There was a moment during winter conditioning when redshirt junior Ricky Brookins caught site of a new teammate he couldn't recognize. The new guy just wouldn't slow down.
As it would turn out, the mystery man was junior college transfer Mike McGinnis. IU's newest addition at linebacker was making an early impression.
"He's really going to be good," Brookins said. "I was like, 'Dude, your work ethic and how fast you're moving? I like what you've got here, and I don't even know you. You have to keep doing it.'"
McGinnis hasn't wasted much time acclimating himself with the Hoosiers after spending the last two seasons at ASA College in Brooklyn, New York. Just last season, McGinnis was an All-American after collecting 91 tackles, 18 for loss, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
IU linebackers coach William Inge started recruiting McGinnis in late October and into November knowing that starting MIKE linebacker Marcus Oliver was going to have an opportunity to leave school early for the NFL, which he's done.
With McGinnis, Inge knew he'd be able to bring in an experienced, proven JUCO player who could compete for Oliver's vacant position alongside rising senior All-American Tegray Scales.
McGinnis visited Bloomington in early December, picked up a scholarship offer Dec. 14 and committed on Dec. 18 shortly after his father returned home from a major surgery during his battle with Leukemia.
He'll have two seasons of eligibility at IU with two years to complete them.
"We liked his effort and his high level play play," Inge said. "The beauty of that, that's a lot of the things he can control. Upon coming here and upon us being around him a little more, we see that he's got a high level of preparation. His performance and what he does and him learning is very important to him. Seeing him prepare and get himself ready, we've been very impressed with that part of the process with him thus far."
Oliver's early exit has created an opportunity for McGinnis to fight alongside the likes of seniors Chris Covington and TJ Simmons and redshirt junior Dameon Willis for the starting spot. As of now, the race appears wide open for any of those three or perhaps even a surprise along the way to take the job.
“This is a developmental process,” Inge said. “As a team, we want to make sure that we can develop all the guys at the positions. For us, getting guys reps and making sure we’re perfect in our reps, that’s one of the goals we have for us in our position. Getting them reps is paramount.”
Scales said he likes the way the competition is shaping up alongside of him early on in practice. It's been just two weeks, but McGinnis already caught his eye for many of the same reasons Inge recruited McGinnis to Bloomington in the first place.
"He's got a great work ethic," Scales said. "We've got some great MIKE linebackers, so it's not going to be easy. Him coming in to compete is good for this room. He's going to make everybody better."
Scales went on to say that McGinnis is a humble, hard-working person that he's excited to see evolve. All told, being a mid-year enrollee from the JUCO level isn't all that different from being a freshman.
In some cases, the transfer can jump in and play right away. Other times it takes a full calendar year to fall into place.
Inge is hoping for the former rather than the latter but is pleased that he's got options. If what's been happening in practice so far continues into the latter portion of the spring, he expects McGinnis to hang around and make his claim for playing time right away.
"It's coming along," Inge said. "The one thing that we're able to do now is we're able to get some more guys more reps. For me, I'm trying to make sure that guys can show all the things that they're able to do at any given time."
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