Bloomington- The linebackers are often the heart of a defense. It's no different at Indiana, as the linebacking corps of seniors Matt Mayberry and Justin Carrington, and junior Tyler Replogle are having an excellent spring, according to linebacker coach Mike Yeager.
"The guys are working hard and playing fast, doing a good job so far," said Yeager. "The whole first group of Replogle, Carrington and Mayberry have done a nice job of picking things up and playing fast, and being in the right place at the right time."
Mayberry was a stat-sheet stuffer in 2008, leading the team in tackles with 89. He also added five sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two pass deflections.
Whether it's Mayberry or Replogle or Carrington, Yeager expects a linebacker to lead the team in tackles again.
"I would hope so. You know, in the defense that we play, that's the expectation," he said.
Replogle comes into 2009 having played a lot of special teams in 2008 after a knee injury ended his freshman season in 2007. The Centerville, Ohio native did start two games at linebacker last season, including the season-ending game against Purdue.
Replogle recorded a career-high 19 tackles that day, which was also the season-high for any Indiana player. He also added one each of a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. The junior is looking forward to building on that individual performance in the upcoming season.
"Wherever the team needs me, really, I'm fine with," said Replogle, who has played both inside and outside linebacker during his IU career. "I played a lot on special team last year, I liked it, I enjoyed it, so wherever the team needs me."
Recording 19 tackles in one game isn't an easy task, and Replogle had to fly around the field to do it. That's something that Yeager noticed.
"He's an old school football player, and he loves playing the game. He's physical, loves getting in the mix, and has a knack for finding the ball, and does a great job and he refuses to be blocked. You can't have enough of those guys," Yeager said.
Indiana Head Coach Bill Lynch agrees.
"He's such a high-energy football player. He's what you're looking for in a football player because he plays hard from start to finish - and that means from the start of practice to the end of practice, start of the play to the end of the play. He's developed great strength, and he runs well, and he's got great instincts. He's a very natural linebacker and I just love the effort he plays with," Lynch said.
The linebackers were part of a defense that gave up 423 points last year, a statistic that Lynch knows has to improve. With a few of the older players out with injuries, Will Patterson in particular, some of the younger players are getting a chance to play during the spring, which Lynch believes is a good thing.
"Patterson's not out here, but it's really given a great opportunity for (Leon) Beckum, and Chad Sherer, who are young guys that have a lot of ability, and then Darius Johnson and Ian Reeves in the middle. The fact that Will's not here gives some opportunity to the other guys. They're tough and they all run well and that's very important at linebacker," he said.
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