BLOOMINGTON-Stopping the run starts with the middle of the defensive line and it looks like Indiana has found the run stopper of the future.
Converted tight end freshman Todd Newman stands 6-4 and is listed officially at 245 pounds, and should figure to be an important key to the Indiana defense for years to come. After spending his high school career blocking defensive linemen, Newman now is one.
"Coach Hep asked me what I wanted to do because there were some whispers about me playing some defensive tackle," said Newman. "I came in at like 260, which is pretty heavy for a freshman who plans on playing tight end. They asked me if I would want to move and I thought about it for a while. After the first day I came here I got moved and I liked it, so I've been there ever since."
Like the majority of the true freshman class, Newman is redshirting the 2005 season to add weight and learn the ins and outs of playing on the defensive line. While it's a new position for him, knocking people around is something that comes naturally to the Bartlett, Ill., product.
"It has been a pretty smooth transition for me because back when I was a tight end all they really wanted me to do was hit people and open holes," said Newman. "It's almost the same thing on the defensive line, just more technique involved.
"Technique has to be the hardest part so far, but as long as I get my nose in there and hit somebody it still feels pretty good."
While he admits his technique is a little raw having never played on the defensive side of the ball, Newman has plenty of consultants to help with his move.
"When I first came in here Russ (Richardson) and Joe (Kremer) took me under their wings because they were the two nose guards on the top of the depth chart," said Newman. "They have helped me out a lot. Even some of the younger guys have been able to help me because me technique isn't where it needs to be yet."
The difference in technique has been an obvious one for Newman. While in high school he was used primarily as a blocking tight end. Instead of opening holes, he is learning how to fill them.
"On the field the positions are completely different because with tight end you just get your body on someone and there's no hand movement," said Newman. "Now that I'm on the defensive side they're always telling me to use my hands, and I'm like ‘What hands?' Even now I'm still getting used to that. I'm going to stick with it and work on it. It's coming along but I know I have a long way to go."
The hardest part for Newman has been watching the games instead of playing in them. After being a two-year starter and all-conference and all-area player at Bartlett High School, he now must watch the games instead of playing in them. That will be the case again this weekend, when Indiana hosts Purdue at 1 p.m. for the regular season finale for both squads.
"It's hard watching the games because sometimes you'll see something happen and you'll see it just a little bit better than the guys on the field because you have a different view," said Newman. "You're outside the box and not in the hectic mindset of being in the game. You think you'd pick it up on the field, but you know the guys out there are doing the best they can. That's the hardest part about sitting there, not being able to help."
Newman is part of a talented recruiting class of defensive linemen that should prove vital to the Hoosiers' success in the years to come. The importance of playing together as freshmen is something that Newman is most thrilled about.
"I'm really excited about the unit we have," said Newman. "I get so excited when we go out there on the scout team and we go against the starting offense. I just like thinking about what we could be, maybe not next year but a couple of years down the road. I think this could be a talented group. If we get all of us out there on the field together, I think we're going to be something special."
That excitement does not just reveal itself on the practice field. Newman and the rest of the defensive linemen motivate each other off the field as well.
"Off the field we're always pushing each other in the weight room," said Newman. "We'll do the same workouts right next to each other just get each other pumped up. We try to see who can do more – more reps, more weight, stuff like that. We even push each other in class. We always compare grades to any classes we have together or that are similar. It's all in good fun, but I think it helps all of us on and off the field."
Indiana has already shown what some of the underclassmen can do on the field on the offensive side of the ball with the standout play of sophomore quarterback Blake Powers and redshirt freshmen receivers James Hardy and Marcus Thigpen. Newman is confident once he and the other underclassmen hit the field, the results will be even better.
"There's a little bit of a buzz going around these younger guys," said Newman. "We can feel something big might be able to happen here. Everyone is talking about it and I'm feeling it more and more every day. I see guys getting bigger, stronger and faster and that makes me very excited about our future."
Ready To Stick His Nose In There
Peegs.com Top Stories
Video intro: Sophomore walk-on Johnny JagerToday we begin our video profiles of some of the Hoosier newcomers with an interview with walk-on transfer Johnny Jager.
Hoosiers in the NFL: Week 7Each week Peegs.com checks in on the all the action in the NFL and how former Hoosier players are doing around the league. This week we take a look at how eight former Indiana…
Hoosier Newsstand, Oct. 25Get the latest articles on Indiana basketball, football and other sports in today's edition of the Hoosier Newsstand.
Peegs Podcast: Stopping the SlideIndiana is on a three-game losing streak and hopes to rebound at home with Maryland coming to town. The Terrapins are off to a solid start, but IU will have its opportunities at…
Peegs.comYesterday at 10:01 PM