TERRE HAUTE —
Few plays in Indiana State’s football history have been the recipients of the off-field attention senior defensive end Ben Obaseki has received this year.
Obaseki was named a First Team All-American in 2011 and the honors have been pouring in ever since. Among other things, Obaseki is a preseason All-American, is on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list and was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection.
But for all of the offseason attention, Obaseki will likely receive even more attention on the field from opponents in 2012.
In the form of double teams.
Obaseki — who had 141⁄2 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2011 — was almost constantly double-teamed. The notable exception came against Western Illinois at Memorial Stadium last October. The result? The Washington native had one of the most remarkable games a defensive lineman has ever had. He had 22 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. The tackle total was a MVFC conference game record for a defensive lineman.
So the agenda calls for more of the same, right? Obaseki isn’t convinced.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’m going to see as many double-teams this year. The supporting cast around me? They were good last year, but this year, they’re so much better,” Obaseki said.
Obaseki has always had linebackers Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington to help put pressure on enemy quarterbacks, but he feels his fellow defensive line mates will help in that cause too.
ISU coach Trent Miles agreed.
“What’s going to help is that we’re better in other spots. Our guys are better on the inside positions. You do too much towards Ben? Our other guys have improved — and I feel pretty good about it,” Miles said.
With the departure of defensive tackles Rod Hardy and Lawrence Young, there are new starters in the middle of the line, but most are players who got their feet wet in 2011.
Junior Tyler Boyd (14 tackles in 2011) can play both end and tackle. Sophomore Garrison McElroy (25 tackles) is a run-stopper in the middle. Both played when injuries hit the line last season.
Also expected to contribute is senior defensive tackle Jordan Bright, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound senior. Junior tackle Tyler Stafford and junior college transfer Russell Jones could also get playing time inside the line.
On paper, ISU runs a 4-3 defense, but it has 3-4 principles. Obaseki’s fellow starting defensive end will likely be Zakee Bashir, who is listed as a linebacker, but who will line up in a down position. Connor Underwood could fill this role too, along with Josh Scott.
Bashir had one sack and 15 tackles last season.
Obaseki is excited about the potential of all of his fellow linemates.
“People are going to be surprised. One that comes to mind is Bright. He hasn’t played much, but when he gets in, he’s a game-changer. Garrison is a big 300-pound dude who’s strong and quick. Zakee coming off the edge is very valuable and will allow me to see some one-on-one blocks,” said Obaseki, who has recovered from a muscle tweak he had that kept him out of ISU’s last public scrimmage.
Even when Obaseki is double-teamed, Miles is prepared.
“We’ll move him around so teams can’t get a plain bead on him and slide protection at him. We’ll put in him in different areas,” Miles said.
Besides Obaseki, ISU’s defensive line hasn’t had the gaudy sack and tackle-for-loss statistics other units have had. The line functions as the foundation for other defensive units to be of the playmaking variety. That’s perfectly fine with those on the line.
McElroy, a freshman in 2011, came to this conclusion early on and has embraced his role.
“As the season went along, I realized I’m there to help other guys make plays. I’m not even mad about not getting stats. I’m happy to help Aaron, Jacolby and Ben make plays. We make plays so they can make the plays,” McElroy said.
ISU Defensive line
Projected starters — Ben Obaseki, DE; Jordan Bright, DT; Tyler Boyd DT/DE; Zakee Bashir, DE/LB.
Reserves — Garrison McElroy, (could also start at DT), Connor Underwood (listed as LB, lines up in down position), Tyler Stafford, Russell Jones, Josh Scott (listed as LB, lines up in down position), Josh Keyt, Conrrad Nichols, Brady Collins, Andre Biggers.
True freshmen (may or may not be redshirted) — Alec Lyons, Tyshon Walker, Sam Makadji, Trae Wilson, Conlan Cassidy, Eric Lalley.
Player to watch — Jordan Bright, DT, 6-7, 295, Sr.: The big senior from Cincinnati will get a chance to show what he can do. Bright is, by far, the largest defensive tackle ISU has in tow. He has the ability to move a pile.
Analysis — Obaseki is already one of the most honored ISU defensive ends of all-time. He is a preseason All-American and is on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list. But Obaseki also knows he’s going to be double-teamed by most opponents, and no matter how much ISU moves him around, it’ll fall on the rest of the ISU defensive line to take pressure off of him. Bashir, listed as a linebacker, but who often lines up in a down position, is a good pass rusher off the end who got his feet wet in 2011. Boyd, Bright and McElroy will fill the middle depending on run or passing downs. Boyd and McElroy both got playing time in 2011 when former DT Lawrence Young was banged up. It’s a line with sneaky veteran capabilities and it forms the foundation of an ISU defense that’s expected to be stout.
— Todd Golden