Indiana linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator William Inge is atypical.
He coaches differently. He mentors differently. He approaches football in a way his players werent used to when Inge joined the staff March 6.
All those differences, plus more than a decade of coaching experience, have made the Hoosiers look at the game differently, too.
Coach Inge, hes just like a philosopher, linebacker Forisse Hardin said. It helps us a lot. He just gives us little tricks and tips about where the routes will be at, where the coverage-beaters will be, where the Cover 4 beaters will be and just things like that.
Former IU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler was a big loss for the Hoosiers. Ekeler, now with USC, was one of the teams best recruiters and brought energy and effort to the defense.
But Inge brings something different – and, at this stage in IUs renovation of the program, it might be better. He has his players key in on film study, technique and focus on things the average person cant see.
He brings the linebacker study aspect to our whole film room, said Jacarri Alexander, who started four games and played in six as a strong-side backer in 2012 before a season-ending injury. Everything we do, were doing it with great preparedness. Hes teaching us how to focus on small details, big details, from different angles to take on these blocks.
Its making us more efficient, so to speak, in our execution.
For Inge, that efficiency is a priority.
Inge played four seasons at Iowa and worked most recently with the Buffalo Bills as their defensive line coach in 2012. His wealth of football knowledge has taught him the importance of the linebacker position.
If you look at all the good and great defenses, theyre going to be led by the linebacking corps, Inge said. Were looking for consistent improvement, and the way you can evaluate that is once you get in a game-time scenario. We know that theres been some improvement. Well be able to evaluate that and see what things we need to correct and get better at once we get into the games.
On a defense that should improve across all positions, the linebacker spot could be the most intriguing.
IU returns Alexander, Hardin and David Cooper, as well as Griffen Dahlstrom, who worked into a starting role during the 2012 season. The Hoosiers lost Chase Hoobler to a stress fracture early in camp, but also have T.J. Simmons, a midyear enrollee, and two strong newcomers in Clyde Newton and Marcus Oliver.
All of those players have benefited from Inges approach, which also features a healthy dose of physicality.
Weve been raising the bar, said Cooper, who started all 12 games at middle linebacker last season. Thats something from last year to this year that we emphasized: Being more physical and aggressive. Every day in practice, were looking to just knock some heads.
And while IU is playing fast, it is also playing smart. Inge has taught his players about the dead spots in coverages, as well as how to make it seem like those spots are plugged up – things that NFL linebackers are doing, as Alexander put it.
Next, they have to translate those concepts into game-day speed.
What were trying to do is just continuously build the group from a talent standpoint and an execution standpoint, Inge said. When you have great people, you have a great plan, were going to prepare them to be successful on game day, and now all we have to do is just get some execution on the football field.