BLOOMINGTON — Indiana defensive lineman Jovan Swann admitted he put undue pressure on himself when fall camp started three weeks ago.
There were expectations. A former Center Grove standout from Greenwood, the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Swann spent three years at Stanford, where he amassed 11.5 career sacks at a Power 5 program.
“I was definitely stressing out,” Swann said. “Trying to be a dominant player up front in a 4-3 base defense and trying to be that guy Day 1.”
Swann had a tough first week of practice, adjusting from the 3-4 he played at Stanford to the 4-2-5 employed by the Hoosiers. But the light has come on the past two weeks, and he’s showing he can be one of a handful of pass rush threats for the Hoosiers during the course of the 2020 season.
“He’s been impressive the last week-and-a-half, two weeks,” defensive line coach Kevin Peoples said. “You can see a drastic improvement in him. I think it’s been a little adjustment for him. He didn’t go through spring ball, which a lot of guys do, anyhow. He’s been really a pleasant player, and his progress is what we have been looking for.”
Swann said the biggest adjustment has been learning to play a shade technique, rather than the slant technique used in 3-4 defenses.
“Knowing I’ll be at a shade every down, it changes your mindset,” Swann said. “You have to strike a man first instead of reading him. That’s what we call attack-react. That’s what Coach Peoples has coached us up on and just being able to play in that style.”
Another change has been adapting to new players on the defensive line, on and off the field.
“With the guys, I thought I fit in in December when I took my visit,” Swann said. “You know, met some of the guys at their bowl prep and felt right at home, honestly. Nobody had a big ego, and everyone was working for the common goal, and that was something that I wanted to embrace and bring into my game. In that way, I appreciate the room and how accepting they are.”
Players and coaches have been impressed with Swann’s intelligence and work ethic.
“When Jovan walks in the room, I know I’m definitely not the smartest guy in the room,” Peoples said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s a veteran that’s been around. He knows how to handle himself, always conducts himself in a first-class manner. He comes to work just like a pro would, where he’s taking notes. He’s studying.”
Indiana junior defensive lineman James Head described Swann’s football IQ as “off the chain.”
“If there’s something on the screen that he can tell us, he’ll let me know,” Head said.
Swann’s nose for the football at Stanford included finishing his PAC-12 career with three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one interception and one blocked field goal in 39 games. But he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from his defensive teammates in practice at IU and wants to contribute to the defense in any way possible. In still getting to know new teammates, Swann said he’s often surprised to learn some defensive players he meets are second- or third-year players, because they play like veterans.
“I’ve played multiple games, bowl games, PAC-12 championships, and the style of play we have here, just in practices alone, is at a high level,” Swann said. “I’m just so glad and happy to be a part of something special.”
• Peoples said he’s seen a strong collective pass rush so far in practice. Last season, IU finished tied for eighth in the Big Ten in sacks with Nebraska, averaging 2.08 per game. “We’ve got some inside guys that can pass rush,” Peoples said. “But the biggest thing that we know — whether it’s four or five guys — is we’ve got to rush as a unit, and we’ve got to work together and keep that quarterback in the pocket, keep him contained, get him off his spot. So that’s the biggest thing we’re trying to do is win one-on-one battles, but at the same time it’s four guys rushing as one, and when we do that, we think we have a chance of being successful.”
• Peoples mentioned senior Mike Ziemba as a player who has stood out getting to the quarterback in camp. Asked about a goal for a sack total from the team this season, Ziemba said: “It’s through the ceiling. We’re trying to get as many as possible every game.”
• As for potential young defensive lineman breaking into the rotation, Peoples mentioned redshirt freshmen Jeramy Passmore and Beau Robbins. “Jeremy Passmore, who we call P-Mo, he’s going to be in the mix,” Peoples said. “Whether he starts or plays, I know he’s going to play a considerable amount of snaps. He’s doing a really good job. Beau has been maybe one of the most improved guys that we have on that defense line, really doing a nice job being physical versus the run, and his pass rush has been improving.”