IU D-Line preparing for another change

Indiana’s defensive line is looking at it’s third different scheme in three years.

Through 2009, the Hoosiers were in a standard 4-3. Last year they mixed 3-4 and 4-3, but even when they were in a 4-3 alignment, they used a stand-up defensive end.

This year, the alignment will be relatively similar, but the technique they will use will be different from anything they’ve ever done.

The new defensive staff is asking its defensive linemen — tackles and ends — to focus on attacking their blockers rather than shooting for gaps. Defensive coaches say the linemen will still be able to make plays, but their stated purpose will be to hold gaps and blockers to allow linebackers and defensive backs more freedom.

“There’s a lot of teams out there that talk about penetrating fronts and shooting gaps and trying to create havoc,” defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been involved with those systems in the past, but you can create seams in your defense that way. We’re trying to eliminate seams in our defense.”

That means most of the linemen have to get used to changing their entire mindset of attacking. The drop ends in the Hoosiers’ system last year were moved into more open space because they were smaller and trying to get around people. They have to get used to playing with their hands in the ground and going right at offensive tackles.

“It is a transition,” defensive end Kevin Bush said. “Especially as an end. Keeping outside is a big thing, and it’s more learning about the man than the contain. That’s kind of the transition is getting out of that mindset and into a new mindset.”

Said defensive end Darius Johnson: “It’s more being able to control the (blocker) in front of you.To be able to be more two-gap, take up more guys.”

The changes requires a change in technique with the hands and feet, but also with the eyes. Instead of looking into the backfield to see where the ball is going, defensive ends coach Brett Diersen said, they have to focus on the man in front of them.

“It’s like going into a boxing fight,” Diersen said. “If you’re going to hit the guy, you’re going to look at him. What they struggle with a little bit — and it’s been like that every year I’ve coached D-Line — they struggle with looking in the backfield. If you can train your eyes and hands, your feet will follow.”

AUDIO: Mick Mentzer

AUDIO: Kevin Bush and Darius Johnson


  1. Great!! Interesting and well explained. This is the type of information that gives us(readers) an optic into how the coaches see the game, and more important, why. Thanks

  2. Dustin, great article and insight, as usual. Love the work you’re doing here and the multimedia efforts you’ve done with Hugh and others.

    One slight bit of constructive criticism. Hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I think it will help throughout your career.

    When I watch/listen to your interviews, you say “mmm” a lot while the person you are interviewing is answering your question. I think I counted 8 “mmm”s while Coach Wilson was answering a question once. It’s a little distracting. As a viewer/listener, once you hear it, you can’t *not* hear it any more. Maybe just nod instead?

    Anyway I don’t mean to be rude, I’m sure you didn’t even know you were doing it.

  3. Nice article. Lots of useful information for the fans. Thanks for this kind of info. Sounds like big boy football to me.

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