Hoosiers hoping new defense leads them to bowl bid

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BLOOMINGTON, IND. (AP) - A year ago, Bill Lynch introduced “the pistol” to Indiana football.

This year, it’s the 3-4 defense.

The fourth-year coach with a penchant for change believes the latest tweak will help the Hoosiers take advantage of their talent _ and get back to being a bowl contender.

“We’ve got a good football team,” Lynch said. “I’ve done this a long time, and when you do it long enough, you know the difference between a good football team and one that has holes. We’ve got a bunch of guys who get after it on the field.”

Certainly that’s something the Hoosiers need after last season’s defensive debacle.

Indiana lost eight of its last nine games, including five straight to close the season. Opponents topped 30 points in each of the Hoosiers’ last four games, and the result was predictable: Indiana stayed home for the holidays _ as it has all but one time since 1994.

So Lynch and his assistants, facing the loss of seven of the team’s top eight tacklers and one of the nation’s best pass-rushing tandems, thought it best to revamp the defense. They moved receiver-quarterback Mitchell Evans and receiver Matt Ernest to the secondary, and changed the defensive alignment to take advantage of more depth at linebacker and a big group of smallish, quick pass rushers.

“I think it’s going to help us out because it will give offenses different looks and more things to worry about,” Evans said.

Why might it work?

The Hoosiers (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten) are stacked in the middle with sophomore defensive tackles Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle. Black started all 12 games, while Replogle, the only true freshman to play for Indiana last season, started the last 11 games.

Kevin Bush is a 6-foot-3, 252-pound pass rusher, who can play with his hands up or down. Replogle’s brother, Tyler, a senior, also returns at linebacker after finishing second on the team with 80 tackles.

And Lynch is hoping he has enough other players to fill the gaps. Injuries limited the playing time of hometown kid Leon Beckum last season, but he’s healthy now. Lynch also brought in junior college transfer Jeff Thomas, the nation’s No. 4 juco linebacker in 2009.

Plus, the Hoosiers are deeper in the secondary.

Junior college transfers Lenyatta Kiles and Andre Kates join veterans Richard Council and Adrian Burks at cornerback, while former cornerbacks Donnell Jones and Chris Adkins have bulked up and moved to safety. Jones, who looks bigger than his listed weight of 210 pounds, may even get some time as a rover back and give the Hoosiers added flexibility to plug the biggest hole _ stopping opponents on third down.

“I think we’ll have the ability to do more things in those situations,” Lynch said, referring to the Hoosiers’ biggest flaw last season.

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