Bloomington – If Mitchell Evans is looking for a reason to be optimistic about his prospects for playing time since his recent position switch, he should look no further than Ryan Marando.
A couple of years ago, Marando was a little-known, never-used linebacker who couldn't crack the Hoosiers' two deep. His chances of ever being a significant contributor appeared remote until the IU staff decided to give defensive line coach Brian George a chance to look at him and work him with at defensive end in the spring of 2007.
It was a perfect match for Marando as well as the IU football team. After totaling two tackles in his first two years on the team, Marando ranked second on last year's team with five sacks as the team's No. 3 defensive end. He played in all 13 games, finished with 20 tackles and six tackles for loss, and was a big part of a defense that went from 11th in the Big Ten in sacks in 2006 to a school-record 42 last season.
"That first game when I got the call to come in on third and long, I got a taste of what college football is all about," Marando said. "Ever since then I've had the mentality of keep going, keep getting better and keep driving. It's gotten me a long way so far."
The 6-2, 251-pounder has continued to develop and impress this fall. He's split time on the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive units, working in with a defensive end rotation that will likely also include Greg Middleton, Jammie Kirlew and Fred Jones.
With his speed and athleticism, Marando's biggest contribution a year ago came in obvious passing situations. He said the staff has been feeling much more comfortable with him now during running situations as well, but it's still his ability to get after the quarterback that figures to be his primary role this fall.
"There are certain packages where they'll have me in third and long, second and long, where they need a speed rush, where they'll bring guys inside so that I can funnel or chase the quarterback when they get pushed out," Marando said.
Marando's first season on the field was rewarding for not only what he was able to accomplish, but what the team was able to do as well. Indiana capped a very emotional season by earning a trip to a bowl game for the first time in 13 years, concluding the season in Tucson, Ariz., at the Insight Bowl.
As big of a step as last year was, Marando said it's only served as motivation to do things even bigger and better this season. Just making a trip to a bowl game isn't enough in this fifth-year senior's mind, and he's hoping to conclude his IU career with another bowl invitation and a victory in his final game in a Hoosier uniform.
He thinks that's a very reasonable goal considering the progress that was made last season and what he's seen during the summer months.
"Our summer workouts have been the best I've ever seen," Marando said. "Guys are stronger, we had great attendance, and conditioning-wise guys were killing it. Our success last year shows us hard work really does pay off."
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