Dutra making most of final season

Tom Allen has noticed a trend in recent weeks.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the Indiana coach to get free safety Chase Dutra off the field.

“As a matter of fact,” Allen said, “there are times we try to take him off special teams to try and get him a break. He won’t come off. He knows how critical each one of those cover units are that he’s on.”

Dutra also realizes he’s running out of time.

Already past the season’s midpoint, the fifth-year senior is keeping score. With only five more games guaranteed in his final season, the veteran Hoosier is maximizing the precious few weeks remaining in his football career.

“I’m just giving it all I got, honestly,” Dutra said Tuesday. “I’m trying to play as much football as I possibly can. I’m only guaranteed five more games. I just want to be on the field at all times. If that’s on special teams, if that’s on defense, I’m just trying to play to the best of my abilities right now. I think I’ve done a pretty good job in the last couple weeks.”

Indeed, he has.

The Brownsburg product has set personal bests across the past two games, losses to Michigan and Michigan State.

Against the Wolverines, Dutra established a personal-high 12 solo stops. Last weekend against the Spartans, Dutra set a career high with 14 total tackles.

Saturday’s performance marked the fifth double-digit tackle performance from Dutra, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 39 tackles in four conference games this season.

He was honored as IU’s defensive player of the week.

“Just played lights out,” Allen said. “Making 19 snaps on special teams and all those snaps on defense, (he) just continues to give everything for this team. So proud of him. Not really surprised, because that’s how he has always played since I’ve been around him. Just 100 miles an hour and gives his whole heart to this, and he’s making a lot of plays.”

Indiana’s original defensive plan called for Dutra and Tony Fields to split duties at free safety. The plan changed when hybrid safety Marcelino Ball suffered an early-season injury, forcing Fields to shift into the Husky spot.

Dutra has also been a contributor on special teams coverage, where he first captured his coach’s attention last year.

Although Dutra was a regular rotation player during his first two seasons, he was an unknown commodity to Allen when the coach arrived as defensive coordinator in early 2016.

Dutra missed IU’s 2015 Pinstripe Bowl appearance and much of 2016 spring practice while he recovered from a Lisfranc injury. When he returned last fall, Dutra resurfaced as a reliable special teams player in addition to his rotating duties in IU’s defensive backfield.

Allen was impressed not only with Dutra’s energy, but his physicality.

“His nose for the ball, the tackles in space that he makes consistently well for a guy that — when you look at all of his skill sets, he’s not faster than the people he’s playing against,” Allen said. “He just understands leverage and tackles extremely well. A lot of that is just toughness and technique. His special teams play is where I first noticed it.”

So much so that Dutra was awarded Indiana’s weekly special teams honor twice during Big Ten play.

“He means everything. He does everything,” linebacker Chris Covington told reporters Tuesday. “He’s everywhere. He plays a lot of special teams, does a lot of things. He’s just a great player overall.”

And, like the rest of IU’s defensive players, Dutra is eager to see Indiana’s defensive turnaround through.

By the end of Dutra’s redshirt season in 2013, the Hoosiers (527.9 yards per game) were the No. 123 ranked defense in the nation.

Through seven games this fall, Indiana is ranked No. 29 in the country (341.7 ypg).

It’s the product of many factors — better tackling, widespread confidence and veterans such as Dutra seizing the days that remain.

“I know that time’s ticking,” Dutra said, “but I’m trying to embrace every moment of it. I’m trying to maximize every day that I have with this team.”