The new "husky" position in defensive coordinator Tom Allen's 4-2-5 alignment is open and true freshman Marcelino Ball has made a strong play for real time at the spot in preseason camp. With junior college transfer Jayme Thompson sidelined by turf toe and veteran Ben Bach splitting time between the husky and cornerback, Ball has had no shortage of snaps at the position this month.
Last week head coach Kevin Wilson hinted the 6-foot-0, 212-pound Ball could get the nod for next Thursday's opener at Florida International. Whether he starts or not, Ball should get plenty of field time in Miami.
"If we were playing today, Marcelino Ball has really stepped up, has looked great at the husky," Wilson said. "Very athletic, young. Will be picked on, as well Ben (Bach), but they're both mature, both have played well and will be critical to the defense."
The role is a bit of a hybrid between a safety and linebacker and requires a bit more size than some defensive backs might carry. Wilson said Ball has been in the 212 to 216 pound range this summer.
If Ball is ready, that could enable Indiana to play Bach more at cornerback, at least the corner spot that is treated more like the "husky" defensive back role.
"The bounding corner and the husky, they have to carry guys vertical and support the run," Wilson said.
Ranked only as a three star by Scout and just a two star by other recruiting services, Ball was not a high ranked prospect and only had one other Power Five conference offer when he committed to Indiana.
His family, however, has shown an ability to exceed expectations. His older brother, Marcus, who played at Memphis, plays defensive back for the Carolina Panthers. He previously played for the New Orleans Saints. Older brother, Reggie, played quarterback at Georgia Tech and another older brother, Raeshon, played defensive back for UT Chattanooga.
Tom Allen talked to the media last week about how Ball fits the position that his new alignment brings to the field.
"Marcelino as you guys have probably seen, is a guy that is making plays," Allen said. "Plays extremely hard and is very physical."
"It's a critical position for us," Allen added. "As that guy's skill set develops and finds what he can do, it defines what we can do as a scheme. We're going to need multiple guys there as it's a physical season, a long season."
Assistant coach Noah Joseph is in charge of the safeties including the husky role and sees Ball as a great fit for the position.
"He's given us a dynamic presence from that spot," Joseph said. "A guy that is physical and relentless in how he plays. Just have to give him baby steps in how to grow up and keep learning."
Joseph feels there's enough time for him to get up to speed enough for the opener.
"Yes. When you look at just his family background, he's been around football his entire life. We're in a good situation. When you looked at the secondary last year, really didn't have anybody else. We had to throw all these freshmen in. They had to get their feet wet. That was good and bad.
"Lino in that spot at husky, it is not like he's the only guy there or the only freshman. So we have a chance to work with him and get him through those growing pains without being in the fire every single play."
Coach Kevin Wilson comments on Ball from Big Ten Media Day: