Real job obligations have kept me from digging into the defensive charts, so we’ll stick with a beefed-up participation report this week. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that ugly pass coverage chart next week.
- Jacob Robinson missed his second straight game due to injury. Jerome Johnson and Brandon Wilson manned the DT spot in his absence. Looking forward, Robinson isn’t on the depth chart for this week’s game, which suggests to me that he isn’t all that close to returning to action. After this week, IU has five games remaining. While Robinson could certainly make a difference if he can get healthy in time to play in some or all of those five games, there’s potentially another option. Robinson is a true senior. With the new redshirt rule, if he only plays in one of IU’s remaining six games[ref] Robinson has already played in three games.[/ref], Robinson would be eligible to play next season as a redshirt senior. There’s certainly a personnel justification for such a decision – of the players currently rotating at the two interior D-Line spots, three of the five are seniors (Jamerez Bowen, Kayton Samuels and Mike Barwick). DE Nile Sykes will also be gone. The veteran presence that Robinson could provide to the defensive line in 2019 would certainly be helpful. Of course, all of that assumes that Robinson (a) isn’t ready to come back in the next few weeks and (b) actually has an interest in sticking around for another season. But let’s say Robinson is almost ready to return in mid-November. I think I’d advise him to skip the Michigan game, play against Purdue and then come back in 2019.
- So far in 2018, Coach Allen has shown a willingness to change his personnel on passing downs, particularly on 3rd down. Devon Matthews is almost an automatic sub in those situations at safety opposite Jonathan Crawford. If they are not already in the game, Nile Sykes and Allen Stallings regularly come in at both DE spots to maximize pass rush. Micah McFadden occasionally comes in for one of the other MLBs, Dameon Willis or Thomas Allen. In the 2nd half against Ohio State, IU used a new variation of passing down defense: in addition to Sykes and Stallings, James Head was in the game in place of the DT, but Head was in moving, stand-up position. Mike Barwick, the lone interior lineman, played a true nose tackle over the center. Allen actually used this before 3rd down on a few occasions, presumably as a counter to a Buckeye passing attack that was cutting his defense apart. Given some of the issues with the young secondary and a pedestrian pass rush, there’s a good argument for Coach Allen to utilize even more of this sort of personnel specialization to assist with pass defense.
- Cam Jones returned as the No. 2 Husky in this one, after missing the Rutgers game due to an injury suffered while making a brilliant interception against MSU. Jones promptly recovered a fumble and delivered a hit on Dwayne Haskins that led to a Devon Matthews’ pick. The guy just seems to make plays. I mentioned on Twitter during the game that in that way, he sort of reminds me of a more athletic Marcus Oliver. Speaking of creative use of personnel, it might make sense for the defensive coaching staff to devise a way to get Marcelino Ball and Cam Jones on the field at the same time. At this point, Jones seems to have joined Ball among IU’s top 11 defenders, and it stands to reason that he should be on the field more than just a 70/30 or 60/40 split with Ball.
- A’Shon Riggins also returned after missing the Rutgers game due to injury. Nevertheless, Raheem Layne started opposite Andre Brown. It certainly seems like Layne has moved ahead of Riggins in the eyes of the coaching staff. That said, Riggins will have plenty of opportunities to change that perception because IU has been rotating its corners regularly.