TERRE HAUTE —
According to Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford, defense had been ahead of the offense in the eight spring practices prior to Friday’s scrimmage. And it stood to reason.
ISU’s offense has been getting a high concentration of new terminology and a new scheme. The defense has too, but perhaps not to the level of the offense.
But on Friday, ISU’s offense had the upper-hand. Sanford expressed pleasure with both sides of the ball in the informal scrimmage, but wanted to see more consistency out of the defense.
“We have to be able to sustain drives better [defensively]. We’re making the big plays every once in a while, but we have to sustain better,” Sanford said. “The defense has been ahead of the offense. I think the offense caught up a little bit today. The offense has a lot in and I think that made it tougher on the defense today.”
The offensive changes ISU is making — most notably, a no-huddle set — will be most noticeable on first impression, but the defensive changes being made aren’t inconsequential. ISU ran a 3-4 defense with 4-3 principles a year ago. The formation will be similar in 2013, but the responsibilities will be vastly different.
“There’s two different categories of defense. Gap control and knock ‘em back defense where linebackers and safeties make plays off the knock ‘em back. We’re more of a knock ‘em back type of scheme. Last year, they were more gap control,” Sanford explained.
“We’ll be very aggressive. We’re challenging on the outside and we played some press [coverage], and we got beat once or twice today, that’s the first time we’ve been beat by the offense on that. It’s good for the offense, but we have to defend the deep ball,” Sanford added.
ISU senior cornerback Calvin Burnett feels the change in philosophy suits him.
“The best thing about it is we get to run around. It’s not as much thinking as last year’s defense, it’s about making a play and it’s about your effort and attitude. It’s better for us because we get to show our ability being a playmaker,” Burnett said. “It’s not gap control, it’s man-on-man.”
Friday’s scrimmage was conducted in intermittent stages between regular periods of practice for the Sycamores. There were periods of 7-on-7 as well. There was also hitting, something rarely seen during the Trent Miles era. Burnett doled out the biggest hit when he cracked tight end Jamar Brown in a goal line situation.
All three of ISU’s quarterbacks — 2012 starter Mike Perish, Robert Tonyan Jr. and Trent Lancaster — got snaps.
George Cheeseborough took most of the snaps in the backfield while Shakir Bell was most prominent on Friday running pass patterns out the backfield. ISU’s special teams unit also blocked a Tanner Fritschle field goal attempt.
“We got what we wanted. We got into the 30s for plays for guys. We had a lot of good work. We saw a lot of good things. It was good to see the blocked field goal,” Sanford said.
There were no injuries in the scrimmage.