BLOOMINGTON — Indiana freshman safety Bryson Bonds has already displayed a knack for picking up the defense quickly and making plays during fall camp.
But IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack relayed another story that speaks to Bonds’ maturity.
It occurred during summer workouts when IU’s freshmen were staying in a hotel before the start of the fall semester.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a freshman to come in with such a locked in mindset, to be disciplined,” Wommack said. “I mean he’s the guy that’s literally knocking on doors when they were staying in the hotel in the summer time. He’d go down the hallway and knock on people’s doors just to make sure all the freshmen were up for a 6 a.m. run. Stuff like that is impressive, and it shows up on the field.”
That discipline, plus injuries to defensive backs Marcelino Ball and Raheem Layne, could put Bonds in position to see the field when the Hoosiers open their season Oct. 23 or 24 against No. 9 Penn State. IU safeties coach Jason Jones said he put the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bonds in with the upperclassmen during the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage to see how he would handle it.
“He’s one of those guys when he lined up, he made the checks,” Jones said. “Wasn’t afraid to talk, communicate, had a chance to make some plays. He came down and made those plays.”
Jones said part of what has separated Bonds so far is his commitment to film study.
“He’s putting his time in,” Jones said. “He comes in early, and he watches film. He’ll text me at night while he’s at home watching film on his iPad, asking questions and things like that, so I’m very pleased with him right now, just have to continue to bring him along.”
Out of Crowley High School in Crowley, Texas, Bonds demonstrated a nose for the football, with more than 300 tackles, six interceptions and eight fumble recoveries in his high school career. Wommack said those instincts from playing in a high-level high school football state have carried over onto the practice field.
“He’s so locked in,” Wommack said. “He’s a smart guy. You teach him something, the next day he understands it, the third day he anticipates it. For a freshman to come in and do that multiple times, over and over again in these first 10 practices has been really exciting.”
With Ball and Layne out, IU projects to start Bryant Fitzgerald at the husky spot, Devon Matthews at strong safety and Jamar Johnson at free safety. But Bonds could find himself in the mix for playing time in IU’s safety rotation as he keeps developing.
“He’s in the film a lot,” Matthews said. “He’s always watching film, and he’s always talking on the field, so his confidence really sets him apart and then high school he was a tackling machine, so we expect him to come in and make those tackles in college.”
Wommack said what he was most pleased about defensively in IU’s first scrimmage was tackling. After reviewing film, Wommack said the Hoosiers only had four missed tackles from players from their top two in the depth chart for a loss of 7 yards. “I think our emphasis in tackling right now I would say is cutting edge,” Wommack said. “We are finding ways to emulate what that’s going to look like on game day.” … Fitzgerald said he’s comfortable playing the husky position at 209 pounds, after Ball manned the same position at 220 pounds last season.
“You still have to have some bulk to be able to pass rush against the edge on those big tackles and get in the run fit, but also you have to stay lean to guard the slots and do all of those things,” Fitzgerald said. … Wommack said grad transfer defensive lineman Jovan Swann has had a good week of practices. “He kind of took a next step as far as understanding our concepts,” Wommack said.
Swann is switching from a 3-4 defensive scheme at Stanford to a 4-2-5 scheme at IU. “He’s a smart guy so his learning curve from last week to this week was pretty significant in a positive manner,” Wommack said. “So excited about what he’s going to be able to do for us and I think if he continues it on this trajectory, I think we’ll be happy with the outcome of his production.”