“We have the philosophy in our room that we'd rather say, “Whoa!” rather than, 'Sic 'em,'” he says.
In other words, he prefers aggressive guys you have to slow down rather than passive guys you have to speed up.
“I want to see us have a pads-first attitude playing with good fundamental structure,” Inge says. “We know we'll make it hard for us to beat ourselves. That's where we want to start. Let's not beat ourselves and it will be tough for another team to beat us.”
Inge was hired in the spring after Mike Ekeler left for USC. He brings an extensive coaching and playing background that reflects where coach Kevin Wilson wants to take the program.
Last season he coached in the NFL as the Buffalo Bills assistant defensive line coach. Before that he spent two years as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the University of Buffalo. He also was the linebackers coach at Cincinnati and San Diego State.
In the mid-1990s, he was a defensive standout at Iowa, totaling career numbers of 173 tackles, 24 sacks and 37 tackles for loss. He played on two bowl-winning teams.
Inge coaches with a more cerebral approach, a stark contrast to the fiery Ekeler.
“He's calm and comfortable with the kids,” Wilson says. “He knows how to interact and talk to them. They feel he knows what he's talking about.
“There are different coaching styles. His style is not a jump around energy guy, but he's into practice. Having been a player, having been in the (NFL), having been a defensive coordinator, he commands a little respect. The kids listen to him.”
How big a change has Inge delivered?
“I'm not sure because I don't know how they did it before. Some guys are saying some things are different, but that's what you get when you get me. We're going to try to build great young men in their personal life, their academic life, their spiritual life. We'll do what we can to help develop them.”
For now development comes from long distance range. Hoosier players are wrapping up finals this week. They're set to head home for the next month before returning to campus in June for a summer of school, drills, weight lifting and more.
Improved defense is a key, and it's likely newcomers will play a huge role. Three got a big jump by enrolling for the second semester and participating in spring practice. They are a pair of junior college transfers in linebacker Steven Funderburke and defensive lineman Jordan Heiderman, freshman linebacker T.J. Simmons.
A banged-up group of linebackers enabled Simmons and Funderburke to get plenty of spring reps, which should pay off in the fall.
“It gives them confidence in understanding the (defensive) schematic structure,” Inge says. “They should be able to recall it in the fall so they can make an impact on the defense. We've seen a high level of contact toughness. They're not afraid of contact. They can get in the thick of things with good fundamental structure.”
Beyond that, the defense has plenty of veterans, topped by cornerback Kenny Mullen. The former Bishop Luers defensive standout started five games last year, and played in 11, totaling 33 tackles with four pass breakups.
The Hoosiers went 1-11 in Wilson's first season and 4-8 last year. They are gunning for their first bowl appearance since 2007 and just their second since 1993.