Ask Adam Replogle a yes or no question, and you’ll get just that. Ask his defensive tackle-mate Larry Black Jr. for a one word answer, and he’ll give you a paragraph, or two. In fact, a question usually isn’t a necessity to get Black Jr. to spark a conversation.
Off the Indiana football practice field, Replogle, like his answers, keeps to himself. Black Jr. on the other hand sees the walls of a dorm as more constricting than an offensive lineman grabbing his jersey and yanking him to the ground.
Even on the field Replogle finds his way into the backfield with a relentless bulrush. Black Jr. uses his forearms as axes, clubbing away at the tree trunk like limbs of offensive linemen.
But the field is where the when the jokester and the quiet professional come together and the differing personalities vanish.
“When we’re on the field, it’s all about business,” Black Jr. said.
“It’s all business on the field,” Roplogle said.
The duo may be looking for a promotion at the end of the year. The seniors combined for seven sacks this season, the most of any defensive tackle duo in the Big Ten. Their 14.0 tackles for loss also tops the conference among DT tandems. With seven apiece, they trail Purdue’s Kawann Short for most by a defensive tackle.
They’re impressive numbers from a position that’s primary job is to clog the middle and eat up blockers so other can get their name in the box score. The production this year even has Black Jr. at a loss for words.
“I don’t know man,” Black said with a chuckle. “We’re just after it this year. We’re making good plays and we have a good defense and we’re getting better. It’s always a great thing to put up stats, but we worry about winning at the end of the day. We need more of those wins.”
They haven’t been easy to come during their tenure. A 5-7 sophomore season stands at their best season. As juniors, Indiana went 1-11. They’ve celebrated 10 wins, compared to 26 defeats in their three years with the Hoosiers,
Throughout the misery, they’ve been stalwarts. Roplogle started in 35 of his 36 career games. Black Jr. started 28 of his 36 games. Together they’ve disrupted plays in the backfield 45 times and sacked the quarterback another 21.
“The starting point is their inside guys on defense. Those guys are both veteran players,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They’re both very good players, very disruptive. We had a hard time with them last year.”
Replogle in particular, who wreaked havoc in the Iowa backfield with 2.5 tackles for loss to go with two sacks. The scary thing is both players are having career-years.
Replogle boasts career-highs in tackles (52) and force fumbles (2) already. He’s also tied highs in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (7). Black Jr. set career high water-marks in sacks (4) and forced fumbles (2). He needs just one more TFL to establish a new career-high.
“They’re just smart football players,” Iowa center James Ferentz said. “I think they have a great feel for the game. You can’t really coach guys on that. If you want them on tape these past few seasons, you can tell they have a great feel for the game and know what to expect.”
In that past, opponents could also expect to come away with a win. This season has been much of the same but three of the team’s five losses have been within four points.
The defensive tackle tandem will leave Indiana playing the best football of their careers. With four games left, and a 3-5 record, they also have a chance to leave touting the career-best statistic they cherish the most and– wins. Something they both agree on, just not in as many words.
“We just need to keep coming out and bringing our ‘A’ game, working on the little things, the small things on that one play,” Black Jr. said. “Just keep playing tight D, getting off the field on third down, and we should be pretty set if we keep working on it.
“We just have to go out and get better every day.”