INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts this weekend hosted their annual rookie minicamp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. What were the top takeaways from the newest members of the Colts?
» Rock Ya-Sin is trying to follow the Darius Leonard approach to his rookie year: Leonard, of course, played his college ball at an FCS school, South Carolina State, and would be selected by the Colts early in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Playing with the same chip on his shoulder he’d been carrying since entering the college ranks, Leonard would lead the NFL in tackles in his first year of the league, be named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and earn First-Team All-Pro honors. Ya-Sin, meanwhile, played the first three seasons of his college career at an FCS school (Presbyterian) before transferring to Temple for his final year, and was also an early second-round selection by the Colts. He wants to try to make a similar impact as his new teammate, Leonard. “I feel like Darius Leonard is somebody I look up to as far as his play style and knowing about him before this process,” Ya-Sin said Friday. “And just understanding that he came in kind of under recruited in high school and going to South Carolina State. Then getting drafted and coming in here and making a name for himself. I really respect what he did and that is what I am trying to do.” Ya-Sin wrapped up an impressive second day of practice on Saturday with an interception, causing all kinds of ruckus from the other players and coaches on the defensive side of the field.
» Ben Banogu is making a transition to linebacker, but he isn’t forgetting his pass rusher roots: At TCU, Banogu was a constant presence in his opponents’ backfield, collecting 34.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks over his final two collegiate seasons. And while he was primarily lined up off the edge for the Horned Frogs, the Colts have started Banogu out primarily at linebacker, and more specifically at the SAM and MIKE spots. He certainly has the athleticism and the smarts to get the job done out in space — showing off those skills at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Scouting Combine — but Banogu also is looking forward to getting opportunities to continue wreaking havoc up front when needed. “Von Miller, Khalil Mack – those edge-type players that can get after the quarterback and guys that can drop into coverage,” Banogu said when asked which NFL players he wants to emulate. “Just be all over the field 24/7 – that’s the kind of guy that I see in myself and the coaches see in me. We are trying to get to a point where we can put that on the field and make it happen.”
» Parris Campbell? Yeah, he’s fast, but he can also get open in other ways: Campbell and his 4.31 speed was as advertised in the first two days of rookie minicamp practices, but one of his biggest question marks coming out of college was how the team would develop him in areas outside of the slot, which is where he primarily lined up while at Ohio State. The Colts’ coaches wasted no time getting going on that during on-field work starting on Friday, as Campbell would be lined up all over the formation time and time again — and, most importantly, he was finding ways to get open and make plays. “I think the question kind of coming out was, ‘Can he run routes?’” Campbell told reporters Friday. “Since I had never done it, everyone just kind of put a no on it. But I mean I’m not going to lie to you, it is something that I needed to work on just because I didn’t have experience. So that was kind of my main focus throughout that whole process. Then having a guy like Coach (Brian) Hartline at Ohio State, who is a technician, was great for me and great for my teammates. So just going in that was kind of my main focus.”
» Bobby Okereke is looking forward to the challenge of playing in Matt Eberflus’ defense: Eberflus last year showed a strong conviction in the primary pillars of his defense, which isn’t all that complex but requires one thing more than any other: hustle. Darius Leonard infamously had 19 tackles in a game against the Washington Redskins last season, but was also given five “loafs” by the defensive coaches for snaps in which they felt he didn’t properly sprint after the ball once it got past him (even on long pass plays). Okereke is well aware of what he’s getting into as a linebacker in his new system, and said he’s embracing the hustle. “I knew it would be a great fit for me defensively, especially with the success that Darius (Leonard) had last year, and everyone’s been telling me how great of a coach Coach ‘Flus (Eberflus) is, so I’m just excited to be here,” Okereke, a Stanford product taken in the third round, said. “That’s the first thing he said; the cornerstone of our defense is hustle. So I’m excited to be in this culture and be a product of this system.”
» Khari Willis looked up to his cousin, Bill Brooks, growing up: Yeah, that Bill Brooks: the Colts Ring of Honor member who tallied 411 receptions for 5,818 yards and 28 touchdowns during his seven years in Indianapolis from 1986 through 1992. Willis said he was well aware of his older cousin’s success on the field growing up as a kid in Mississippi, but it was the way Brooks carried himself in all facets of life that really make an impact. Willis would go on to become a team captain at Michigan State, where he excelled at safety and would go on to be selected by the Colts — Brooks’ former team — in the fourth round of the draft. “He always was just that guy in our family who was successful and carried himself in a way that I try and carry myself,” Willis said of Brooks. “I looked up to him and I got the opportunity, coming to AAU tournaments down here to stay at his house with him and his wife. Me and his daughter are around the same the age. His family is – there is history there. We just always had a working relationship.”
» E.J. Speed is embracing the information overload that comes with rookie minicamp: When he made a visit to the Colts during the pre-draft process, Speed seemed to comprehend the direction the franchise was going, and what was expected of its players. After being selected in the fifth round out of Division 2 Tarleton State and arriving for rookie minicamp, Speed said those expectations haven’t changed. “Everything now is just living up to expectations and really understanding the culture and how things are ran down here in Indianapolis,” Speed said Saturday. “We are heading the in right direction and Coach ‘Flus (Eberflus) is a great influence on coaching and everything – being able to really push you to your extremes and getting you to the level that you want to be at in the league.” Speed said he’s been working more at WILL linebacker, but he’s also looking forward to the chance to make his mark on special teams.
» Putting in max effort won’t be an issue for Gerri Green: The defensive end out of Mississippi State certainly wasn’t shellshocked after his first NFL practice setting on Friday. In fact, Eberflus’ expectations fit right in with his approach. “I feel like my speed, my athleticism and then just my effort to the ball — just playing with effort and I am playing with that every down — I think me bringing that to this defense will fit right in,” he said. And while Mississippi State had a loaded defense last year that included three 2019 first-round picks in defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, defensive end Montez Sweat and safety Johnathan Abram, it was Green that was voted a team captain. So he’ll look to bring that same leadership approach with him to Indy, even as a rookie. “(It was) just how I came to work every day, I was a guy who always did the right thing,” Green said. “I always say, ‘You can’t expect other people to do things the right way if you don’t do it yourself.’ So I was just a leader by example and this season (I) had to be more vocal with it. They voted me and I just tried my best to be the leader they wanted.”