New Indiana football coach Tom Allen was a guest Tuesday on “The Ride with JMV” on 1070 AM in Indianapolis.
A lightly-edited transcript from his appearance follows:
JMV: If I had told you a month ago that this was going to happen, would you have believed it?
Allen: I wouldnt have believed it. No way.
JMV: Is it a whirlwind because of all the layers involved?
Allen: There is, that’s what I tried to articulate in the press conference and all the interviews I did the day that this occured. Just a lot of mixed emotions. I think the world of Kevin. He brought me here and I’ll never forget that. He gave me the chance to come home and in this situation as defensive coordinator. Then, when things happened the way they did — and they happened so quickly — my heart broke for him and his family. At the same time, I’m excited about the opportunity, which is a dream opportunity for me in my home state and all that that involves. So you’re just kind of torn back and forth, but it’s pretty amazing, really.
JMV: Have you talked to Kevin Wilson?
Allen: I have. He’s been great. We have been and will continue to be good friends.
JMV: What’s the first thing you did after you were officially announced as the head coach?
Allen: I think the first thing was probably just to get with our team and talk with them and help them work through it. There’s obviously a lot of emotions involved with those guys. That was important to get with them. Then, get with our coaches and kind of help them set the vision for what we want to accomplish here and put their mind at ease with some things. And others, just to articulate where we’re going. Usually, in these situations, if there’s a change, you usually aren’t playing in a bowl game. Having that is another component to it. It makes it a little more complicated as well. There’s a lot going on, but we’re just trying to attack it one day at a time.
JMV: Is it good to have those bowl practices and keep things as normal as possible.
Allen: That’s the objective. I told the guys, I want to keep the schedule as much normal as possible with things that the guys are used to. I don’t want to create a bunch of change. We added one of our staff members from off the field and put him on to get us back to the nine full-time coaches that can go out and recruit. We did that with Shawn Watson. But other than that, you’ll see business as usual in how we do things. I’m going to stay with the defensive side of the ball and coach Johns will continue to call the offense and work with the receivers. I just want our guys to feel very comfortable with the structure and with the schedule.
JMV: What is your long-term vision offensively?
Allen: I’m a big believer — I love the tempo spread. I like the idea that you can control that as an offense. I know that gives us trouble defensively. But the bottom line, no matter what you do, you gotta run the ball. I don’t care what league you’re in. I don’t care where you’re at. You gotta run the ball on offense. You gotta stop the run on defense. The balance to that is critical. To me, how it exactly looks, we’re going to get that all fleshed out as we bring in an offensive coordinator, whether it’s someone who’s already here on staff or go out and hire a new guy. I want to be able to control the tempo. I want to run the football and I want us to be tremendously balanced in what we do. Coach Wilson has done a great job on that side of the ball. Since 2012, we’ve been one of the top offenses in the Big Ten. We want to build off that and be able to do the things they’ve done on that side of the ball. We didn’t protect it very well this year. That’s one thing we have to address immediately. We have to protect the football. That’s going to be a big emphasis going into the bowl game.
JMV: Do you plan on making outside hires?
Allen: The bottom line is, as I’ve told all of our coaches, that we’re going to coach through the bowl game and then we’ll have to make a decision on that offensive coordinator position, whether it’s a person who’s already on staff here or whether it’s a new person. That will kind of determine the rest of it. That person will be in charge of making sure we get the people that we both want to be able to allow us to move forward. That’s something we’ll take care of after the bowl game. I’ve been very up-front with everybody on staff about that.
JMV: What do you think IU football can be?
Allen: I see a program that attracts top-notch young men that want to get a world-class education, that are tough, hard-nosed young men that love to work. I want that kind of young man in our program to produce a product that competes every single weekend and has an opportunity to win the Big Ten championship. That’s my goal. We’re in a location where we can have a great foundation in the midwest with our players. Then, we have a national field to go into other parts of the country and fill in key spots with those guys. We have a great brand. We have the third-largest alumni base in the country and I really feel like, with the reputation of the Big Ten as it continues to grow, and the success we’ve had in our conference, especially this season, only helps. I want a tough, hard-nosed football team that plays great defense and scores points and competes for championships.
JMV: How do you think your defense played this year?
Allen: I was extremely proud of them. They may have exceeded my expectations. I knew it was going to be a process, but I did tell our guys this, and they will vouch for it. I told them we’re going to be great on defense. When is up to you. What I meant by that was their degree of buy-in was going to determine our ability to get it turned around. They’ve bought in extremely well. They played so hard. If you look at the stats from last year to this year, it’s been an amazing turnaround. Obviously, we have to continue to get better. We’re not where we want to be, but the progress was very encouraging. We’re not satisfied, but we’re very, very encouraged and excited about the progress that we’ve made. We just have to finish the job in California and continue the momentum going into 2017.
JMV: What do you think about Utah?
Allen: The last time I was asked that question, I really couldn’t give an answer. They asked me and I said, ‘I have no idea.’ But I have officially watched them on film. I was on the plane, and I’m actually out here in New Jersey right now, as we speak. I watched them on the flight out here and they’re a big, physical team up front on offense. They have an excellent tailback, big receivers, a very quality quarterback. They’re ranked 19th in the country so they have a very good offense and they play tough, hard-nosed defense. They’re very aggressive with a lot of good athletes, and their special teams is what stood out to me. They’re very talented in their special teams. They have a tremendous punter, kickers and return guy. You can tell coach (Kyle) Whittingham has done a great job with an emphasis on that. They’re a very well-rounded team. It’s a very good football team that we’re about to play. We’ve played a lot of good ones this year, and they’re just the next great team we have to play.
JMV: Are you going to continue to be excitable on the sidelines as the head coach?
Allen: I learned a long time ago that you have to be who you are. When you cease to be who you are, you cease to be effective. So I’m going to be the same coach you saw on the sideline. Obviously, I’ve got to be able to be involved with other things, but if I don’t have the energy and the passion when I’m coaching, I need to go do something else.
JMV: How many high school coaches in this state have reached out to congratulate you?
Allen: Wow. I’d say too many to count. I’ve got so many close friends and guys that I respect so much. We’ve worked together or coached against each other or just guys I’ve gotten a chance to meet throughout the process spending 10 years in this great state coaching high school ball. Golly, there have been so many guys who have done that. I appreciate it so much and it’s been neat to be able to hear from so many. There’s a lot of excitement. It’s shared. I have that excitement myself.
JMV: How much has Dick Dullaghan meant to you?
Allen: So much. I just talked to him again yesterday. When he brought me to Ben Davis, I was there, I think, a year. He sat me down and he said, ‘Coach, you need to go coach college football.’ He just felt that was where my talents were and what I’d be best at. Obviously, I continued to stay there for many years after that, but he’s really allowed me to really take that next step in my professional development, just learning from him as an assistant with him there for six years, then taking over after him. He’s been such a close friend of mine. I have so much love and respect for him as a person, and professionally, second to none in what he built at Ben Davis, and what he taught all of us who worked for him, and what he means to this state. He’s such a passionate leader of men. He’s advanced the game in Indiana and really has done things here that caused the whole level of play in this state to really never be the same after eh came here and impacted it. He’s meant the world to me as a person and he’s meant a whole lot to this state professionally. He’s a pretty special man.
JMV: How have you seen the level of high school play in Indiana change over the years?
Allen: It’s definitely improved. I think that the investment in high school football … as that has grown and the programs have been able to branch out and play teams from other states, that helps. You look at the MIC and it’s as good a conference that you’re going to find in any state in the country. I believe about every college coach in the country would agree with that. I just feel that has spread to other conferences and other teams. It’s made it a lot different than it used to be. When you see these kids get recruited across the country and then going to those places and doing well, that’s what gives you the stamp of approval and confirmation that Indiana high school football is very strong and getting better every year.