Big Ten: Adam McClurg
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire|
|Indiana junior linebacker Matt Mayberry's (#43) best asset is his speed.|
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Matt Mayberry smiled when I mentioned I've received more e-mails about him than Beanie Wells, James Laurinaitis and Travis Beckum combined.
The preseason is the time to forecast the next great star in the Big Ten, and many fans are tabbing Mayberry, a junior middle linebacker at Indiana. Mayberry has a sneaking suspicion why.
"My greatest asset is speed," Mayberry said. "Talking with the coaches and everything, they just can't wait to put my speed out there. The defense is kind of designed for me, sideline-to-sideline, some specific blitzes for me, using my speed to make plays."
Mayberry runs a 4.49 in the 40 and can cover the entire field from his spot at middle linebacker. The Darien, Ill., native complements his speed with good size (6-2, 236), giving Indiana's defensive midsection an element it hasn't had before.
There's no nice way to put this, but not too long ago, Indiana's linebackers were painfully slow. It's a big reason why the Hoosiers finished no higher than 94th nationally in rushing defense between 2002-2006.
Indiana wants to tighten up against the run, and Mayberry is the linchpin.
"Physically, he's one of the better middle linebackers I've ever been around," said Hoosiers co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic, who helped coach several strong linebackers at Miami (Ohio). "He weighs about 240 pounds, he's strong as an ox and he's our fastest linebacker. He is gonna be a force."
An injury to Adam McClurg opened the door for Mayberry last year, and he chipped in with 42 tackles, including eight in the Insight Bowl. He spent the summer working on his speed and acceleration with Kevin Kasper, the former Iowa wide receiver who played at Mayberry's high school and now trains athletes in Naperville, Ill.
Former Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski, now with the Baltimore Ravens, trained alongside Mayberry with Kasper.
"Kasper really mentored both of us through the whole process," Mayberry said.
Mayberry has high hopes for a linebacker group that returns starters Will Patterson and Geno Johnson but rarely gets recognition around the league.
"You've got Ohio State, obviously, with James [Laurinaitis] and Marcus Freeman leading the way," Mayberry said. "They've already proven themselves. As a group, we've got to go out there and get respect. We can't wait to start the season."
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State