Bloomington – Mick Mentzer is finally going to have to pick on someone his own size.
After utilizing his 6-4, 290-pounder frame the last several years as a fullback and middle linebacker at Ft. Wayne's Bishop Dwenger H.S., Mentzer is a week away from getting his IU career underway at a position that's more befitting a young man of his stature – defensive tackle.
It's a position switch he knew was coming at the collegiate level, and he knows there's a chance it won't be his last. The Indiana staff has also entertained the thoughts of giving him a look at offensive guard as well.
"I really don't care where I play, because playing in the Big Ten is playing in the Big Ten," Mentzer said. "Whatever I'm better at, that's where I want to be."
For now, that's as a three-technique defensive tackle. He'll arrive for the start of fall camp with very little experience at the position. He did line up on the defensive front at the recent Indiana North-South All-Star game due to a shortage of defensive linemen, but he's still largely untested up front.
While that might be viewed as a negative by some, Mentzer said IU defensive line coach Brian George has said it can be a positive.
"He says it's a good thing because I won't have any bad habits," Mentzer said.
But there is one habit Mentzer knows he will have to break at his new position. As Bishop Dwenger's middle linebacker he was used to finding the ball and flowing to the action and being in the middle of the action. But he's learned that trying to figure out where the ball is can be a negative as a defensive lineman.
"I like to stand up a lot to see where the ball is at, and I'm not supposed to do that," Mentzer said. "I'm supposed to get to my gap and control the offensive line. In the North-South game I'd stand up and look for the ball, and that's when offensive linemen could get good position and move me out. So I need to make sure I'm staying low."
That will be one of the many adjustments for Mentzer, who will be one of 17 freshmen getting their first taste of IU football when camp opens Aug. 4. While playing at IU and in the Big Ten is an opportunity he's been waiting for his whole life, he admits there's a degree of trepidation as well.
"It's coming really fast, so I'm really anxious," Mentzer said. "There's anxiousness, excitement and there's also some nerves. This is a big step."
Mentzer said his focus won't be on trying to immediately work his way onto the team's two-deep and earn playing time, but rather to get up to speed with the college game and get into a rhythm as early as possible when camp opens.
"I put (playing) out of my mind," Mentzer said. "I don't know if that's possible. I've never seen how good they are, I've never gone against those kids. I might go there and get killed. I'll go in there and try to block it out of my mind, try to work as hard as I can, and see what happens."
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Mentzer Set to Tackle Position Switch
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