Swann setting high expectations for 2020

Last season, Jovan Swann racked up 5.5 sacks at Stanford. Not bad for a defensive lineman in a three-man front.

But ask Indiana’s grad transfer lineman what he wants to achieve with the Hoosiers in 2020, his last season of college football before he pursues his NFL dreams, and that 5.5 figure isn’t quite enough.

“In my eyes, I need to double the number of sacks I got last season. At least,” Swann said Wednesday in a Zoom call with reporters.

A pandemic has created some uncertainty this spring, but the 6-foot-2, 270-pound lineman from Indianapolis has developed some certainties about what he wants from this final year.

Swann very much wanted to spend it back home. Seventy-degree weather and clear skies are great but $500 roundtrip tickets for his family to attend games weren’t.

Swann also wants to use this year to improve. With his experience in Stanford’s defense, he has the versatility to play both inside and on the edge. He has the maturity to understand how to prepare, and setting the bar high is just part of that process.

“Everybody wants to be a winner, so just do what winners do is what I try to do every day,” Swann said. “It’s one thing to say this game means a lot to you, but to live it out each and every day tirelessly and be obsessed with it is what I try to do. I know some guys who might look at me and say ‘This guy is a little uptight, he’s a little too serious,’ but that’s alright by me, because I’m going to try to do what I can until my body can’t do it anymore.”

Under current circumstances, Swann won’t be able to push himself at IU’s facilities anytime soon. He’s found other ways, though. He has a bench press in his garage. He’s taken an old tire and tied a rope around it to create a tire sled, good for pushing and pulling. And being a stereotypical Midwesterner, he owns a Ford F-150 truck he can push for endurance training.

IU’s coaches would love if Swann puts himself in a position to push for 11 sacks in a season. On the other hand, his addition is about more than production. He also brings a veteran approach to a defensive line with its share of young, emerging talent.

“Just such a huge addition to our team for a variety of reasons,” IU coach Tom Allen said last month. “A tremendous, high-character young man with strong leadership skills. A graduate from Stanford University, from Center Grove High School, just thirty minutes up the road here. He’s a young man that will help our defense, just a really good football player. He will make an impact right away.”

Swann could have been a Hoosier four years ago when he picked the Cardinal over Indiana and Northwestern. But he reiterated Wednesday that his decision to put IU in his final three wasn’t for show. He seriously considered staying home at the time.

Still, the Hoosiers are undoubtedly in a different place now than they were then. With Allen at the helm, they are coming off the program’s first eight-win season in 26 years. Swann just remembers the energy and togetherness he observed when he made an impromptu visit to IU’s bowl practices in December.

What really stuck with Swann was Allen pulling him aside for a 45-minute talk after practice ended.

“Impromptu, was not asked of him,” Swann said. “But just for that time of day, I knew that Indiana was the place for me. A man driven by God is always a great man to me. I know he’s someone I can follow after and learn from before I go on to that next level.”

Whether he’s a future NFL draftee or not, Swann has a chance to add another important piece to IU’s front line in 2020.

Unlike last year, when the Hoosiers entered the season with depth concerns up front, there are a plethora of options for new IU D-line coach Kevin Peoples to work with. Senior defensive tackle Jerome Johnson should be a force versus both the run and pass. Rising sophomore Sio Nofoagatoto’a, junior Demarcus Elliott, and even true freshman Damarjhe Lewis and redshirt freshman C.J. Person, should anchor the inside, as well.

At the same time, senior Michael Ziemba and juniors James Head and Lance Bryant all have a bunch of snaps under their belt. Add in Swann, and IU could realistically rotate more than eight players along the line, all season.

“He goes about his business the way that we do at Indiana,” Peoples said of Swann. “He brings a veteran guy that obviously has had success at this level. And then the way he handles himself and what he can bring to the table, both in showing the younger guys the way in which to study the game, the way in which to handle himself in meetings, and the production that will come with it.”

Swann is ready to provide that example, and just to spend his final season playing in front of friends and family. During the Zoom call, Swann was proudly wearing his new IU sweatshirt, a present from his girlfriend. She bought it for him after he committed in March.

“Just to be able to come back home and be able to get that support in person, it means the world to me,” Swann said. “I’m just excited to give my all to everybody in Indiana.”


  1. Outstanding story about an outstanding young man. NFL or not, this young man has a very promising future. And I’m excited about his family getting to watch him play more frequently.

  2. I always like seeing Indiana football players coming home to play in front of their families. Swann brings many good traits for IU’s DL and I expect he will help coach Peoples improve the DL this season. It will be fun watching how Swann plays against B1G OL and get pressure on QBs and RBs.

  3. Okay, I’ll break the 3 day ice jam.

    I am looking forward to seeing Swann play against B1G linemen. He has shown he can do quite well in the PAC 12, so it will be very interesting given the historical upper hand the PAC 12 has held over B1G teams at the Rose Bowl.

  4. IMO, “the historical upper hand the PAC 12 has held over B1G teams at the Rose Bowl” has more to do with home field advantage and the fact that one team has to fly 2,000+ miles and adjust to either two or three time zones. And it used to have a lot to do with the amount of time between a Big Ten teams’ final regular season game and the Rose Bowl game. It was usually about five weeks for the Big Ten representative while only three for the PAC-12 rep. No way is the PAC-12 Champ near as good as the Big Ten Champ these days.

    1. Well Po,
      You know I am throwing the idea out for discussion/argument, but before the era of the “Big 2 and little 8” it was pretty much the other way with the B1G dominating. Back then the transportation wasn’t exactly stellar.

    2. Indeed fly Oregon or USC to the Great Lakes region for a NYD kickoff and see if they can keep the ball warm in their cold hands. Actually feel all warm weather bowl locations automatically start B1G programs down by 6. Warm weather, sightseeing and bowl hype are not the routine B1G teams do week after week preparing for conference foes. Stacked deck and Vegas has made millions for decades understanding it.

      1. Yup HC,

        My longstanding contention for the reason B1G teams have troubles in the modern era of playoffs is exactly for the reasons you state. B1G teams have to be built to compete in the late October and November cold weather conditions found in the region. SEC/ACC/P12 teams, for the most part, do not have this concern. Even the B12, with all the TX schools, has a large warm weather contingent.

        Cold weather radically changes the game, even the feel of the football. The nfl is somewhat immune to this problem due to the need to be able to play in all weather conditions. However, we did see the dome teams struggle, especially early on in their existence. Problem is, the bowls and championship games are going to be played in the places where the biggest revenues can be gained.

        By necessity, economics are driving the bus on this issue and if we don’t get things rolling again, we are going to find out just how much effect they will have on our lives. Problem for the B1G is how to adapt to a game which has evolved to take advantage of the weather conditions found come playoff time? As for Jovann Swann, I hope he has a great year at IUFB, and so does everyone else posting here.

        1. tai I agree and really wouldn’t want it any other way. It is for the B1G to be fast, fluid and flexible to compete every game. They are beginning to adapt and overcome but slowly.

          1. HC,
            The better quality fields in the B1G have helped tremendously but there are still the physics of a cold football. Lest anyone forget, there was a certain nfl QB a few years ago who tried to work around that problem with a little less air in the ball. To compete against the speed teams of the warmer climates, the B1G needs to continue to adapt. I think the B1G can match power for power, but the overall team speed at every position is still a problem.

            Think that is what caught Saban’s eye with Ballou and Rhea. If you can do what they did in a short time at IUFB, imagine what you can do with Alabama talent and resources. Everyone is always looking for an edge, even the elite. Alabama has lost the edge in the last couple of years, and Saban believes the new S&C coaches can be part of the remedy for that problem.

  5. Yes amazing how so many of our brains get distracted by the same thing.

    B1G football has changing to do well against teams from around the country. We have seen defensive philosophies change along with offensives become more wide open with faster athletes on both sides of the ball. School have hired coaches with philosophies to up grade their teams. Looking at IU, PU, Illinois, and MN we see offenses that are more wide open and defenses more capable of adjusting to different offenses. Even UM has had to change their offense but they still haven’t shown if they can compete with the best teams. Whether these teams can make it to the top and stay there will have to be seen. OSU, Wisc, and PSU are showing they can compete with the best.

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