Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports

2016 Position Primer: IU Defensive Line

Peegs.com takes a closer a look at the Indiana D-line, which is a position group that has a number of unknowns as the Hoosiers get ready to start the 2016 season.

In this preview Peegs.com examines the defensive line for the Hoosiers. This is a position group that has a lot of question marks because of a new defensive front that has forced the staff to move players around and put guys in new spots.

Position Primer: Indiana Quarterbacks

Position Primer: Indiana Linebackers

Position Primer: Indiana Tight Ends

Position Primer: Indiana Running Backs

Position Primer: Indiana Defensive Backs

Position Primer: Indiana Offensive Line

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TOP RETURNEES

http://www.scout.com/player/181710-ralphael-green?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Senior

STATS: In 2015 Green recorded 17 tackles, six pass deflections, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one QB hurry.

NOTES: Green is the most experienced defensive lineman the Hoosiers have as he has played in 35 games and started 12 in his career. He gives the IU defense a big body that moves pretty well for someone his size. With so many new faces in key roles this fall Green will be counted on to provide a veteran presence for the Indiana D-line.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/186797-robert-mccray?s=170

CLASS: Junior

STATS: In 2015 McCray recorded 17 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one pass deflection and one QB hurry.

NOTES: McCray has appeared in 21 games in the first two years of his Indiana career. The Georgia native seemed to get better last year as the season went along. Unfortunately he suffered a shoulder injury that will force him to miss the first six games of the 2016 season. It is a tough loss for the Hoosiers because McCray is a versatile player that could line up at defensive end or inside at D-tackle.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/150147-nate-hoff?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Junior

STATS: In 2015 Hoff recorded four tackles.

NOTES: Hoff was a pleasant surprise in 2014 as a redshirt freshman, but last year he was not nearly as productive. In spring ball and in Fall Camp he is someone the staff has mentioned as playing well. If he can return to his 2014 form this season he along with Ralph Green will give the Hoosiers a solid duo for the interior of their defensive line.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/177210-jacob-robinson?s=170

CLASS: Sophomore

STATS: In 2015 Robinson recorded five tackles.

NOTES: Robinson played in all 13 games last year as a true freshman for the Hoosiers and had five tackles. He had a good spring and that has carried over to Fall Camp. The coaches have talked quite a bit about how impressive he has looked on the practice field. Robinson is listed as the starter at defensive end, but in certain situations look for him to slide inside and play D-tackle. Robinson’s versatility will be huge for a defensive line that is not as deep in some spots as the coaches would like.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/166085-patrick-dougherty?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Junior

STATS: In 2015 Dougherty recorded one tackle.

NOTES: Dougherty has not played much in his time at Indiana. He redshirted in 2013 as a true freshman, and in 2014 as a redshirt freshman he did not see any game action. Last year as a redshirt sophomore he appeared in five games and recorded one tackle. With McCray out for the first half of the season the Hoosiers will need Dougherty to step up this fall and give them quality depth behind Green and Hoff.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/186553-derrian-meminger?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: In 2015 Meminger did not see any game action.

NOTES: The first game that Meminger plays in this fall will be the first time in his IU career that he plays in a real game. Last year as a redshirt freshman he did not see any game action. Just like with Dougherty, the Hoosiers will need Meminger to provide depth in the interior of their D-line behind Hoff and Green.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/167642-michael-barwick?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: In 2015 Barwick did not see any game action.

NOTES: Barwick is similar to Meminger in that he never got into a game last fall as a redshirt freshman so he has no game experience coming into this season. The Ohio native is a big body that the staff could use in the middle of their defensive line. Barwick was recruited to play in a three man front so it will be interesting to see how he fits in the new defensive scheme IU is running.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/173414-ja-merez-bowen?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: Bowen sat out the 2015 season after transferring from Cincinnati.

NOTES: Bowen had to sit out the 2015 season after transferring to IU from Cincinnati. He redshirted the 2014 season at Cincinnati. Bowen was a player that the Indiana staff recruited out of Shaker Heights H.S. in 2014. When he came to IU he was an offensive lineman, but late in the 2015 season he was moved to D-line and has been there ever since. He is raw as a defensive lineman but he has good size and he moves pretty well.

http://www.scout.com/player/182136-joe-belden?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Freshman

STATS: In 2015 Belden spent the season as a redshirt.

NOTES: Belden sat out last season as a redshirt. He came to IU as a defensive lineman that needed to get bigger and stronger so the year off was needed to allow him to work on that. He is not the biggest or most athletic D-lineman you will find, but the Avon, Indiana native plays extremely hard and goes all out on every single play.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/210202-joshua-brown?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Freshman

STATS: In 2015 Brown spent the season as a redshirt.

NOTES: Brown is a walk-on that redshirted last year as true freshman. The New Jersey native has been someone the staff has been impressed with in Fall Camp. He is expected to be in the rotation at defensive end, which is a spot where the Hoosiers don’t have as much depth as they would like.

NEWCOMERS

http://www.scout.com/player/176126-greg-gooch?s=170

CLASS: Junior

NOTES: Gooch has played in 24 games and recorded 23 tackles in his first two years at Indiana but they were all at linebacker. In 2014 he was playing inside LB, and then last year he was playing the Bandit LB spot in the 3-4 defense that IU ran. In the new 4-2-5 defense that Indiana is playing this year he has been moved to defensive end. The staff is looking for Gooch to give them a pass rush off the edge this fall.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/165608-nile-sykes?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

NOTES: Sykes was in the same recruiting class as Gooch, but unlike Gooch he redshirted in 2014 and played last year mainly on special teams. When he did get on the field for the defense he was also at the Bandit LB spot. In the new defense with a four man front he is going to D-end and he will be asked to team with Gooch to provide a consistent pass rush off the edge for the Indiana defense.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/182794-omari-stringer?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Freshman

NOTES: Stringer came to IU last year as an outside linebacker prospect in their 3-4 defense, but with the switch to a 4-2-5 defense he doesn’t fit as a LB and is being moved to defensive end. Stringer is a good athlete with some length so he could develop into a solid pass rushing D-end in time.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/188203-brandon-wilson?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Freshman

NOTES: Wilson played defensive end in high school but when he was recruited by the IU staff it was to play the Bandit LB spot, which is the position he was at last fall when he redshirted. Just like with Gooch and Sykes he will be making the move from that position to defensive end in the new Indiana defense. Wilson has a lot of upside but consistency is something that he needs to improve on.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/189309-jerome-johnson?s=170

CLASS: Freshman

NOTES: Johnson was a prospect that the Indiana staff got in on very late before landing him on Signing Day back in February. He brings good size and athleticism to the defensive tackle spot, but he might need a redshirt year before he is ready to get in the rotation.

 

http://www.scout.com/player/204802-allen-stallings?s=170

CLASS: Freshman

NOTES: Stallings is another prospect that IU moved in on late in the recruiting process. He was committed to Central Michigan but the Hoosiers offered him and flipped him after he made an official visit to Bloomington. Although he needs to get bigger the Illinois native has a chance to be a factor this year because of the speed and athleticism he brings to the defensive end spot.

ANALYSIS

The defensive line position is easily the one with the most question marks for the 2016 for the Hoosiers. IU lost a number of players from last year’s defensive line, and then on top of that they are switching from a three man front to a four man front. Players who were recruited or slotted in at a certain spot in the old defense have now either been moved to a new position, or they have to fit into a new role that is a little different than what they were used to. While there are a number of defensive linemen that have been in the program for a few years, there is not a great deal of production returning. The key to any defense starts up front with stopping the run and fortunately for the Hoosiers they do have two interior D-linemen in Ralph Green and Nate Hoff that have shown the ability to be stout against the run. With Jacob Robinson starting at one of the D-end spots that gives the IU defense another good run defender in their front four. What will be key for the Hoosiers is how effective will guys like Ja’Merez Bowen and Patrick Dougherty and others be as back-ups. When they get their chance they need to go in and be productive. Another area a defense needs to be effective at is generating a consistent pass rush, and this might be the question mark with the IU defensive line. Who can be a quality pass rusher every week for them? The guys that are be counted on to provide that are Greg Gooch and Nile Sykes, but they will need help from others. If the Hoosiers can’t get pressure with just their front four they will be forced to blitz to get after the opposing QB and that is a gamble because if you don’t get to the QB it typically leads to a big play. How much improvement the IU defense makes this year will depend quite a bit on how well their defensive line performs this fall.


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