College football: Mark Murphy, Indiana defense need more takeaways to improve
By Andy Proffet Post-Tribune correspondent August 27, 2012 11:22PM
Football vs. Northwestern, 10/29/11_Mike Dickbernd
Date Opponent Time, TV
Spet. 1 vs. Indiana St. 7 p.m., BTN
Sept. 8 at UMass 2:30 p.m., ESPN 3
Sept. 15 vs. Ball State 7 p.m., BTN
Sept. 29 at Northwestern TBA
Oct. 6 vs. MSU 11 a.m.
Oct. 13 vs. Ohio State 7 p.m., BTN
Oct. 20 at Navy 2:30 p.m., CBSN
Oct. 27 at Illinois 11 a.m.
Nov. 3 vs. Iowa TBA
Nov. 10 vs. Wisconsin TBA
Nov. 17 at Penn State TBA
Nov. 24 at Purdue TBA
Updated: September 29, 2012 6:15AM
No team in college football played more freshmen last season than Indiana. Sixteen true freshmen and 16 redshirt freshmen saw playing time for the Hoosiers in Kevin Wilson’s first season as coach.
And no true freshman in the Big Ten made more tackles last season than the Hoosiers’ Mark Murphy.
The versatile Murphy — he started three games at weakside linebacker and six more at safety — had 76 tackles, second on the team to the since-graduated Jeff Thomas. Murphy led IU with 44 solo tackles.
With the Hoosiers’ influx of junior college linebackers, including two of the three projected starters in Jacarri Alexander and David Cooper, the 6-2, 206-pound Murphy should be able to focus on playing safety this season.
More importantly, he and the rest of Indiana’s defense can focus on taking the ball away from opposing offenses. The Hoosiers had just 16 takeaways last season — one of the biggest factors in a 1-11 finish.
“We’ve emphasized it every day, we have to get a certain number of turnovers or we have to run (after practice),” Murphy said in the midst of IU’s fall camp. “We don’t want to run!”
“We’re always going to put an emphasis on (creating turnovers),” co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. “We’re constantly preaching, constantly pointing out opportunities where we could have had an opportunity to take away, take a shot at the ball.”
The Hoosiers know an improvement in turnover margin would go a long way to improving the team’s record. Oklahoma State, for example, gave up a lot of yards last season but went 11-2 thanks to a plus-28 turnover margin.
It will help the Hoosiers this season that Murphy and others have the experience of playing as true freshmen a year ago.
“I’d say last year was a lot of a learning experience, a lot of us got thrown into the fire,” Murphy said. “We were a really young team. Now that we’ve learned it a lot, we know what’s expected …
“I think (our communication has) come a long way. A lot of us are young guys, we were more worried about ourselves initially … if we didn’t know our stuff, we couldn’t help anybody else,” Murphy added. “Now that we all know what we’re doing, we’re more willing to help and communicate with others. We can all be on the same page, that really helps us execute.”
Judging from Mallory’s assessment, the IU coaches know how important Murphy’s experience from last season will be to the team this year.
“You look at a guy like Mark Murphy, he came in here last fall, came in and worked safety throughout two-a-day camp then moved to will linebacker, then we got him back (at safety) second half of the season. I think he’s got a pretty good overall feel,” Mallory said. “I think he’s the one guy that, if the offense moves, he knows how to adjust, he knows how to check and he does a great job communicating and kind of getting everyone on the same page.
“Again, that’s just a guy who’s been in the system for one year. … It’s nice being in year two where you’ve got a lot of guys who have been in the system for awhile, a lot better comfort with what we’re trying to accomplish.”