BLOOMINGTON — In the real world, short-term memory can cause problems. In Lawrence Barnett's Indiana football world, where reliving the past can cost you, it's mandatory.
Cornerback is a never-ending series of challenges, and Barnett, back at the position after a one-year's purgatory at safety, says he's ready for them. That means forgetting the last play, good or bad, and focusing on the next.
“It's getting easier the more mature I get and the more experience I get,” the ex-Luers standout says.
“Coming in as a freshman, you want to live up to the hype and prove people wrong (about IU's perennially struggling defense). It was hard to get rid of that and get that short-term memory in my head.
“Getting beat is going to happen. I know it's going to happen. At the same time, I want to limit that.”
IU cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby pushes that concept.
“I play mind games with them. You're going to be in hostile communities. It's not going to be great. You'll give up a play. What you do is, you say (to the receiver), ‘Do it again. I'm coming back.'
“We'll get beat every once in a while, but we have to win more than we lose. If we can do that, we'll be pretty stinking good.”
How do you build short-term memory? By believing in yourself.
“That's self-confidence,” Shelby says. “You build it so a guy like L.B. (Barnett), a guy like (former Bishop Luers standout) Kenny Mullen, can compete against anybody. Embrace it. Take it. The receiver will win a couple, but you've got to find a way to win a couple, too.”
Last year, Barnett totaled five tackles in nine games as a backup. Now, as a redshirt sophomore, he has a starter's opportunity under new head coach Kevin Wilson. He wants to make the most of it.
“You have to know the defense, play fast and don't get beat,” he says. “Make the least amount of mistakes you can possibly make. Be on the ball at all times and play fast. That's a good way to get playing time.”
The fact playing time will come at cornerback rather than safety is a plus.
“I love cornerback. Getting moved to safety was something I did for the team. I'm happy to be back.”
Pass coverage has not been an IU strength in years. Last season, opponents threw for 27 touchdown passes while completing 65.5 percent of their passes. The Hoosiers gave up 34.0 points a game.
This year, Barnett says, will be different.
“There's a lot more confidence in the secondary. We have a lot more speed. I have a feeling it will be a great year. I think we'll prove a lot of people wrong.”
Barnett also hopes to silence critics of the defense in general. IU has allowed at least 28.5 points for seven straight seasons. In five of those years they've allowed at least 31.2 points. The result — losing records in six of those seasons, including last year's 5-7 record (1-7 in the Big Ten) that cost former coach Bill Lynch his job.
“Coach Wilson has instilled in us that we're going to win now,” Barnett says. “Everybody has bought into it. We're tired of people talking about our defense that way. We're ready to win now.”
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Wilson got into it with radio talk-show announcers Jack Trudeau (a former Illinois quarterback) and Dominic Zaccagnini during an interview Thursday morning on WNDE, 1260-AM, out of Indianapolis.
Trudeau and Zaccagnini joked about the Hoosiers' lack of success before bringing on Wilson. The coach took offense and things got feisty. Wilson said they “didn't have a clue.” He said he didn't have time to talk with guys who say Indiana doesn't have any football tradition. He said past failures had nothing to do with the future. He talked about having pride in the programs he's coached before (Miami of Ohio, Northwestern and Oklahoma), and pride in an IU program he hopes to turn around.
Trudeau took offense and said he “didn't appreciate” Wilson's attitude and that Wilson's comments were “not fair.” He said he was “shocked” Wilson came on the show “with an attitude.” He said IU's program “stinks,” that Wilson's comments were “pathetic” and that he will tell Illinois coach Ron Zook to “pound” the Hoosiers when the teams play Oct. 8 at Memorial Stadium.