because he does give you a little more athleticism at that three technique position."
If Robinson does move inside, redshirt freshman Brandon Wilson (6'3, 261) is a real candidate at end.
"In talking coach Kevin Wilson, he's a guy that could have played last year," Hagen said. "They went back and forth, he did not, he redshirted. If he can step up and be that bigger end on the field that we can count on, he'll alleviate some of those concerns with maybe a Jacob Robinson.
"Those are things, to be real honest with you, that we need to figure out real quick. About a week or so into camp. It's unfair if you keep bouncing a Jacob Robinson in and out."