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BLOOMINGTON -- Music pounds in the Memorial Stadium background courtesy of rapper Tone Loc and hip-hop Run-DMC. It is loud and harsh and is nothing like, say, Frank Sinatra. The lyrics attack, the beat punishes and the energy is unmistakable.
“How about this song,” Indiana defensive co-coordinator Doug Mallory says with a smile.
This is the beat the Hoosiers practice to and Mallory rolls with the audio barrage. He will not listen to Tone Loc on the drive home. He will never listen to Run-DMC when he is on his own time.
“I promise you it's not,” he quips when asked if these songs are in his music collection. “I promise you it's not.”
Music appreciation for 21st-century young males is not in Mallory's job description. Building a defense Indiana can win with is.
Can he, new co-defensive coordinator William Inge and the rest of the defensive coaching staff turn a unit that has been, according to coach Kevin Wilson, an “embarrassment” into one capable of giving the potentially high-powered offense a chance?
Mallory says he sees progress at the preseason camp midway point.
“A lot of things concern us,” he says, “but we've made some strides. The last few times we scrimmaged, we're tackling a little better. We're more physical.
“We're getting more confident. We're developing a little more swag on the field. We have a long ways to go, but we're starting to develop those things.”
Last year opponents ran, passed and scored at will, especially in the season's final three games, when IU allowed 163 points. The Hoosiers -- specifically the secondary -- gave up too many of what Mallory calls “explosion plays,” which is a fancy way of saying big plays that get you beat.
“The offense gets you exposed in space,” Mallory says. “You've got to make plays in space. They do a great job of spreading you out. Some of the athletes they get the ball to, you get isolated in one-on-ones. You've got to get them to the ground.”
That's easier said than done, especially when IU's offense includes big-play receivers such as Shane Wynn.
“The big thing we talked about after the first scrimmage,” Mallory says, “was we gave up too many explosion plays, plays that could have been held to 5 yards, 10 at the most, and we miss a tackle in the back end and it results in a touchdown or long run.
“We have good skill on offense, good speed. Look at Shane Wynn. If you don't get him down in the open field, you're not going to catch him. The offense has got a couple of other guys like that. We don't necessarily have the speed on defense to run those kids down. If we keep the ball inside and in front, if we become good tacklers in the open field, we've got a chance to be all right.”
Granted, that's not a ringing endorsement of shut-down defensive potential, but Mallory is a realistic when he's not being driven to musical distraction.
“We have to eliminate explosion plays. Consistency the big thing. Of four plays, you might play well in three of them where you fitted up, tackled. But it's the fourth play where we got a mistake and all of sudden it's an explosion play. That's what we've got to get out of our system.”
Part of the problem in the first scrimmage came because injuries to some veterans caused young, inexperienced players to see action.
Yes, we've seen that before.
“Some of that was we had some young kids playing for the first time,” Mallory says. “They weren't fitting the ball like they should have. They weren't leveraging the ball as they should have. As we got some of the older kids back, we got a little sounder.
“It still comes down to, you've got to be able to get off a block, run to the ball and tackle.”
A strong group of newcomers should help. Fifteen freshmen are defensive players including four-star (out of five) recruits Darius Latham, David Kenney and Antonio Allen, plus T.J. Simmons, who graduated from high school last December so he could participate in spring practice.
“Antonio has put himself in position -- he's two-deep competing for a starting job,” Mallory says. “At linebacker, T.J. being a midyear guy, I don't look at him like a true freshman, but that's what he is. He's got a got a chance to be a starter.
“On the D-line, Darius is a young man with a chance to help us this year. David Kenney has been nicked up. We just got him back, so the jury is still out there. We've got a lot of (freshmen) in the two-deep.”
Allen might make the biggest impact of any of the freshmen. He's challenging veterans Greg Heban and Mark Murphy for a starting safety spot. He was rated as the state's No. 5 player, and the No. 20 safety nationally in the Class of 2013, by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.
“Antonio has played defense his whole life, safety his whole life,” Mallory says, “Just having that experience has helped him project further. The maturity level and physicality he displays when he's on the field is high. He's one guy, when he hits you, the ball carrier stops in his tracks. He's a tough kid. He gets after it pretty good. The things we're trying to develop, he came in with that type of background. That's been encouraging.”
Tone Loc couldn't have rapped it any better.