Bloomington, Ind. – Ryan Marando admits there was a time when he thought his stay at IU might be an abbreviated one.
Soon after arriving from St. Edward's (Ohio) High School in the fall of 2004, Marando quickly got lost in the shuffle. After redshirting as a freshman, Gerry DiNardo departed, Terry Hoeppner arrived, and Marando wasn't sure if he fit in.
What Hoeppner was looking for was sideline-to-sideline speed from his linebackers, and that wasn't what the 6'2", 245-pound Marando brought to the table.
"I thought I had a good chance to play when Coach Hep came in, and things didn't work out for me," Marando said.
Starting in the spring of 2005, Marando was stuck in a freefall down the depth chart. Playing primarily on special teams in each of the last two years, he played in 14 games, including just three a year ago. He totaled two tackles in 2005, zero in 2006 and says things weren't easy.
"I thought about leaving," Marando says. "I wasn't going around talking about it or sending out tapes. But it crossed my mind here and there."
Truth be told, few outside the program would have noticed.
"Marando was in some ways buried at linebacker," IU Coach Bill Lynch said.
If he was buried at linebacker, he's since been resurrected He's emerged as a big part of a much-improved defense, ranking seventh in tackles (11) and second in both sacks (2) and tackles for loss (3).
His newly-found relevance has come courtesy a position change. In the spring, co-Defensive Coordinator Brian George moved Marando to defensive end, where's he's emerged as a bona fide pass rushing and big-play threat.
"It's very, very fun coming off the edge and making plays," Marando said. "Especially after all the hard work I've put in before this."
It's also been fun for Marando to be able to be a little less conscientious of his weight. Before, the staff was looking for him to shed a few pounds, but that's no longer the case.
"Being able to eat more has been a great thing," joked Marando. "I was a 245-pound linebacker and they were like, ‘hey Ryan, you're getting a little big now.' Now, I'm a defensive end, and those guys will eat anything."
Marando made his presence felt immediately. He totaled four tackles and a sack in the season-opener against Indiana State, eclipsing his career total in tackles in his first game at his new position.
"When they called out (the defensive package Marando is on), I was like, ‘this is it,'" Marando said. "I remember the first snap coming off, beating my guy, making the play and it was awesome.
"I knew this is it – this is how you play Big Ten football."
While it's been rewarding for Marando to capitalize on his chance, it's been equally fulfilling for the IU coaching staff to make the position move and see it pay off in a big way.
"I think Brian George saw he's a pretty athletic guy, and maybe he could be a guy who could really sink his hips and rush the passer," Lynch said. "It's been a good fit, he fills a void…he found that niche, and there was an opportunity and he's taken advantage of it."
It's an opportunity that he had to wait three years to materialize, but it's all been worth it.
‘With my parents and my family sticking with me, I stuck it out," Marando said. ‘I made it through the tough times and now I'm out there making plays so it's been well worth it to stay."
Decision to Stick It Out Pays Off for Marando
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