Turnovers the expectation for IU secondary

Indiana AthleticsIndiana cornerback A’Shon Riggins celebrates an incomplete pass last season against Penn State.

BLOOMINGTON -- Shortly after defensive back Juwan Burgess broke up a pass attempt during Indiana football practice, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound junior dropped to the field and did 10 pushups.

That’s the self-imposed punishment for IU defensive backs who fail to come up with interceptions on catchable balls.

“That’s just motivation to catch it next time,” IU senior cornerback A’Shon Riggins said. “Because you don’t want to be in the middle of a practice period and doing 20 pushups at a time or something like that.”

IU football coach Tom Allen considers the secondary the deepest and most talented position group on his roster. Last season, IU’s secondary set a high standard for takeaways, something the Hoosiers are looking to maintain in the 2019 season. IU’s defensive backs came up with nine of the team’s 13 interceptions last season and six of IU’s 13 fumble recoveries.

“The expectation is higher,” Riggins said. “We’re better than we were last year, and we’ve got to have that mentality and play with that confidence.”

Riggins had an interception in practice earlier this week. But IU cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby feels the secondary hasn’t created enough takeaways so far in fall camp.

“Offense is doing a good job of protecting the ball, which is good for them, but I think we can create more takeaways,” Shelby said. “We’ve got to get the ball in the air and get some PBUs (pass breakups), and we’ve got to do a better job of creating some takeaways.”

The depth of IU’s secondary has already been tested during fall camp. Sophomore cornerback Reese Taylor has missed practices this week due to a hand injury. Taylor was seen with a wrap on his hand on the sidelines during Friday’s practice.

“Just got a little hand issue,” IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. “I think he’s going to be alright.”

Wommack has been pleased with how the secondary has performed early in camp.

“Playing really fast right now, playing against good competition,” Wommack said. “Some of these big wide receivers are so powerful, and we’ve got quarterbacks that can place it just about wherever they want to right now, so they’re challenging route concepts and all that so I’m really excited just about their physicality and speed.”

While Riggins and senior Andre Brown Jr. are veteran cornerbacks, Shelby said they continue to be pushed in practice by underclassmen.

“You come out here and not have a great day, you could get passed over,” Shelby said. “And I think those guys are starting to understand that.”

Freshman defensive back Josh Sanguinetti, who jumped a route to return an interception for a touchdown in Friday’s practice, has impressed coaches with his instincts. Freshman cornerback Tiawan Mullen also has stood out, Shelby said.

“He’s got all the tools to be one of the top DBs in the coming years, so I’m expecting a lot from him,” Shelby said. “He’s just got to keep learning.”

Shelby feels everyone in IU’s secondary is committed to learning and improving.

“I’ve got a good group off the field,” Shelby said. “I’ve got good guys in the meeting room, and now we’ve got to make sure we go on the field and keep doing what we’re doing.”

EXTRA POINTS: Riggins became a father three weeks ago as his daughter, Sage Justice Riggins, was born July 14. “It’s been a blessing and motivation as well to really push through every day because I know I get to go home and see her,” Riggins said. … Senior receiver Nick Westbrook and sophomore tight end Ryan Barnes both made nice catches in the back of the end zone during red zone drills. … Sophomore Kristian Pechac has changed positions in fall camp, moving from running back to defensive back.