FORT WAYNE – Indiana has sprinkled in preparations for its next opponent, Navy, and the Midshipmen’s triple-option offense throughout the fall.
It feels like a midterm that I’ve been studying for since spring, Indiana middle linebacker David Cooper said during a phone interview after Tuesday’s practice. I’m ready to take the test.
Cooper has received passing marks in his first season with the Hoosiers.
He’s getting better, IU coach Kevin Wilson said during the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday. It’s his first year in the Big Ten. He needs to keep pressing and keep pushing more than he is.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound sophomore, who transferred from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, is second on the team with 39 tackles.
Cooper is tied for 19th in the Big Ten in tackles per game (6.5). He has four tackles for loss and one pass breakup.
It feels real good, just doing my job, Cooper said. I feel like I need to improve my game even more to keep the defense going in the right direction.
Cooper said those improvements include making more plays.
Wilson said the defense has to do a better job stopping the run. The Hoosiers surrendered 353 rushing yards in Saturday’s 52-49 loss to Ohio State. IU is last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, giving up 221.2 yards per game.
We’re giving up too many yards rushing, Wilson said. It starts with good play up front. We’re getting great play from (senior defensive tackle) Adam Replogle (who leads the team with 41 tackles and three sacks); the other guys have been OK. The (line)backers have to show up more.
It all starts at practice, just practicing harder, Cooper said. The more we practice harder, the more we fly around and get turnovers in practice, that will show in the game.
IU faces a Navy team that is 14th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 233.3 yards per game. Navy rushed for 285 and 238 yards in wins against Air Force and Central Michigan in its last two contests.
It’s assignment football. Everybody has a responsibility, Cooper said of defending Navy. We also have to stay off the cut blocks and make sure the defensive line gets penetration.
Cooper is continuing to adjust to life as a starting linebacker for a Big Ten team. He collected 102 tackles, two sacks, 13 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries at Coffeyville Community College last season. He enrolled at IU last spring and participated in spring camp.
I wanted to go somewhere I could make a difference and help a program out, Cooper said. A place that needed a linebacker.
He’s had eight tackles in a game on three occasions this season, the most recent being Oct. 6 against Michigan State.
Playing in the Big Ten is a blessing, Cooper said. To make plays, it fuels me to keep going.