Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Spring breakout player: Indiana
By Brian Bennett
With spring practice officially behind us, we're taking a look at each Big Ten team and identifying a player who announced himself as a potential key performer this fall.
These are guys who haven't played big roles yet but showed enough during the 15 spring practices -- not just some fluky, spring-game performance against backups -- to factor heavily into their team's plans.
Indiana's Nick Mangieri's new role in the Hoosiers' new 3-4 scheme is simple -- get after the QB.
Mangieri started 10 games as a sophomore in 2013, but we'll forgive you if you didn't really notice him that much. He managed only 26 total tackles for the season, though he did collect three sacks.
This spring, the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder got a new role and seemed to really embrace it. New defensive coordinator Brian Knorr brought a 3-4 base scheme and lined Mangieri up as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. He was tasked with getting after the quarterback, and he impressed the coaching staff by doing just that during most of the Hoosiers' 15 spring workouts.
Indiana has been dreadful on defense for some time now and could really use a more sustained pass rush. The team had just 20 sacks in 12 games a year ago, and departed senior defensive end John Laihinen led the way with 4.5. The Hoosiers really need some improved play at linebacker and saw some signs of that this spring (Marcus Oliver is another breakout candidate).
The hope is the new scheme will allow Mangieri and David Kenney to get out in space and make more plays in opposing teams' backfields. If that happens, we'll be talking about a true breakout in the fall.