IU’s linebacker corps may be the team’s most improved group.
SLB Griffen Dahlstrom
MLB David Cooper
WLB T.J. Simmons
The problem with trying to project starters at this point is that injuries can shake things up dramatically. For instance, the initial depth chart had Chase Hoobler starting at weakside linebacker, but his stress fracture shuffles everybody.
The attention that’s been paid to freshman T.J. Simmons, based on the talks by head coach Kevin Wilson and defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, likely mean Simmons has earned a starting spot. But does he move outside to replace Hoobler, or does he push David Cooper outside so that Simmons can man the middle?
And what of the strongside spot? Will the starter be Griffen Dahlstrom or converted safety Flo Hardin?
The bright side, as Mallory has pointed out, is that the improved athleticism and depth at linebacker means the Hoosiers don’t have to play as much nickel and dime defense. The linebackers have the ability to cover the passing game. In turn, keeping the linebackers on the field for more downs should mean better play against the run.
Cooper led the Hoosiers in tackles for loss last season, with nine, including three sacks. He was also the second-leading tackler last season, with 86 stops.
Simmons was an early enrollee, which allowed him to participate in spring practice. That has allowed him to learn from the mistakes he made in the spring, in order to compete to be a starter this fall.