Bedford, Jones ready for UT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Indiana left tackle Matthew Bedford described his recent exchanges with Tennessee right guard Jerome Carvin in a more toned-down fashion.

Cordial was the exact term.

“Just ‘Hey, man, can’t wait to see you’ and all that, ‘Seeing what you’ve done this season … you played real well,’ and everything,” Bedford said. “Real cordial talk.”

From one Cordova High (Tenn.) product to another, it may have been a friendly back-and-forth. But IU linebacker Cam Jones, another Memphis-area native, grew up playing football with Carvin.

Their banter was a little more evocative.

“He said we got a great linebacker corps, he said we blitz good,” Jones said. “He said he can’t wait to get me in the hole on a blitz. And I can’t wait to blitz you, too.”

“That’s my boy, that’s my brother,” Jones added, “but I’m going to get after him.”

The collision of the Big Ten and the Southeastern conferences was bound to inspire a prideful Gator Bowl matchup, especially for an IU program that hasn’t won a postseason game since 1991. For players like Jones and Bedford, there is just a little more on the line.

Pictures exist of Jones wearing Tennessee gear as a child. His brother, LaRon Harris, played football at Tennessee. His family are Volunteer fans.

Jones even had an offer from the Vols, but he decided to head north and play for the Hoosiers.

“I got something to prove,” Jones said. “They recruited me hard, but I felt like Indiana was the best choice. I’m going to show them why Indiana was the best choice.

“This team, though, we are going to get the job done.”

Bedford and Jones are both ascending talents for an especially young Hoosier squad. But because they are growing, there have been ups and downs in their respective seasons, which leaves plenty to prove.

Jones is seventh on the Hoosiers in tackles with 33, though eight of those have come in the last four games. IU’s defense, as a whole, wants to end the season better following three straight games of 30-plus points allowed.

Bedford has been the Hoosiers’ left tackle since Week 4, when senior Coy Cronk went out for the year. The 18-year-old mostly held his own in 2019, but he missed the regular-season finale at Purdue with an injury. The Boilermakers came away with five sacks that day.

As the Hoosiers took the field for practice Monday at Fernandina Beach High, Bedford was ready to go. He’s focused on the task in front of him, blocking up the Vols’ edge-rushers in their 3-4 scheme.

“Definitely feel like I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. This team, it feels like we have a chip on our shoulder, playing the way we’ve been playing,” Bedford said. “So we just got to come out and keep playing.”

IU coach Tom Allen is definitely less nervous about Bedford manning the left side than he once was.

The freshman’s first start was against a vaunted Michigan State defensive front, on the road. The Spartans managed just one sack, which came late in the fourth quarter.

“It’s just like ‘Oh my goodness,’ I just wasn’t sure what he was going to do and how he was going to respond,” Allen said. “Knowing how young he is, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, it’s tough, and you can get confused. He’s risen up, he really has.

“There’s been other games where he’s struggled more than he struggled in (the MSU) game. … Sometimes you have too much time to think about stuff. ‘What about this? What if they do this?’ That’s where he starts getting in trouble.”

Allen has talked about the development opportunity the Gator Bowl provides for the Hoosiers’ youngest players, and Bedford certainly qualifies.

Because he stands 6-foot-6 and 307 pounds, it’s easy to forget how much Bedford can still grow. Allen only needs to think back to last spring, when the NCAA came to survey IU’s football team, and Bedford, an early enrollee, couldn’t participate because he wasn’t 18 yet.

“But every game he gets better, and he’ll be better this spring than he was last spring,” Allen said, “and he’ll be better next fall than he was this fall.”

Jones is the same. The 6-3, 224-pounder earned Allen’s praise early in 2019 when he suffered a serious ankle injury in the opener against Ball State but rehabbed so hard he managed to miss only the next week’s contest.

Explosive and hard-hitting when he gets rolling downhill, Jones should be flying around for IU’s bowl game, especially with players like Carvin on the other side.

“It intensifies it, for sure,” Allen said. “I know they are excited to play against them. In some ways, you show why you made the decisions you made (to come to IU) and those kinds of things. A little extra motivation, for sure.

“But those are two young guys we have big plans for in the future. … You can really just see by the way they go about their business, they are glad they picked Indiana.”

Back in Tennessee, they know family and friends will be watching with intense interest.

Jones’ family, in particular, may have UT ties, but they let their allegiances be known once Hoosiers-Vols was announced as the Gator Bowl matchup.

“Once (LaRon) found out, he told me that he’s Indiana Hoosiers all the way. That meant a lot to me,” Jones said. “He’s in the Vol family. But he says he’s supporting us.”

Jones may have thrown some playful words Carvin’s way. But what matters most are the words IU’s two Tennessee products have shared with each other.

“We talk about getting this W,” Jones said.

One comment

  1. This bowl game has several interesting story lines for IU. Jones and Bedford are one story line of many IU players with ties to this bowl game. Add in the Florida players, the Florida players from the Jacksonville area, coach DeBoer calling the offense one more time and IU should have have plenty of incentive for this game.

    Bedford has been very good for a very young player playing in the B1G. He seemed to wear down as the season wound down and he went against a couple of the best edge rushers. Having this break, I hope he is rejuvenated and healthy to play his best. Jones shows signs of becoming a fantastic player in the future. He will be challenged in this game to shut down the run game while getting pressure on the QB.

    Win this game and turn this season into a special season for IUFB with a chance to set up 2020 season to remember. It is clear these players coming back have an opportunity to make IUFB a mid level team in the B1G that could knock off a few of the best teams. You nver know how a season can go due to injuries, how other teams are improving or getting worse but at least the future looks bright with a win against TN.

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