Hoosier defense developing swagger in October

Two weeks into Big Ten play, Tom Allen senses his players are carrying themselves with swagger.

And he wants to see more of it.

The aggressive and opportunistic approach that Allen, IU’s defensive coordinator, began hammering into his players this past spring is beginning to manifest itself on the field. The Hoosiers are coming off two encouraging defensive efforts against Michigan State and Ohio State, and Allen sees them taking a confident approach into their preparation for Saturday’s homecoming game against Nebraska.

“I want to enflame it and encourage it and challenge them to take it and rise up each week,” Allen said. “Turn the notch up. That’s our expectation.”

There is good reason to believe that Allen and his crew are authoring the start of what could be Indiana’s best defense in Kevin Wilson’s six seasons as IU’s coach.

Compared with where IU stood through five games last fall, the Hoosiers are allowing one fewer touchdown per game and 127.6 fewer yards per game. Perhaps most impressively, the defense continues to limit explosive plays.

At this point in 2015, Indiana had allowed nine plays of more than 50 yards. So far this season, IU has yielded one gain of that kind — an 86-yard touchdown reception by Michigan State’s R.J. Shelton on Oct. 1. Of course, there have been moments where poor, overthrown passes have bailed out Indiana’s defense and kept explosive gains from materializing.

But mostly, Indiana seems to be doing noticeably better holding its position and making plays at the earlier opportunity.

“I told our guys from the very beginning it’s been this progression,” Allen said. “Preparation creates confidence. Confidence creates expectation. Now, after you experience success on the field, you start to develop an expectation. This is how we’re going to play. We’re not going to be surprised when we play this well. We expect to play this well. We will be very disappointed if we don’t play to the level we played at. To me, that’s the progression that you want.”

Advanced statistics also favor Indiana’s defensive improvement through five games. The S&P+, which considers factors such as explosiveness, efficiency, drive-finishing, field positions and turnovers, ranks IU’s defense No. 35 nationally.

The S&P+ metric rated Indiana’s defense No. 105 among Football Bowl Subdivision teams at the end of last season.

That’s the kind of turnaround Allen envisioned marshalling when he took the job, and it’s the kind of progress that has given Indiana players an extra pep in their step entering a crucial week of preparation ahead of Nebraska’s visit on Saturday.

“We want to be the reason why,” Allen said. “I’ve challenged that to them from Day 1. We’re going to continue to do that until we are the reason why.”

17 comments

  1. Anyone that doubted the change Coach Allen could make in a year have been proven wrong. It is great to watch games and know the defense will stand up and stop the opposing offenses most of the time. This will generate better defensive players coming to IU giving IU a chance to become one of the big 3 in the conference.

  2. B1G 3!!! Absolutely!!! Not a stretch at all and could happen as early as next season. The team just gets better each game by the staff finding and coaching a new playmaker every couple of games. The DB’s are now an IU strength. Did anyone notice the speed LB Chris Covington displayed against the Bucks in his time on the field. He is challenging for time starter Marcus Oliver gets. Allen has met all my expectations with Hagan only a half step behind is in the same mold. If this continues(and it will)increase and extend the contract of TA. Glass and Wilson in doing that would let everyone know they know what IUFB has.

  3. I will admit that Coach Allen’s progress in transforming IU’s defense has exceeded my most optimistic expectations. He and his assistants have done an outstanding job turning an absolutely terrible defense into a very good defense in less than a year. It is really exciting. Now we need IU’s offense to start firing on all cylinders. As for IU becoming one of the Big 3 in the Big Ten Conference, that’s a wonderful fantasy, but not likely to occur any time soon. Too many institutional obstacles that need to be overcome before that’s going to happen. Let’s fill Memorial Stadium to capacity once and win a bowl game before we set our sites on becoming one of the top three programs in the conference. Lack of money is the biggest obstacle, followed by lackluster fan support. And then there’s the decades-long tradition of a losing that people must be made to forget. I’ll be happy if IU can claw its way into and remain in the top half of Big Ten teams, producing winning seasons and going to bowl games on a regular basis. Relative to our not-too-distant past, it’s wonderful just to realize that IU Football is no longer a joke and/or a Big Ten doormat. I look forward to falls continuing to be seasons of hope and excitement instead of the dead period before basketball season begins.

  4. Po, with the defensive coaches we now have I don’t think it will be long before IU competes and defeats everyone and occasionally UM and OSU. I think the better recruits will now see IU as a program that is just short of beating the best in the B1G. The better recruits can be sold on starting earlier and being the players to gain the headlines by coming to IU.

  5. V13, I love your optimism and agree with you that we now have defensive coaches that can and will recruit better players. But we’ll be challenged to keep Coach Allen and all of Wilson’s top assistants. That’s what I meant when I referenced “institutional obstacles” in the post above. As you know, teams in the SEC won’t hesitate to pay a top offensive or defensive coordinator over a million dollars a year to do the same job they do at IU for less than half that compensation package. I’m not saying Coach Allen is using IU as a stepping stone, but he is human, he has a family to support, and like anyone, he would find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to more than double his salary in one move. IU simply does not have the budget to compete with the most successful football schools when it comes to coaching compensation. As Wilson has experienced during his first three seasons at IU, his best assistant coaches tend to get poached for higher paychecks offered by schools like UNC, TX A&M, and USC. And while Glass has responded and tried to reduce the risk of undesired turnover by increasing coaching compensation, if the biggest programs in the SEC decide they want Allen to be their DC, they can outspend IU to hire him away. Now maybe Allen being “back home” in Indiana reduces the temptation of leaving IU for more money, but everyone has a price. And these guys are competitive people and they want to work for programs that have the opportunity to win championships. I think Allen will remain at IU for a few more years (his son will be playing for IU starting next year), but can we keep him and some of his colleagues long enough to allow IU to ascend into to upper echelon of Big Ten teams?

    IU needs to fill Memorial Stadium for all of its home games. And the fans who enter the stadium need to stay through the entire game and cheer IU on to victory. IU alumni and boosters need to write more and bigger checks to fund the continued improvement of Memorial Stadium’s facilities as Glass has planned. Since this week is IU’s homecoming, Saturday would be a good time to start showing increased support for IU football. The Hoosier Nation will get the football program it deserves.

  6. To keep Allen the IU AD will have no problem ponying up the necessary cash. There is plenty of $ available to add 40% to his salary if Wilson presses to keep him at home. The only team that worries me about Allen is ND as they fired their DC 21/2 weeks ago. That is somewhat of a resume builder.
    That animal may create a whole different type of decision for him to make as I don’t view working for Kelly as a healthy environment. MY personal thought is Allen’s goal is to be a HC, next.

  7. I’m not sure what Allen’s salary is, but I doubt it currently exceeds $450,000 per year. If that is correct, and knowing that top SEC programs can pay over $1 million per to Coordinators, then that would represent an increase of 144%. No way Glass is going to spend a million per on one Defensive Coordinator in the current budget climate.

    I agree that Allen covet’s a head coaching job. It would be prudent, in two or three years, assuming his performance continues to justify it, to name Allen Assistant Head Coach, give him a big raise, and communicate to him that he is designated to replace Wilson when Wilson retires. If and when Glass is certain that Allen is the right guy to take over IU Football, he should be proactive in doing everything he can to secure Allen’s loyalty to IU. Succession planning is essential for organizations that want to remain successful.

    Isn’t it nice to be having dialogue about how IU should try to keep a really good Defensive Coordinator in the program?

  8. The biggest reason Coach Allen will be staying is his son will be playing for him starting next year. Hard to believe he would recruit his son to go to IU and then leaving to coach somewhere else. He definitely deserves to be paid in the top half of the B1G for a DC and hopefully IU will increase the pay after this year.

  9. 123,
    Good point. So, while they will still need to make a competitive offer it may not necessarily have to be the ‘best’ offer, moneywise. Uprooting your family is one thing. Uprooting your family with a son on the team is quite another.

  10. I was close when guessing $450 K, but glad to know he’s making more. As I stated above, Allen is unlikely to leave while his son is on the team, or at least during the first three years his son is on the team. And Chet makes a great point. IU does not need to match a high offer from other schools, we just have to make sure it’s not such a huge difference in pay that a man can’t afford to turn it down.

    HC, IU Athletics has a budget, it is limited, and in relative terms, it’s rather small. Don’t take my word for it, just read the many comments Glass has made over the last few years about the limits on “investing” in IU’s Athletics Department. You’re comments suggest that Glass has access to a bottomless well of cash and that IU can compete with any school when it comes to compensating its coaches. According to USA Today, IU’s total revenue from Athletics in 2015 was $88,362,421, ranking IU tenth out of the 13 public Big Ten schools required to publish such data (NW is a private school). And IU needed a $2.7 million subsidy to make ends meet last year (i.e., it lost $2.7 M in 2015). MN’s Athletic budget was #5 in the Big Ten at $111,162,265, and it made a profit. And the #2 and #1 athletic revenue schools in the Big Ten were, as you might guess, Michigan at $152,477,026 and OSU at $167,166,065, with a “profit” of over $13 million last year. OSU’s revenues were 89.2% greater than IU’s revenues. That is what having over 107,000 people in their stadiums for every home game does for Michigan’s and OSU’s revenues. So far this year, IU’s largest attendance for a home game has been what, maybe 48,000? Michigan filled its stadium in 2015 with an average of over 110,000 people for every home game. PSU, MSU, Iowa, and Nebraska all generate far greater revenue from their respective football programs than IU does. And as we know, as much fan support as IU Basketball gets, it can’t begin to make up the difference. The reality is that IU Athletics’ relatively puny revenues from football limits our ability to compete with many other top football schools when it comes to coaching compensation and other investments necessary to become an elite football program. So if Hoosier fans want to change that, the very least they can do is buy tickets to football games and fill Memorial Stadium for every home game.

    Average Big Ten Football Home Game Attendance in 2015:
    1. Michigan = 110,168
    2. OSU = 107,244
    3. PSU = 99,799
    4. Nebraska = 89,998
    5. Wisconsin = 78,014
    6. MSU = 74,661
    7. Iowa = 63,193
    8. Minnesota = 52,069
    9. Rutgers = 47,723
    10. Indiana = 44,314
    11. Illinois = 42,647
    12. Maryland = 40,240
    13. Purdue = 37,508
    14. Northwestern = 33,366
    What a coincidence! IU’s athletic revenues’ ranking corresponds to how it ranks in attendance for its home football games.

  11. Football steers the financial ship, for sure.

    Duke basketball brought in $27 million in 2013-14. UNC about $25 million. Ohio State football brought in $167 million.

    Basketball doesn’t pay the athletic department bills. I remember Brad Stevens, when someone asked if he’d gotten a lot of offers following Butler’s first trip to the Finals, responded, “Not a single one.” Basketball coaches don’t fill the coffers.

    The money basketball brings in is a pittance compared to the cash flow at a school with a successful football program.

  12. Po, I respond well when my mornings include a chuckle. I did not read your statistical narrative above. Budgets are not a complicated mystery. What you fail to get is there is always other $’s available for college programs on the rise. Even if they have to show a deficit in the budget. It is not always a bad thing. That would be identified as an investment and easy to justify. There is no IU fan at the present time in America who does not recognize the benefit to having Allen as the IU DC. If push comes to shove IU will and can without a doubt be financially competitive going toe to toe for an assistant coaches services. A HC’s services in FB could be a different animal for IU.

  13. HC, I love it when you use that snarky and condescending tone in an attempt to dismiss another person’s point of view. It’s fun to observe you dig your heals in, remain steadfast in your opinion and attempt to dismiss the facts used to support a different opinion. I admire how you refuse to consider the logical application of facts. I respect and appreciate that you do have a lot of knowledge, and I find most of your comments posted on the Scoop to be right on, but you’re not omnipotent when it comes to IU Football. In this case, your comments are in direct conflict with the numerous statements made by Fred Glass in various interviews. You remember, as IU’s Athletic Director, he is the authority responsible for IU’s Athletic budget. I don’t have time to dig out and post all the quotes he’s made on this subject, but his statements and the facts he has shared are the basis of the opinions I’ve expressed in this string. So really, in your attempt to dismiss my opinion, you’re attempting to refute and dismiss what Fred Glass has stated on several occasions. As Glass has stated, there are financial limitations on IU Athletics’ ability to compete, especially in Football, that are directly tied to the relatively modest budget Glass has to work with. Within the next few years, if an SEC team wanted to offer Allen a salary exceeding $1M per year, while Allen may not, for a variety of reasons, accept such an offer, I believe Glass would be helpless to come close to matching it. As Glass has stated, until revenue from football (home game attendance) increases, he’s doing just about everything he can to be competitive, and the additional money just isn’t there.

  14. Investments get priority. Keeping a solid investment like Allen means 1, 2 or a handful of other investments get moved down the priority list. Heavy $ boosters who recognize the positive effects Allen has brought to the program will be called on. It is called managing. But in the end if there is a want or need big enough the “budget be dammed”.

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