In the middle of a sentence about Indiana’s approach to this offseason, defensive end Ryder Anderson had to stop himself.
“The whole message has been that we didn’t finish out the season,” said Anderson, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound grad transfer from Ole Miss. “I say ‘we’ like I was on the team last year, but that’s kind of how it feels, being integrated with the program now.”
It’s just extra weird because Anderson was actually on the opposite sideline when the Hoosiers fell to the Rebels in the Outback Bowl. Anderson, himself, didn’t have a bad end to the 2020 season.
But when the senior from Katy, Tex., was choosing the last stop of his college career, it was the program preaching “love each other” and led by an energetic head coach in Tom Allen that appealed to him most. Now that he’s been in Bloomington for a month or two, Anderson feels in line with his fellow Hoosiers — in both high expectations, and feelings of unfinished business.
Like fellow transfers D.J. Matthews and Zach Carpenter, who all spoke to the media Thursday, there is a clear objective with spring practice less than a week away.
“The big thing was not finishing out the season last year, after having a lot of success,” Anderson said. “So everything up to this point has just been about finishing. In the weight room, finish. In team runs, finish. That’s going to be along the same lines as we head into spring ball. Let’s finish, every single day, every single rep, and do all the little things right.”
Anderson, Matthews, and Carpenter are just trying to find their place in a program that’s trying to take the next step. And they all could have a meaningful place.
Anderson adds a long, athletic edge rusher to a defense that put pressure on quarterbacks in 2020, just not as much from a four-man rush. Matthews, from Florida State, helps ease the blow of losing Whop Philyor to the next level, as the Hoosiers bring almost everyone else back from what was, at times, an explosive passing attack. Carpenter, the only non-grad transfer, via Michigan, will bring much-needed depth to the interior offensive line.
They all saw something in IU as a transfer destination. Anderson and Matthews saw much of it on television, seeing the national coverage the Hoosiers received as they shot up the polls. Anderson played against them once. So did Carpenter, seeing IU snap its 24-game losing streak to Michigan from the opposite sideline. He can still remember Allen tackling IU safety Devon “Monster” Matthews on the sideline after a game-sealing interception.
“That had a huge impact, sitting on the other sideline, you look over, and the team’s just electric,” said Carpenter, an Ohio native who considered IU as a destination out of high school. “Stuff like that, I hadn’t experienced before. Being back in Bloomington, it reminded me of how much I liked it the first go-round.”
When the redshirt freshman decided to transfer, it was a quick process for Carpenter. He committed to IU on New Year’s Eve, the day before the Outback Bowl. It was an even quicker process for Matthews, who opted out of the 2020 season and signed the same day as IU’s incoming freshman class during the fall.
IU came after Matthews. The senior and former U.S. Army All-American recruit knew a little bit about the Hoosiers’ football team because his friend from Jacksonville, Devon Matthews, was on the team. He knew about quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Ty Fryfogle, and Philyor, players his best friend, Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade, had to go up against yearly. He also had respect for Allen, a national coach of the year award winner.
Admittedly, though, D.J. Matthews knew IU for other reasons.
“I really do know Indiana University for basketball,” Matthews said, smiling. “I call this Oladipo’s school. That’s pretty much everything I know of Indiana.”
The weather in Indiana has been something for Matthews to get used to, but, otherwise, his first couple of months haven’t been too bad. He is working at slot receiver now, and he looks forward to being in a pass-happy offense when everyone is back on the field. That includes Penix, who is recovering from an ACL injury, but also Fryfogle, who opted to return for another year.
Matthews was hoping Fryfogle would return.
“I was excited when I’d seen Ty Fry post that he was coming back,” Matthew said. “It gave me a lot of confidence that we’ll have older guys in the room, willing to lead and take the next step.”
That next step, as Anderson said, is finishing. Everyone is focused on that goal as spring ball approaches.
“I’m just fitting in, being a piece of the puzzle,” Anderson said. “That’s a big reason for me wanting to come here. I’m toward the end of my college career. I didn’t want to necessarily go somewhere where we were starting from scratch. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt like I was fitting in as a piece of the puzzle and ready to take off and build off of last year. And I feel like that’s what we’re getting ready to do here.”
IU redshirt junior offensive lineman Britt Beery has entered his name in the transfer portal.
The native of Carmel appeared in 23 career games as a reserve. Beery received his degree from IU in December and will be a graduate transfer.
Beery is one of several reserves to transfer this offseason. IU lost receivers Rashawn Williams (JUCO) and Jordan Jakes (UNLV), as well as reserve defensive linemen Tramar Reece and Jalen Mayala.
Along with safety Jamar Johnson, IU receiver Whop Philyor and running back Stevie Scott have been invited to the NFL combine.
There is no physical combine in Indianapolis this year, but prospects will participate in individual pro days on college campuses and will have a chance to meet virtually with NFL teams. A combine invite essentially means a prospect is among the top tier of players that scouts want to evaluate and get medical records from during the pre-draft process.
Johnson previously announced his combine invite via social media. IU football announced invites for Johnson, Philyor, and Scott on Tuesday. IU will have its pro day on April 2.