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Hoosiers’ defense is work in progress

– Playing against the offensive unit that led the Big Ten in passing last year, Indiana’s defense gave up more than 400 passing in Saturday’s Cream vs. Crimson game.

As IU coach Kevin Wilson said after the game, defenses will give up big plays from time to time, but he wants to see his players respond more effectively.

“OK, they’re going to make a play,” Wilson said of opposing offenses. “There’s a lot of grass, a lot of field, there’s a lot of players, and that happens. You’ll come back and get the next play, get them off schedule, hold them to a field goal, get them to a punt.”

The IU offense, Wilson said, has plenty of confidence in itself. The defense, on the other hand, still doesn’t carry itself with as much of what Wilson referred to as “swagger.”

Safety Greg Heban, who will be a senior in the fall, said the defense’s improvement will come with maturity and experience. During his four years at IU, he has seen some players develop into major contributors the more they played. Though a number of members of IU’s secondary are young, many of them saw significant playing time as freshmen or sophomores.

One of those players is sophomore cornerback Kenny Mullen, who finished Saturday’s game with four tackles. The Bishop Luers graduate has played in all but one game in two years at IU. Heban said the early playing time for Mullen was vital.

“I think it was really important,” Heban said. “He’s going to come back next year with two years under his belt. Kenny’s a straight athlete. He’ll pick up on anything he needs to and once he gets some more experience under his belt like he has these past couple years, I think he’s going to be a great addition to our defense.”

Defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, who played defensive back at Michigan, also discussed the factor of experience and simply being around the defensive schemes for longer.

“We’re only going to do as much as our kids can handle,” Mallory said. “I don’t want to be in a situation where there’s confusion out there, but that’s up to us as coaches. We’ve got to do a better job of teaching and getting kids on the same page, playing within the framework of the call.”

The understanding of the game will come, Mallory said. As players play more, the Hoosiers hope the defensive players learn how to execute the defensive scheme and – if Wilson gets his way – the defense will also develop “swagger.”

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