Allen looks to reinforce standards when camp opens next week #iufb

CARMEL — Tom Allen is ready to make this work.

Indiana’s new defensive coordinator began the task of fixing a moribund defense by installing a new culture of higher standards and accountability this spring.

He made players run gassers after yielding big plays and he demanded pushups when they failed to use the correct terminology. He followed through during the summer, aiming to build rapport with those same players with personal, closed-door meetings.

When IU opens its fall camp next Wednesday morning, Allen will be ready for the next step in his building challenge.

He wants to make sure his standards and teaching points stick.

“For whatever standard you establish, you have to be strong enough and confident enough to make them play to that standard, prepare to that standard, behave to that standard all the time,” Allen said in between a round of IU satellite camps in the Indianapolis area on Wednesday. “That’s what we have to do. That’s the biggest goal that I have coming here.”

At Indiana, Allen is diving into a defense that has seen this kind of change before. He’s the third defensive coordinator that Kevin Wilson has hired in six years as coach, a period that has produced marked growth and consistency for IU’s offense, and merely a long list of failures and shortcomings for its defense.

Hiring Allen was a change Wilson felt he had to make. So far, it’s a change that’s beginning to resonate inside the locker room.

“With coach Allen, I think everybody is seeing that change isn’t bad,” junior linebacker Marcus Oliver said. “(They’re) seeing that what he does works, which allows them to open up to more things and be more coachable. I think the guys have done a great job of being coachable, and it hasn’t always been that way here.”

For some, the change has required some massaging. Once Allen fully installs his 4-2-5 defense, upperclassmen like Oliver will be playing inside their third different defensive scheme since 2013, when then-coordinator Doug Mallory worked with a base 4-3 alignment.

Brian Knorr implemented a 3-4 during the 2014 and 2015 seasons and Allen is prepared to alter the look of the defense again this fall.

The change isn’t too radical.

There will be a fourth lineman, which IU used occassionally under Knorr, and a new position called Husky in the secondary. The Husky is essentially a hybrid safety/linebacker — another player capable of playing in space against the spread offense.

“It’s really a 4-3 nickel, is how I would express it,” Allen said of his system. “Going from a three-down to a four-down (front), the way they played it last year, there are some similarities for sure. At the back end, there are probably more differences in concept. I feel like it’s our job to take the guys that we got and adjust the system to them.”

Granted, that adjustment may take time for some.

“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult (to play for three different defensive coordinators in college),” Oliver said. “It brings other guys down. Some guys are, like, ‘Here it goes again.’ That’s where the mindset has to be changed. I think that’s what coach Allen (is doing.)”

On the field, Allen should also have more Big Ten-level players than each of his predecessors. Although the defensive line has its share of question marks, both in terms of depth and experience, IU’s linebacking corps may be the best of the bunch.

Oliver finished last year as the first defender under Wilson — and the first Hoosier since Matt Mayberry in 2009 — to make 100 tackles in a season, racking up 112 in total. He also has a knack for being around the football, and has had a hand in 10 takeaways in 27 games.

His positional partner, Tegray Scales, has the speed, athleticism and experience to be a difference maker during his upcoming junior season.

Although the secondary was among the worst in the nation last fall, allowing an average of 313 passing yards per game, that group is now healthy and a year older. Corners Rashard Fant, Tyler Green and Wesley Green, along with Husky candidate Jayme Thompson, were all considered four-star prospects coming out of high school.

The talent is in place. Now, it’s up to Allen to take that talent and harness it to his standards.

“We’re still building and fall camp is a critical time to establish that culture and keep reinforcing and teaching it,” Allen said. “But the points of emphasis haven’t changed since we got here. They were established during the spring, they’re reinforced in the summer and they’re going to continue to be reinforced during fall camp.”

One comment

  1. Coach Allen will have this defense doing much better. The players and coaches are buying in and they are being held accountable for mistakes. Last year they showed in the 3rd quarter how they could play but didn’t play that way every time. I won’t be surprised if there is a major improvement this year with the infusion of talent and the change in the culture. It will get better as they improve the recruits they bring in but they have players with experience and I hope they are hungry to show opponents and fans they are better than they showed in the past.

    We have said even with an average defense IU would win more games with the offense we have. Now the offense has better back up players at several spots to rotate in with the starters [especially when Patrick gets on the field]. It will be exciting to watch IU this year and see how much they have improved.

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