When it comes to the last line of the Hoosier defense, there's safety in IU's numbers.
Hoosier co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Joe Palcic has a quartet of playmakers he can turn to at the safety position. In senior Will Lumpkin, juniors Will Meyers and Troy Grosfield, and sophomore Aaron Mitchell, Palcic has four players who have shown the ability to make big plays against both the run and the pass.
"We like what we have at that position," said Palcic.
The majority of the playing time in recent weeks has been going to Grosfield, Meyers and Mitchell. That trio combined for 19 tackles and three tackles for loss in IU's 41-24 loss at Wisconsin, and then came back with a combined 24 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception in the Hoosiers 36-13 win over Illinois last weekend.
"Those are the three guys seeing the majority of the time back there, and they're all playing well, so there's no reason to change that," said Palcic.
One player who has been seeing more time in recent weeks is Mitchell, a 5-11, 205-pound sophomore from South Holland, Ill.
A starter in five games as a redshirt freshman, Mitchell didn't play in IU's first two games of the 2005 season. Mitchell was sidelined for approximately a week during fall camp with a neck injury, a setback that took some time to recover from both physically and mentally.
"With the injury I had, getting comfortable was just about tackling," said Mitchell. "I could run and still move, but putting my head in there and tackling someone was strange at first.
"Once the neck pain started to go away, it was normal again."
A healthy Mitchell, meanwhile, has been a pain in the sides of the Hoosiers' last three foes. Mitchell has 15 tackles in IU's last three games, and he's been equally effective against the run and the pass.
"Aaron Mitchell is very talented," said Palcic. "He's a guy at safety who can do exactly what you want – he can play against the pass because he has good speed, and he's extremely physical and tough enough to come against the run.
"He's one of those guys that you like back there. He'll see more and more time as we go along."
The same goes for Grosfield, a one-time placekicker who has not only worked his way into the rotation, but into the starting lineup as well. Grosfield has started all five games and ranks fourth on the team with 26 tackles, trailing only John Pannozzo (36), Kyle Killion (32) and Meyers (27).
Twenty of Grosfield's 26 tackles have been solo stops. There have been a handful of occasions that he found himself in open space one-on-one with either a running back or wide receiver, and he's been up to the challenge.
"He's made two or three open field tackles where there wasn't anyone else around on skill players," said Palcic. "That's an art form almost. We like what he's done and we hope he'll continue to do that."
Mitchell, Meyers and Grosfield will be put to the test this weekend in Iowa City when they take on a balanced Hawkeye attack. Each will be tested by the arm of quarterback Drew Tate as well as the running ability of tailback Albert Young.
"We have to do a good job of containing the quarterback, and then again safeties are going to play a big part in stopping that run game," said Palcic. "I think we match up well and we going in thinking we'll give them a good game."
Safety In Numbers
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