To say the Indiana Hoosiers must improve on defense in 2013 is an understatement. Last season, Indiana was dead last in the Big Ten in total defense, surrendering 463.5 yards per game to opposing offenses. The Hoosiers were last in rushing defense and ninth in pass defense. This year, Indiana has a lot of experience returning to a defense that can only get better.
Of the 11 projected defensive starters for 2013, 10 of them made at least one start last season. That experience will be huge in helping Indiana improve this year.
The biggest loss the Hoosiers have to deal with on defense is that of Adam Replogle, who had been an anchor for the defensive line since 2009, starting in 47 of 48 games. Last year, he was third on the team with 71 total tackles. His five sacks tied for eighth overall in the conference.
Redshirt freshman Ralphael Green will likely step into the defensive tackle position vacated by Replogle. The other tackle spot will be filled by Alex Todd, who played in eight games as a freshman last season.
The defensive line will be bookended by two returning starters: Zach Shaw and Ryan Phillis. Shaw started nine games as a freshman in 2012 and made 29 tackles with two sacks. Phillis started every game last year, registering 34 tackles and three sacks.
David Cooper returns this year to lead from his middle linebacker position. Last year, he was second on the team with 86 tackles and will once again be a key component to the Hoosiers’ defense. The outside linebacker positions will be filled by Chase Hoobler and Griffen Dahlstrom, both of whom have starting experience from a season ago.
When looking at the Indiana defense for this season, the strength lies in the secondary. Safety Greg Heban is the clear leader of the defense. His 91 tackles and three interceptions in 2012 were both team highs. He will play an important role in determining how much success the defense finds in 2013.
Tim Bennett and Mark Murphy will both see time at the other safety position. Murphy started 11 games last year and finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles. Bennett is listed on preseason depth charts as the starter, but both will see their fair share of time.
Antonio Marshall, who started the final seven games of 2012, brings the most experience to the cornerback position. Joining him will be Michal Hunter, who saw time in every game last year and made one start. Senior Ryan Thompson moved from safety this spring and will provide depth at cornerback.
With a lot of experience returning, it would be a surprise to see the Hoosiers ranked once again near the bottom of the Big Ten in defense. Look for Indiana to be much improved this year as a whole, but especially on defense.