Gone from a year ago are starting defensive ends Victor Adeyanju and Ben Ishola along with defensive tackle Russ Richardson. That trio combined for 93 tackles, 21 ½ tackles for loss and 8 ½ sacks, leaving some big holes to be filled by a mix of veterans and newcomers.
While that's the bad news, there are reasons for the Hoosier defensive coaches to be encouraged. While those losses hurt, there might not be a position that will be bolstered more by newcomers, most notably redshirt freshmen.
The Hoosiers' second string defensive line consists of three redshirt freshmen who were impressive a season ago in defensive ends Neal Jones and Jammie Kirlew along with defensive tackles Emile Bass and Todd Newman. It's a group that is loaded with athleticism and potential, and it's a good bet that three or possibly all four of this quartet will work their way into the rotation up front for defensive line coach Brian George.
Bass was named the scout team's defensive player of the year last season and probably could have helped a season ago, but the staff opted to redshirt him instead. He's since added 13 pounds to his 6-3 frame, putting him at 288 entering camp. Newman, meanwhile, has added as much weight as anyone in the last 12 months, going from 245 pounds up to 274.
Kirlew and Jones have also added weight from a season ago, both adding around 10 pounds to get up to 250 and 253, respectively. Both have the sort of quickness that can make them pass rushing threats, and now they've added enough weight to make them big enough to hold up against the run as well.
The biggest thing this trio brings is the sort of athleticism that Hoeppner covets at every position on the field.
"If you can run, you can play," Hoeppner says.
While there will be plenty of attention on the young defensive linemen, four veterans head into camp on the No. 1 unit, and there's little doubt that defensive tackles Greg Brown and Joe Kremer along with defensive ends Charlie Emerson and Kenny Kendal will also figure prominently into the Hoosiers' plans.
The 6-2, 303-pound Brown might be the most important of the bunch. A gifted athlete with excellent size, Brown figures to be a mainstay on the interior the defensive line. Not only is he a 300-pound plus body, but he's also a capable pass rusher who can collapse a pocket. But he didn't have the sort of breakout season many anticipated a year ago, being limited to 17 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks. After starting in the early going, he was eventually supplanted by Emerson in the starting lineup.
The 6-5, 266-pound Emerson, though, has since moved to defensive end, where he was probably the team's best pass rusher during spring practice. He totaled 23 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack a year ago, and he'll need to up those numbers significantly to help fill the void created with Adeyanju's departure. But there's little doubt he will be a valuable player in the defensive line rotation as he can play just about any position on the defensive line.
Kremer and Kendal, meanwhile, will see their roles expand a great deal from a season ago. A starter as a sophomore, Kendal was supplanted in the starting lineup last season by Ishola. Kendal still finished with 18 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks, but he'll have a chance to play a much more pivotal role in his fifth and final season in Bloomington.
The 6-2, 295-pound Kremer was a player that IU liked to use on its goal line defense a year ago, as he provided a big body who wasn't as athletic as Richardson, but was more stout against the run. He finished with 15 tackles, three tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks as a sophomore, and will have the opportunity to up those numbers significantly this fall.