Linebacker depth a plus for IU

 Will Patterson looks down at you.

Third in a series of position previews

PROJECTED STARTERS: OLB Will Patterson, 6-1, 235, Jr.; MLB Matt Mayberry, 6-2, 236, Jr.; OLB Geno Johnson, 6-2, 230, Sr.

STARTERS LOST: MLB Adam McClurg (started 13 games)

KEY RESERVES: OLB Justin Carrington, 6-0, 225, Jr.; OLB Darius Johnson, 6-0, 235, Fr.; MLB Tyler Replogle, 6-2, 235, So.

2007 REVIEW: The linebackers were in on plenty of tackles (all five who were regulars in the rotation finished in the top 12 on the team in tackles) but, like the rest of the defense, struggled against more physical opponents.

2008 OUTLOOK: Linebacker coach George Ricumstrict hasn’t had a unit this deep in his three years at Indiana. That means he’s spent camp working on technique and honing his unit’s instincts rather than installing the defense or deciding who fits where. Mayberry should be an upgrade over McClurg, who valiantly went into every lane he was supposed to plug. Mayberry needs to do the same, and arrive a step quicker while providing more strength. He’ll be pushed by Replogle, who has fully recovered from ACL surgery and is looking comfortable playing in the middle. The linebackers are playing behind a talented defensive line that should free them to make plays. Watch for more blitzing out of Patterson and Johnson, who have played enough football to know how to get to the quarterback.

STAT THAT MATTERS: Of Indiana’s 42 sacks a year ago, only 4 1/2 came from the linebackers.

DID YOU KNOW? Tyler Replogle’s brother, Adam, has verbally committed to play for the Hoosiers next year. The 6-3, 265-pounder is the 60th-ranked defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com.

QUOTABLE: “He’s a physical presence. He plays with a dominant type attitude. He’s also a leader on the field, and that’s important because we ask a lot of our Mike (middle) backer.” Ricumstrict on Mayberry.

Q&A WITH WILL PATTERSON

Q: What’s your major and how did you pick it?

A: Sports communication. I kinda got a little bit into broadcasting in high school, running our school news program. It’s kind of fitting.

Q: What’s been your best class at IU so far?

A: Bowling. We just go to the bowling alley in the union and they teach you the history of the game and the techniques. It’s really interesting, and I improved because of the different techniques.

Q: What’s your favorite place to eat in Bloomington and why?

A: Janko’s (Little Zagreb). That’s where we take the recruits. That’s where I went on my visit. The steaks are huge, and I like steaks. I think I’ve had every type of steak they have. (According to Patterson, several players on the team can devour the steaks meant for two or three people . by themselves. He is not one of them).

Q: What’s your game-day ritual? Any superstitions?

A: I try to prepare for every game the same way. Of course just a lot of film, and then anything that gets me comfortable and focused, I stick with it. I don’t change much. I had a best friend who died during spring ball my freshmen year, so every night I wear a T-shirt with him on it. That brings me back down to earth.

Q: What’s one thing you want to do better this year?

A: I want to be more consistent. Just constantly making the plays that need to be made.