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The Journal Gazette

  • Indiana University Defensive back Marcelino Ball will be one of Indiana's most experienced secondary players this season, the first season under new defensive coordinator Kane Wommack.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:00 am

IU coaches counting on DB Ball as leader

Cameron Drummond | For The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – Ambitious goals have always been part of the blueprint for Tom Allen as Indiana's football coach.

Creative monikers were given to Allen's IU teams prior to the 2017 and '18 seasons, and another is surely on the way before the 2019 opener against Ball State in August.

But in the infant stages of the offseason, Allen has set a tangible goal for IU's defense to become a top 25 unit in the country. Allen has also singled out a player to help turn this expectation into reality – redshirt junior defensive back Marcelino Ball.

“It's something that I kind of accept and try not to take for granted,” Ball said of being one of IU's veteran defensive presences. “I try to do the same things that the leaders before me taught me.”

Ball's football pedigree is without question. He's the younger brother of two former NFL players and burst onto the scene in 2016 by leading all Big Ten freshmen with 75 tackles and receiving starts in 12 of 13 games at IU's hybrid linebacker-safety position, known as the husky position.

A knee injury suffered during IU's third game in 2017 against Georgia Southern kept Ball out for the rest of the season. He returned in 2018, made 11 starts at husky and led the team with more than seven tackles for loss.

With most of IU's secondary, a youthful group last season, returning for Kane Wommack's first season as defensive coordinator, Allen wants to continue to develop depth.

“In some games (last season) we played up to 30 guys on defense,” Allen said. “I want to continue that trend of playing a lot of guys on defense. I believe in that.”

The December decision to make Wommack the defensive coordinator, while Allen shifts his focus to more of an oversight role as head coach, means the Hoosiers have some schematic adjustments to adapt to this spring.

Wommack will remain IU's linebackers coach, a position he has had since January 2018, while also serving as defensive coordinator.

It was as linebackers coach that Wommack and Ball first developed a strong relationship, which involves Wommack presenting Ball and his teammates with a changing set of standards to meet each day in practice.

“He's not going to always credit us for something we're supposed to be doing,” Ball said of Wommack. “But when we don't do it, he's going to be real with us and say we didn't meet the standard.”

Ball said that Wommank, with a look and small talk, but no yelling, is able to influence defensive players to improve their play.

As one of the more experienced members of the secondary, as well as one of the most consistent when healthy, Ball has embraced his role as a leader for a defense looking to continue its recent success.

“It's challenging at times because I'm the one they follow,” Ball said. “So I try not to make mistakes.”