Bloomington, Ind. – As the Hoosiers' concluded their winter conditioning drills earlier this year, the coaching staff knew they had to do something with Ryan Marando.
Here was a guy who had been all but anonymous during his first three years in Bloomington, totaling two tackles in 14 career games as a back-up linebacker. Most of the work for the 6-2, 242-pounder came via special teams, and with all three starters returning this fall, the prospects for playing time once again appeared bleak.
"He was a buried linebacker," said IU Coach Bill Lynch.
But during winter conditioning, Marando dazzled the coaching staff with his work against the stop watch. No matter what the drill, Marando showed the measurables that sent the staff back to the drawing board in search of a way to get the Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward's product onto the field.
"He had unbelievable 40 times, unbelievable change of direction in the shuttle, and we were like, ‘he has to be able to do something for us,'" said IU co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic.
The decision was made to move Marando from linebacker to defensive end, a spot he had played at the prep level. He had totaled 114 tackles, six sacks and 10 fumble recoveries as a senior defensive end in high school, but most concluded he would be better suited to play linebacker in college.
But after three years of being unable to crack the Hoosiers' two-deep, the Hoosier staff opted to move him back to the defensive front. Marando spent the spring at his new position, and he's suddenly a candidate to be on the field this fall chasing down opposing quarterbacks.
"Now, he has real life doing something we've been looking for as a pass rusher," Lynch said.
When the Hoosiers open the 2007 season Sept. 1 against Indiana State, odds are that Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton will be the starting defensive ends. But as defensive line coach Brian George looks to rotate more players up front in an effort to keep everyone fresh, Marando is likely to get some playing time, particularly on passing downs where he can use his athleticism to present some problems for offensive tackles.
"He has the speed and ability to be a natural pass rusher," said Palcic. "We have some certain packages, a nickel package, where we're getting pass rushers out there, and he'll be a guy we can do that with."
If everything works out and Marando does wind up providing the Hoosier defense with a dimension it's lacked since the departure of Victor Adeyanju, some might wonder what took so long to get him slotted at a spot that he could be a contributor. But Lynch says it takes some time for a new staff to figure out where everyone is best suited to play.
"I think it's part of the process when you change staffs," Lynch said. "You come in with a philosophy, but you have to get the right people in the right spots. When you didn't recruit them, and you haven't coached them and don't really know, it takes a while to learn what they are."
The IU staff thinks it's finally determined what they have with Ryan Marando.
Marando At the End of the Line
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