Mutka: Indiana seniors remain rare in two-deeps
August 12, 2012 11:06PM
TAB MUG MUTKA 100109 Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune ptmet
Updated: September 14, 2012 6:15AM
Adam Replogle remembers what it was like when he was a freshman at Indiana University.
“A lot of mistakes,” said the defensive tackle, offering a capsule comment about his rookie season.
So he knew what to expect last year when new coach Kevin Wilson inspected 32 freshmen, including 16 redshirts. No other Division I team would toss that many rookies into the frying pan.
Nearly 60 percent of IU’s roster consisted of underclassmen and 46 different players started. Ask not what the toll was for growing pains. Replogle and center Will Matte would rather not dwell on a 1-11 record.
A year later they remain rareties among newly encamped Hoosiers. Both are seniors on a team set up for 2013. If depth charts in the IU media guide hold up, 38 of 42 listed on the two-deeps would return next year. In my book that’s the mother of all youth movements.
When the Hoosiers open against Indiana State on Sept. 1 Replogle will be making his 36th consecutive start. That’s more than the rest of the defense combined excluding fifth-year senior Larry Black, a fifth-year senior who has chalked up 28 starts in 36 games.
Replogle’s leadership qualities reveal themselves in the positives he managed to extract from the overwhelming negatives of 2011.
“You have to take it as a learning experience,” he said. “It’s a motivational (tool) for us.”
IU’s leading returning tackler hopes to apply the lessons he cultivated as a team captain. And he’s moving forward with spirit intact.
“I want to be involved in the start of something special at IU.”
From a defensive point of view that means making third-down stops and creating turnovers.
Replogle comes from a football family based in Centerville, Ohio. His dad, Tom, played for VMI. His older brother, Tyler, toiled at linebacker for the Hoosiers from 2007-10. He’s also big brother to Mike, who appeared in seven games as a freshman linebacker and is listed on IU’s two deeps.
“You have to be patient with freshmen,” Adam said.
If the green Hoosiers can change a lifetime of losing, they need to ripen fast.
“Historically, we’ve been in a lot of close games, but haven’t finished them,” Replogle admits. “Changing the culture means playing four quarters.”
Easier said than done..
“All those freshmen with a year under their belt are going to have to step up,” Matte said.
Last year was a drag for the 295-pound center. As the losses piled up the Hoosiers collected bumps and bruises to their bodies as well as their egos.
“You never want that feeling again,” Matte said. “Going through that was really bad, but at the end of the day I think it made us a little stronger (mentally).”
To make the transition from doormat to respectability the offensive line bulked up five-to-10 pounds per man between seasons. Hopefully, that translates into a more physical approach.
“We were lacking the extra bulk to keep from being overpowered,” Matte conceded.
Signs of life punched through the gloom. Thanks to the front line the Hoosiers rushed for 1,374 yards. That figure may be modest next to bullies like Ohio State, Wisconsin or Michigan but it represents IU’s highest total in 11 years.
Hard work in the weight room — one of the best in the Midwest — is paying dividends.
The day after the Hoosiers closed with a 33-25 loss to Purdue they converged for a team meeting. On Monday they resumed workouts.
Could the Hoosiers be leaner and meaner? I wondered.
“We’ve made strides in body fat percentage,” Matte insists. “We’re in much better shape.”
His confidence in Wilson remains firm.
“The numbers may not show it, but coach is doing a great job of growing sophomores into leadership roles. “He’s intense, very driven.”
Matte is more of a lead-by-example kind of guy, but admits he must become more vocal in the huddle.
“Tre (QB Roberson) has the ultimate power, but I have to make sure the guys (linemen) are on the same page,” he said. “It’s my job to call out the protections, where we’re going, who might be blitzing,” he said. “Things like that.”
Wilson spent much of the Big Ten kickoff in Chicago talking about intangibles.
“We’ve had some hiccups along the way, but it’s a different vibe in the building,” he said. “We’re a lot farther along compared to 2011, developing chemistry .. in the locker room.”
If classroom excellence translates into smarter football the program is headed north. A school record 24 Hoosiers, including Replogle and Matte, earned all-academic Big Ten honors.
They’re not fumbling books or the football.
Next step? Beating non-conference foes Indiana State (6-5 record, 2011), Ball State (6-6) and Massachusetts (5-6) and competing against Navy (5-7). And maybe, just maybe, stealing a Big Ten victory.