CHICAGO — Tegray Scales already did something that hadn’t been accomplished at Indiana in nearly 30 years.

In 2016, Scales became the Hoosiers’ first linebacker to earn All-America honors since 1987. He recorded six straight games with double-digit tackles, which hadn’t been done by anyone at Indiana since 1990 (at least that’s as far back as the record books go).

Scales wouldn’t mind one-upping his nation-leading 23.5 tackles for loss and breaking an Indiana record. In 1986, Van Waiters set the Hoosiers’ single-season mark for tackles for loss with 24. He was also the last Indiana linebacker to get drafted in the NFL back in 1988.

By the time the 2018 NFL draft rolls around, Scales will be in prime position to end the 30-year Indiana linebacker drought.

“Yeah, I think he could be that guy,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “He’s got to continue to do what he does off the field…to me one mistake guys often make after a good season is they feel like they’ve just got to try and create. You’ve just got to do what you’re supposed to do.

“In our system, he’ll be put in position to make those plays. He’s just gotta go do it.”

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For the first two years Scales was in Bloomington, “just doing it” was easier said than done. Many believed he was a breakout candidate in 2015 after earning 247sports True Freshman All-American honors in his first year in Bloomington.

Talent got him on the field as a true freshman. It probably got him the majority of his production (64 tackles, three sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions) as a sophomore.

When Allen was hired as the team’s new defensive coordinator in 2016, he remembered turning on the film to see what he had to work with. Scales stood out, but not in a good way.

“He just wasn’t there,” Allen said. “He just wasn’t doing what you thought he should be doing.”

That was true of Indiana’s entire unit in 2015. Under an offensive-minded coach like Kevin Wilson, the Hoosiers finished 120th of 127 FBS teams in total defense. They lacked leadership, playmakers and ultimately, they lacked the ability stop any formidable FBS offense.

In stepped Allen.

Maybe it was the fact that he and Scales were both former wrestlers. Perhaps it was just Allen’s energy that rubbed off on Scales’ relatively untapped talent. Whatever it was, the difference was night and day in 2016.

Scales led a unit that climbed all the way up to No. 45 in total defense. In addition to his FBS-leading tackles for loss mark, Scales also led the B1G with 126 tackles, which was nearly double the amount he racked up as a sophomore.

“Maybe the timing was right for me to come in new and to make a lot of changes,” Allen said. “Something got his attention. I don’t want to speak for him, but there’s no question from the first time I got here, he was locked in. Not only did he listen to it, he started doing it.

“In terms of his preparation and then it extended to his demeanor on the sideline during practice and the way we tried to change the culture of the defense, he bought in to all of those things.”

By season’s end, Scales was more than just Indiana’s best defensive player. He developed into the leader the Hoosiers desperately lacked in the middle of the defense. On multiple occasions, he took Allen’s megaphone and made defensive calls in practice.

“I knew what I was always capable of, but once Coach Allen came along, he brought that out in us,” Scales said. “He let us play fast, he let us have fun, he let us be ourselves.”

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Scales said he also benefitted from playing alongside fellow Cincinnati native Marcus Oliver. After one year in Allen’s system, Oliver elected to leave school early for the NFL, but he went undrafted.

Scales could’ve made a similar choice. After all, his numbers were as impressive as any linebacker in the country. Guys with far less production made the jump after their junior seasons.

So why is he still in school?

“It’s a process I’ve got to go through,” Scales said. “I think everything will work itself out in the near future.”

When Scales does go through the pre-draft process next year, scouts will likely pick him apart for his size (he’s listed at 6-0) or they’ll ask the usual “why wasn’t he good enough to come out last year?” He’d rather have his production to the talking.

Even if Scales doesn’t break the 30-year Indiana linebacker drought in next year’s NFL draft, he has a backup plan. He said at B1G Media Days that he would be interested in pursuing an MMA career when his football days are done. Lord knows Scales isn’t lacking in quickness or combat skills.

In 2017, though, he’s the unquestioned leader of an Indiana team with a new identity. Instead of being a guy with “breakout potential,” Scales is making preseason top-100 player lists and being called “the best linebacker in America” by teammates. He wouldn’t mind starting a new trend for Indiana linebackers in the NFL draft, either.

For that, he has Allen to thank.

“Bottom line,” Allen said. “It came together at the right time.”