Nick Mangieri has spent plenty of time in the film room on the Indiana campus watching game tape of Penn State’s offense.
Right away, the sophomore defensive end’s eyes are drawn to the tackles — Penn State’s Donovan Smith, Adam Gress and Garry Gilliam — three men Mangieri will have to out-duel on Saturday if he wants to get a piece of quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
“They’ve got a real solid offensive line. They’re almost all seniors,” Mangieri said. “(Smith) basically plays like a senior. They’re strong up front and real aggressive downhill.”
Aggression has been the key for Mangieri who is quickly putting together a coming out season for the Hoosiers. His 2 1/2 sacks lead the team and alongside redshirt sophomore Adarius Rayner, Mangieri is part of a youthful push along the Hoosier defensive front.
With spring practice and training camp as his proving grounds, Mangieri elevated his play. After playing limited snaps as a true freshman, Mangieri is showing glimpses of becoming a playmaker.
He’s got a third-down sack under his belt that came in the season opener against Indiana State. Later in the same game, a sack on first down stunted an early Indiana State drive.
In Week 3 against Bowling Green, Mangieri was a timely defensive terror. He broke up a pass on third-and-three to force Bowling Green to settle for a field goal try. The kick was no good. Bowling Green trailed 21-10 and started with the ball in the second half. But Mangieri earned another first-down sack and corralled his first interception two plays later and the Falcons didn’t score the rest of the way.
“(I) came out with a different mindset, knew the plays a lot better, understood offenses and now I can just go out there and play and not think too much,” Mangieri said.
Mangieri’s teammate Bobby Richardson would know about quick ascensions. The junior worked his way from a scout-team player to consistent gameday contributor during the 2011 season. Richardson started the final six games that season. Now, Richardson is seeing Mangieri do the same.
“He has a great mindset,” Richardson said. “He had a great camp, had a great spring and goes hard.”
Mangieri belongs to a football family. His brother played at Nebraska while two uncles played linebacker for Northwestern. One of his uncles, Ed Sutter, played five seasons in the NFL.
“It definitely influenced me to love the sport and they’d give me tips when I’d ask and they’ve helped me out a lot,” Mangieri said.
Now, Mangieri is helping himself. He’s seen opportunities for more sacks on film as has the rest of the Indiana defensive line. In addition, Mangieri and his teammates are hoping to improve their run defense.
The Hoosiers are giving up 248 rushing yards per game. They won’t have to stop just one back as Penn State regularly hands the ball to Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch equally.
“We don’t really worry about who’s playing running back or who’s shifty,” Richardson said. “We just know we’ve got to do our job.”
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said he believes miscommunication and bad alignments have lent themselves to his team’s inability to stop the run.
“Our thing defensively, and we've put a fair amount of time and some energy into it this week, is to make sure we're getting lined up a lot cleaner and giving our guys a chance to know what they're doing and being a little bit more aggressive in what we're doing,” Wilson said.