EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Allen’s first full season as the Indiana head coach (he coached the bowl game in 2016) resulted in a 5-7 record and just missing a third consecutive bowl appearance. IU lost to Purdue 31-24 in the Old Oaken Bucket game, a loss that kept the Hoosiers out of postseason competition. As we count down to the start of fall camp Aug. 2, we will be previewing the Hoosiers position-by-position. The first three installments looked at running backs, wide receivers and the offensive line. This one focuses on quarterbacks.
Coming out of spring football, no position on the Indiana roster looked scarier than linebacker.
And that was scary in a bad way. Gone were two starters in Tegray Scales and Chris Covington.
In their places, the two players who were penciled in as starters – Michael McGinnis and Reakwon Jones – had a combined 16 total tackles in their collegiate careers. Their backups – Thomas Allen and Mo Burnham – were a pair of redshirt freshmen with promise but no actual game experience.
There was no doubt that the coaching staff was concerned to say the least.
Now, things are much different with less than a week before the start of training camp.
The two players expected to start at least have some college experience. Fifth-year senior Dameon Willis wasn’t sure if he was going to play this season. He went through Senior Day festivities last fall. But now Willis has decided to play and gives the Hoosiers an instant boost in experience.
And T.D. Roof, the sophomore transfer from Georgia Tech, has been granted immediate eligibility and will play this season. Roof participated in spring practice with both the first and second team players but was expected to have to sit out one season before being eligible.
Key Returners: Dameon Willis (senior), Michael McGinnis (senior), Reakwon Jones (junior), Mo Burnham (redshirt freshman), and Thomas Allen (redshirt freshman)
Notable Newcomers: T.D. Roof (transfer from Georgia Tech), James Miller (true freshman), Cam Jones (true freshman) and Aaron Casey (true freshman)
Losses: Tegray Scales (graduation), Chris Covington (graduation).
Greatest Strength: Lots of opportunities
Lots of opportunities is another way of saying Indiana doesn’t have a lot back but there seems to be several players who will have a chance to play right away this season.
Willis and Roof have some experience, although Roof’s was at Georgia Tech and not IU. Willis backed up Scales and Covington last year. He has played in 35 career games with two starts. He has tallied 65 career tackles.
Roof played in 11 games as a true freshman at Georgia Tech. He had 17 tackles and two sacks. He also played on four different special teams units. When his father, Ted Roof, left Georgia Tech to become the associate head coach at North Carolina State, Roof ultimately was granted immediate eligibility at Indiana.
McGinnis and Jones should see plenty of action, too, as both were being groomed as starters in the spring. And it should make for good competition for the starting spots in training camp as well.
Position Battles: Could Jones crack the starting lineup?
Jones was looked at as a player who was coming on in the spring and that should be enough to think that he’ll compete for a starting spot in the fall.
Willis has the most college experience but most of it has been in a backup role. Roof is considered a future playmaker and hails from a really good high school program in Buford, Ga. Willis, who is from St. Ignatious in Cleveland, Ohio, also has that going for him.
Worth Considering/Biggest Question: Will Burnham and Allen break into the lineup?
Allen, the coach’s son, and Burnham, both redshirt freshmen, are both looked at as players high on potential. Allen is from Tampa, Fla., and Burnham from Conyers, Ga.
They were both being looked at it in the spring as players who could push for starting spots in the fall. Now, with Willis and Roof on board, it’s probably more likely that they’ll be trying to sneak into the two-deep depth charts.
Coming out of high school both Burnham and Allen were ranked among the top 30 inside linebackers in the country by ESPN.com. Burnham was ranked No. 23 and Allen No. 29.