Indiana Penn St Football

Indiana defensive back Marcelino Ball (9) celebrates after tackling Penn State quarterback Will Levis on Nov.16, 2019, in State College, Pa.

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana’s young defense will go into the 2020 season without a key senior leader.

Senior defensive back Marcelino Ball suffered a torn ACL during seven-on-seven practice drills last week and will be out for the season, IU head coach Tom Allen announced Monday. Allen said Ball will undergo surgery to repair his knee in the near future.

“I hate that for him because he’s been such a great player for us and matured as a young man,” Allen said.

The 6-foot, 220-pound Ball, from Roswell, Georgia, started 12 games at the hybrid defensive back-linebacker husky position for the Hoosiers last season, finishing with 47 tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups.

Allen said the injury was non-contact, with the tear coming after Ball planted on the turf.

“It wasn’t during a collision between two guys or even going against somebody,” Allen said. “But that’s an unfortunate reality of what sometimes can occur.”

With Ball out, Allen said junior defensive back Bryant Fitzgerald will move into the starting husky role this season. A hard-hitter, the 6-0, 209-pound Fitzgerald is making the transition from safety to husky after posting 58 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in his first two seasons.

Allen said sophomore linebacker D.K. Bonhomme (6-3, 235) is another player capable of moving to the husky spot, along with starting safety Jamar Johnson, who switched with Fitzgerald from husky to safety during the offseason.

“We’ve got some other younger guys as well, so (I) feel like we’ve got the depth to rotate different guys,” Allen said. “But, right now, it’s going to be Bryant Fitzgerald as the No. 1 guy there at that spot.”

Leadership-wise, Allen said he’s counting on junior defensive back Jaylin Williams and preseason All-Big Ten sophomore cornerback Tiawan Mullen being more vocal.

“A guy like Tiawan has to step up, not just in his play but also in his leadership, and that’s the beauty of what a team is all about,” Allen said.

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