2005 Recruiting Wrap Up: Linebackers

A major strength in the 2004 Indiana Hoosier defense was the linebacking core. Juniors Kyle Killion and Paul Szczesny accounted for 178 total tackles, including 5.5 sacks and three interceptions on the year. Killion will return in 2005 for his senior season, however Szczesny has chosen to transfer to Arizona State.

As a result, coach Terry Hoeppner chose to move FB John Pannozzo to MLB for his senior season. Killion and Pannozzo will be joined in the starting lineup by junior Jake Powers. This means that the Hoosiers should be good at linebacker again, however with a pair of graduating seniors; the men in the middle became a major focus for the 2005 recruiting class. With that in mind, Indiana picked up several big linebackers to fill the holes that will be created at the end of the 2005 season. The star of the recruiting class in 2005 was not announced on signing day. Instead, he waited for a special press conference to announce that he had chosen to be a Hoosier. This was Matt Lewis from Daytona, Florida. Joining Lewis as linebacker recruits are Jamie Kirlew and Eugene "Geno" Johnson. Let's take a look at the linebackers, and see where their futures fit in with Indiana University Football.

Matt Lewis: Matt Lewis was the final piece to the 2005 recruiting puzzle, and coach Terry Hoeppner expects him to have a quick impact on the Indiana Hoosiers. Lewis led his Mainland High School to the 5A state title, with 100 tackles, and 13 sacks on the year. Lewis saw time at defensive end, linebacker, and defensive tackle throughout the year, however his 6'2", 245 pound frame fits him better for linebacker. Lewis would have to gain muscle mass to play defensive end, and is a bit undersized to do that. His 4.55 time in the forty yard dash makes him plenty quick enough to play linebacker at the college level. ESPN named Lewis the 25th best player at LB in high school last year, while College Football News had him rated as the 39th best defensive end in the nation. Lewis will be versatile for the Hoosiers, and could add help at either defensive end or linebacker. Coach Hoeppner had this to say about the second team all Florida standout, "Matt's a big, strong athlete who was just dominate in high school. His motor is always going, so when you combine his physical attributes with an energetic approach, he'll be a great fit in our defense." Lewis will join the Hoosiers in the fall, and could make an immediate impact as a backup at linebacker. If he redshirts in 2005, he could gain more muscle, but with Szczesny out of the lineup, Indiana could use some more depth at linebacker.

Jammie Kirlew: Jammie Kirlew is another big prospect from Florida who Indiana managed to snatch away from the sunshine state in 2005. Kirlew played for Cypress Creek HS in Florida, leading them to their first playoff appearance in 10 years. Despite playing for Cypress Creek, Kirlew actually attended the magnet school, Hungerford, where he kept a 3.9 GPA. He was named a McDonald's Student Athlete of the Week, and wasn't too bad on the football field either. He earned second team all-state honors, and was rated as the 75th best defensive end in the nation. Kirlew could play either defensive end or linebacker in college, depending on how much weight he can gain. Kirlew is currently 6'4" and 235 pounds, but hoped to move up to at least 250 before arriving at Indiana. He had 105 tackles as a junior, and played all over the field as a senior on a team of only 22 players. Kirlew also plays basketball, and was on the same AAU team as fellow IU recruit Neal Jones. Kirlew should be best fitted to redshirt and gain weight to become a defensive end, however he does have the size to play linebacker as a true freshman.

Geno Johnson: Eugene "Geno" Johnson is the third Indiana linebacking recruiting from the sunny state of Florida. Johnson attended Bartow Senior High School, and was named a 3A All State performer in 2004. He was also named a Central Florida All-Star, and played in the Central Florida All-Star game in 2004. In the game, he managed 9 tackles and a forty yard kickoff return. Johnson is a three sport athlete, competing in track as a sprinter and a long jumper, and is an all-state weightlifter. He finished sixth in the Florida State Weightlifting competition as a junior. Johnson's commitment to getting faster and weightlifting will pay off well in college, where he will need to gain some muscle to play linebacker. With a 4.59 forty yard dash, Johnson is fast enough to be a linebacker, but would have to gain a little speed to move to safety. The 6'2", 200 pound prospect would be best suited by redshirting in 2005, and making a big impact on the Hoosiers in 2006.

Indiana's linebacking core is solid in 2005, but not without question marks. John Pannozzo is moving to middle linebacker, a position he has not played since high school. Pannozzo proved that he is a big hitter on special teams, and had an excellent spring, leading Hoosier coaches to believe he will be solid in the middle. Kyle Killion will move to his natural position on the outside, where he can be more effective, and get greater chances to blitz the quarterback. Jake Powers will make a solid third linebacker, but injury problems slowed him in 2004. Lewis would be the most likely of the three linebackers to get some immediate playing time, but will certainly be able to help the Hoosiers in the future. The coaching staff made a major step with solid linebackers in the 2005 class, and created another core of solid linebackers that will solidify the Indiana defense in the upcoming years.

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