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SEC transfers Anderson and Handy bring 'Stone Cold' mentalities to Indiana pass rush

Tom Allen is glad he bought a basketball hoop with a breakaway rim. 

When Allen welcomed Indiana's defensive linemen to his home over the summer, the pass rushers played a friendly game of basketball. But the way Auburn transfer Jaren “Stone” Handy attacked the rim was anything but friendly.

“I just like to dunk,” Handy said. “That’s it. I leave that shooting to everybody else.”

If it weren’t for the breakaway rim, Allen said Handy would have completely destroyed the sturdy hoop in the their driveway with his violent slam dunks. 

“Our [basketball] goal survived,” Allen said. “But I left there just kind of like, ‘Whoa, that's different.’”

BLOOMINGTON, IN - AUGUST 11, 2021 - Outside linebacker #13 Jaren Handy looks to pressure the quarterback during fall camp at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. Photo by Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Handy brings a level of size and athleticism that immediately stands out. Handy joins former Ole Miss Rebel Ryder Anderson as a pair of 6-foot-6 SEC pass rushers that transferred to become Hoosiers over the offseason. Allen has been intrigued by the duo’s strength and length, adding that pressuring the quarterback will be their No. 1 job come gameday. 

Defensive coordinator Charlton Warren sensed that Handy and Anderson bought into Indiana’s culture from the moment they stepped on campus, which has made for a smooth transition. Cornerback Tiawan Mullen has noticed the edge duo constantly swarming to the ball, always on the attack.

Handy’s aggressive nature on the field stems from his love for wrestling growing up. The nickname “Stone” was coined by Handy’s grandmother in reference to WWE wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. 

“I wasn’t the best kid on the block,” Handy said. “I wasn’t a good kid or nothing like that … Watching wrestling and watching [Stone Cold Steve Austin], he didn’t always do what people told him to do.” 

Derived from Stone Cold Steve Austin’s mentality in the ring, Handy carries what he calls an “I don’t care” mindset on the field. Handy is looking forward to a physical matchup with Iowa and recognized that setting the tone early and controlling the line of scrimmage will be paramount to Indiana’s success.

“The man that lines up in front of me, you’ve got to stop me,” Handy said. “I’m not just gonna let you block me.”

Handy and Anderson face a difficult challenge to begin the Hoosiers' 2021 campaign, heading to Iowa City to take on a Hawkeyes team known for premium offensive line play. Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is an All-American candidate, and the Hawkeyes boast two capable upperclassmen running backs in Tyler Goodson and Ivory Kelly-Martin.

But the Hoosiers also gained maturity in the pass rush this offseason with the addition of Anderson, who has 37 games of SEC experience under his belt at Ole Miss. Allen said the defensive line room lacked vocal leaders until the arrival of Anderson. 

Anderson quickly stepped into this role amongst the defensive front and was named Indiana’s MVP of spring ball. Because of the character of players surrounding him, Anderson said becoming a leader was easy. He shares tips with his teammates from his vast experience, and they do the same, which has allowed chemistry to be built early on.

Anderson said he sets goals for himself each day before practice in order to keep his game day preparation on track. On Tuesday, he shoots for a hard, physical practice. The next day, Anderson looks to tinker with adjustments and lock in mentally, which allows for a Thursday practice where everything is full speed, all the screws tightened. 

“All the boxes have been checked off for me,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’m ready to go.”

To claim road win in week one, Anderson said Saturday’s top-25 matchup comes down to controlling the line of scrimmage. Indiana knows Iowa will run the ball relentlessly, which gives Handy, Anderson and the rest of the defense a tall task right off the bat.

For Anderson, controlling the line of scrimmage can be achieved by first-down stops to put Iowa in difficult third-down scenarios. 

“We’ve been stressing that on the defensive line room to win our battles up front,” Anderson said. “I’m confident that’s what we’re going to do.”

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