Jordan Wells / TheHoosier.com
Entering last year’s offseason, senior Greg Gooch was making the transition from linebacker to defensive end.
Then-defensive coordinator Tom Allen, now the head coach, installed a 4-2-5 scheme. A departure from the previous 3-4 scheme, it meant two fewer linebacker positions on the field.
There would likely be fewer opportunities for snaps than the previous for Gooch, so he switched over to defensive end. No longer having to learn a new position, he’s spending this spring working on his skills.
“Just perfecting my craft, really,” Gooch said. “Just doing a better job of getting the fundamentals right as a defensive end, setting the edge and perfecting my technique.”
Gooch made the most of the opportunity, finishing with 26 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He played in all 13 of IU’s games last season, starting in 12 of them. All represented career highs.
Watching Gooch progress last season, IU defensive line coach Mark Hagen came away impressed by what he saw.
“Anytime you change positions, that’s tough,” Hagen said. “One school of thought is, well, maybe you have an opportunity to play more, but he’s going from a guy that’s off the ball, on his feet to a three-point stance. So it takes a unique person to buy into that, and I thought he did a great job of buying into that.”
From Game 1 to Game 13 last season, Hagen saw Gooch evolve from an unproven defensive end to a veteran capable of making run-stopping plays in the backfield.
Gooch registered a career-high 1.5 tackles for and three stops against No. 10 Penn State, recorded his sack in the Purdue win and the forced fumble in the Foster Farms Bowl vs. No. 19 Utah, and tallied a career-high four tackles, all solo, with one stop for loss and one quarterback hurry at Northwestern.
All told, he recorded at least two total tackles in nine of Indiana’s 13 games last year. His 5.5 tackles for loss all came in Big Ten play.
However, as the sack total suggests, there’s still room for improvement, particularly as a pass rusher.
“Greg’s got his limitations,” Hagen said. “He’s a better run defender than he is a pass rush guy, but that’s something he’s dedicated to working on this spring, becoming a better pass rusher.”
Gooch’s focus on perfecting his craft is two-fold.
It allows him to improve his technique, which will in turn improve his pass-rushing skills. It also puts him in position to be a key player along Indiana’s defensive line, which isn’t satisfied after the Hoosiers finished fifth in the Big Ten in total sacks with 33.
“One of my words is relentless,” Gooch said. “That’s just one of my standards I hold myself to and hold my teammates too as well.”
Hagen recognized the improvement Gooch made over the course of last season. Now, it’s up to Gooch to raise the bar even higher.
“He’s upped his game a bunch of notches,” Hagen said. “And he’s making big-time plays.”
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