Indiana coach has high hopes for new DEs

Few position groups in the Big Ten, if not the country, lose more production than Indiana does at defensive end.

The Hoosiers say goodbye to Jammie Kirlew, an All-Big Ten selection in each of the past two seasons who finished his IU career with 52.5 tackles for loss, 23 sacks, nine forced fumbles and 220 tackles. Also moving on is Greg Middleton, the 2007 national sacks leader who recorded 23 career sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss.

I'm no math whiz, but 46 sacks and 83 tackles for loss seems awfully tough to replace.

Which is why Joe Palcic's next statement comes as such a big surprise.

"There are a couple of defensive ends that haven't played much ball that are going to make a lot of people forget about Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton," said Palcic, the Hoosiers' co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. "In a matter of minutes."

That's some pretty high praise, but who are these future stars for IU?

Darius Johnson steps into a featured role after playing just three games last fall because of a shoulder injury. The 6-foot, 255-pound Johnson, a converted linebacker, appeared in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2008. He's a redshirt junior but could earn a sixth year of eligibility because of the injury.

Indiana also will turn to Kevin Bush, a 24-year-old redshirt sophomore walk-on who spent a season at Toledo before serving three-and-a-half years in the U.S. military. Bush sat out the 2009 season, in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, but earned scout team player of the week honors five times and will be in the mix for a starting job this fall.

Both Johnson and Bush are linebacker-end hybrid types with above average speed.

"They're exciting players," Palcic said. "They have great athleticism, they have great toughness. They're a little bit undersized, like Kirlew was, but they both have three more years to play.

"I'm telling you, they're both going to end up being better than Jammie Kirlew."

Pressure's on.