Allen focused on fixing IU special teams units

Tom Allen’s three seasons as a special teams coordinator at Ole Miss gave him a heightened appreciation for that facet of the game.

During his introductory press conference as IU coach last December, Allen made something clear: Indiana’s special teams consistency must improve.

The Hoosiers turned in lackluster results in the field goal kicking, punting and kick return realms last season. Repairing IU’s special teams production is one of Allen’s primary focuses for 2017.

“Special teams (is) an area we have to improve, and I’ve recognized that and acknowledged that from the beginning,” Allen said. “That begins with the quality of your specialists.”

Getting more consistent production from the field goal unit is at the top of Allen’s special teams wish list.

The Hoosiers ranked last in the Big Ten and No. 112 nationally with a field goal success rate of 61.5 percent in 2016. That won’t cut it.

Although kicker Griffin Oakes went 16-for-26 on field goal attempts last fall, the blame doesn’t necessarily sit at his feet. Indiana’s field goal protection wasn’t up to par, while the team’s holding situation was less than ideal.

The Hoosiers shuffled between using punter Joseph Gedeon and receiver Mitchell Paige as holders and witnessed protection breakdowns that contributed to the unit’s overarching inconsistency.

One of Allen’s initial tasks this spring was devising a fix.

“Spring ball, first thing we did was go through and have a huge discussion about it and find out what was the reason why and then get it corrected,” Allen said. “I feel a lot better about that already, just because I feel like we’ve made some good changes.”

Allen hopes those changes will boost the confidence of Oakes, whom he acknowledges had a difficult time stomaching the struggles a year ago.

“He didn’t trust (the protection),” Allen said. “If you don’t trust what’s going on around you, then it’s hard to focus. All he needs to focus on is getting his footwork right and kicking the ball through the uprights, whereas last year, he was worried about the hold. … He was worried about protection. That’s negative. He’s gotta kick it, obviously, but … he has to have complete confidence that the protection, the snap and the hold are going to be right where they’re supposed to be.”

Backup punter Drew Conrad and second-string quarterback Peyton Ramsey, respectively, are IU’s listed holders on the preseason depth chart.

Allen also wants to improve IU’s punting production. The Hoosiers were No. 11 in the Big Ten last season with 38.6 yards per punt. Gedeon returns this fall, while IU also welcomes former Australian Rules Football player Haydon Whitehead to the position. Whitehead has been with the program since January.

8 comments

  1. I agree with all these being more efficient and fixing this and that. However, this must be that time of year because it is pretty much common sense as it pertains to IU fb success. Always heard same types of comments from coaches/staffs past. The question is will IU win 7 or 8 games?

  2. If IU fixes its special teams then it could have won 8-10 games last year. Getting themfixed takes more than saying they need to be fixed it takes a commitment from coaches that every HC doesn’t have. I truly believe coach Wilson didn’t care about Special Teams because he believed he could outscore opponents.

    Coach Allen apprears to truly care about Special Teams, I cared when I coached but never bought into the idea it as 1/3 of the game. Coach has put punters and kickers on scholarship to get them to IU and I hope we see a major improvement this year in S.T..

    1. Just silly to say Wilson didn’t care about ST’s. Just as it would be silly to say Allen puts to much emphasis on ST’s. Allen now has the luxury of depth(built by Wilson)so there are now scholarships for ST talent who are not on the field much. Different circumstances dictate different philosophies.

  3. I remember K.W. putting emphasis on time it took to get field goals and extra points off because previously that was a problem. IU improved greatly in that area from where they were. (however, last year was not good) He emphasized many areas but you have to have the players to execute. Recently, each blog topic is generic analysis that applies to all fb players, teams, and programs.

  4. I agree with HC. No coach in his right mind could afford not to care about Special Teams. Of course Wilson cared!

    And really, to me, last year’s problems on Special Teams boiled down to missing too many Field Goals. Our kicker had a bad season and his performance declined from where it had been the year before. Yes, we could have done better at punting and in the return game, but the majority of the problem was simply that we missed too field goal attempts. For a program that is fighting hard to “break through,” the difference between winning a game and losing it often comes down to executing the little things. For programs like IU, performance on special teams must be a strong positive. Last season, it simply wasn’t.

  5. My point aboout caring from Coach Wilson were the things he said and his approach to not offering scholarships to kickers and punters. Yes every HC cares to some extent about ST but do they put in the needed time and effort necessary for ST to shine.

    I didn’t know of any HC that didn’t spend some time with ST but I did know a number that only put minimal time on different aspects of ST. I put time into ST but didn’t put in extra time for them. Our practice time was limited so I only used punt block and punt safe return instead of coming up with a number of punt returns and punt blocks. We were very good with punt block due to the type of players we had so did I care because we were succceful or not because we didn’t run a number of punt defenses.

    Sorry if my words gave a false impression of how much coach Wilson cared for ST.

    1. Gotcha and IU will have solid ST’s play because Allen is making it a priority. They need every facet prioritized and honed to be able to win 8 games. The schedule is certainly no gimme or even an advantage.

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