Hoosiers add ‘C-4’ to linebacking corps

Cam Jones’ teammates just combined the first initial of his first name and his new jersey number to craft a nickname.

But it’s the perfect metaphor for what kind of football player the Hoosiers have in the 6-3, 224-pound sophomore.

He’s “C-4.”

He’s explosive.

“Very fast. Very aggressive,” defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. “He’s just naturally a violent player.”

A position group filled with up-and-comers gained another in fall camp when Jones shifted from the hybrid “husky” role to “stinger” linebacker. Aside from senior Reakwon Jones, it’s sophomores Thomas Allen and Micah McFadden and redshirt freshman James Miller who will man the box in IU’s 4-2-5 scheme.

Cam Jones is an interesting addition, in particular, because he’s uniquely versatile. He not only led his high school team in tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss as a junior and senior, but he was also St. Benedict’s (Tenn.) leader in receptions and all-purpose yards.

When he got the ball as a prep player, he wasn’t necessarily looking to make people miss. He liked contact. A desire to punish was then fostered at Indiana. Now, he’s allowed his dislike for ballcarriers to blossom within.

“When I got here, I just grew to dislike offense,” Jones said. “I don’t like offensive players. They make me mad. I just want to hit them.”

But why?

“As an offensive player, you have to carry that edge, you gotta be bouncing around and stuff like that,” Jones said. “That makes me mad. I just want to knock it out of them sometimes.”

Jones had a propensity for knocking things loose as a hybrid safety/linebacker. His pair of forced fumbles in 2018 tied for second-most among true freshmen nationally. He also collected a fumble and an interception.

As a “stinger,” lined up across from the offensive line’s strong side, Jones won’t be the biggest body in the mix. But when it comes to speed and explosiveness, few can match him.

His demeanor helps, as well.

“Playing in the box, that’s the big guys, the trenches,” Jones said. “It gets nasty down there. You have to bring it every single play.”

Standing 6-3, there is still room for Jones’ body to grow along with his aggressive qualities. If it all comes together, it could be a special combination.

“Regardless of where you put him, he has a knack to find the ball,” Wommack said. “And when he shows up, he’s got an attitude. Cam Jones is a football player, period. My job as the coordinator, and our job as a defensive staff, is to take a dynamic football player and create different ways to get him close to the ball.”

Wommack, who also coaches the linebackers, believes he has athletes capable of bringing his “Swarm D” culture to life. They’ve just been learning how to properly spread their wings.

McFadden, for instance, played in all 12 games last season as a freshman, collecting 20 tackles and a forced fumble. Thing is, Wommack isn’t sure the 6-2, 232-pounder always understood the defensive call when he made a play.

“Now he knows what to do, he knows where to put his eyes,” Wommack said. “And when you take an athlete like that that’s instinctive, and now he’s figuring out what to do, his production is going through the roof.”

The biggest jump for college athletes, Wommack said, often comes following their freshman year, through spring camp and into the fall. If McFadden continues to grow, along with Thomas Allen and the younger of the two Joneses, the Hoosiers could have a solid rotation for the scheme’s two true linebacker spots.

The older Jones, the fifth-year senior Reakwon, continues to grow as a leader after his first full season as a starter in 2018.

“When you had Tegray Scales and stuff like that in the past, that was not required of him, right? He just had to go out there and do his job,” Wommack said. “Now he’s doing it at a very high level where he feels confident about those things. I think he sees that growth within himself and he sees that growth within those younger players, so he’s trying to help them along.”

A veteran leader in Reakwon Jones. A heady, dependable player in Allen. An instinctive playmaker in McFadden.

Add a little “C-4,” and the Hoosier linebacking corps could be ready to inflict some damage.

“That’s where you have a great linebacking corps, you have different types of playmakers, and guys who steady the defense,” Wommack said. “We have a nice blend of guys.”

3 comments

  1. Wonder if he got any play at LB in Spring camp? Would have capitalized the L of logic if he had. His physical makeup is what IU must look for in every LB recruit. I his attitude and disdain for the offense. For us veteran IU fans when his time in Bloomington is done he may be the the name we remember 1st when LB’s are the topic.
    Off topic but Hugh Freeze really is trying to survive a deadly medical crisis. Talk about a bunch of fortunate phone calls to get him the best medical care. Wish him the best.

  2. I really like the group of LBs IU has rigtht now. We have some big hitters along with a new big LB with the 2019 class. IU should be very good at LB for the next few years which goes along with being very good at the DL for the next few years. IU has the pieces on defense to get back to being exceptional on defense. It should be fun to watch the “swarm” defense this year.

  3. Linebackers should be solid this year. But it won’t matter unless the D-linemen and D-ends can occupy the opposing O-linemen and free up the linebackers. Watching OSU and MSU’s Defensive lines over the last two years, they were so good the linebackers were free to wreak havoc and punish the opposing skill players.

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