With the Hoosiers' season opener now just one week away, Terry Hoeppner has an idea about how to best use senior defensive end Victor Adeyanju.
The first-year Hoosier head coach is counting on plenty of on-the-field production from the 6-5, 275-pounder from Chicago, but he thinks that his off-the-field presence could have an impact as well. He wouldn't mind letting the Chippewas get a good look at the fifth-year senior when IU first arrives in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., next week.
"He is the first guy off the bus, because he will scare half of them," joked Hoeppner. "(They'll be thinking), ‘If the first guy looks like him, what are the rest like?'"
There's no questioning Adeyanju's physical size and gifts. An ultra-athletic fourth-year starter, Adeyanju is coming off a junior season when he set career highs for tackles (40), tackles for loss (9.5), forced fumbles (3) and sacks (4). He's a player that many have said has the physical tools to play at the next level, someone who has long been on the brink of emerging as one of the Big Ten's best defensive ends.
The same goes for this, his final season in Bloomington. Adeyanju will be a mainstay on the defensive front, playing defensive end in running situations and then often sliding over to the three-technique position on passing downs.
That fits in with co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Brian George's philosophy of getting as much speed on the field as possible.
"We want to take fast guys out and put even faster ones in," said George.
Bouncing back and forth between end and defensive tackle is something Adeyanju did for the first time a year ago, and he said it hasn't been a difficult adjustment.
"Really, defense is defense and being a defensive lineman is being a defensive lineman," said Adeyanju. "It's just getting certain reads and reacting to them. I've been doing it for a while, so I should be able to get it down."
George likes the idea of moving Adeyanju inside on occasion because he's always been very good against the run, but his presence inside should enable the front four to put more pressure on the quarterback. Indiana ranked seventh in the Big Ten a year ago with 22 sacks, but five of those came from linebacker Kyle Killion blitzes.
"He's a good pass rusher on the outside, and he becomes a great pass rusher on the inside," said George. "He's 275 pounds so he can hold up (inside) against the run, but he's also quick enough to be a really good pass rusher when you put him on the inside."
After spending the last three years with the fiery Joe Cullen, Adeyanju has enjoyed working with George. George shares Cullen's passion for the defensive front, but his volume isn't quite at the same level of the former Gerry DiNardo assistant.
"He's a really calm guy," said Adeyanju. "He takes his time with you. If you don't get it the first time he'll go over it with you again to make sure you know the simple things, the basics.
"Then, he'll see what your reactions are and then coach you up from there. He has an approach where he lets the players play a little more and get after things."
That's one thing that Adeyanju and the rest of the Hoosier defense has been doing this fall. After surrendering 453 yards and 31.2 points per game a year ago, this year's unit appears to be much improved at just about every position.
That will be a key early on as the offense breaks in a new starting quarterback, and will be counting on the defense to hold opposing offenses at bay.
"I think this defense can be really good – we have a lot of tough guys that have been together for awhile now," said Adeyanju. "I love the defensive strategy we're using, and now we have to let it all come together and then get after opponents every week."
If all those things can fall into place, the Hoosiers have a chance to be one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises, and Adeyanju might finally get a chance to play in the postseason, something that has eluded every IU senior class for the past 11 seasons.
That's certainly a goal of Adeyanju's. But it's also something that's a mission for some of the younger players on the team, all of whom would like to see Adeyanju and the rest of the senior class finally enjoy some on-the-field success.
"It's such a big deal because they've been here for four years and they've put in their time day in and day out," said redshirt freshman and starting defensive tackle Greg Brown. "It's important for them to go out like that.
"You look at all the coaching changes they've been through, you look at all the adversity they've been through. They've been through so much, they deserve to leave on a good note."
At the End of the Line
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