Youth movement underway at IU

Shortly after Tom Allen was named Indiana’s head football coach in late 2016, three numbers were laid out to the players and assistants now under his command.

Fifty years since a Big Ten title, 26 years since a bowl win, and 10 years since a winning season.

The Hoosiers were going to knock off all three of those numbers, he said. And if anybody in the room didn’t believe it was going to happen, they needed to leave.

Tiawan Mullen wasn’t in the room that day, but when the corner from Florida arrived for an official visit last year, he asked for a piece of paper from Allen. He wrote down his goals, things he wanted to change.

Those included three very familiar numbers.

Without even knowing, Mullen was on the same wavelength as his future coach. Before he visited, he researched where the program had been, because, in his mind, it was just a question of how far he was going to take them.

“It impressed me,” Allen said, recalling the paper Mullen scribbled on. “It got my attention, that this kid … he’s such a competitor.”

In back-to-back years, much has been made of the Hoosiers’ top 50, program-best recruiting classes. But it wasn’t clear exactly how quickly they would impact winning. After last weekend’s win to improve to 7-2, clinching the program’s first winning season since 2007, the answer has become more clear.

Mullen is a starting corner. Sophomore Jaylin Williams is across the way from him. Matthew Bedford, another freshman, is starting at left tackle. Stevie Scott, last year’s freshman rushing sensation, continues to pick up yards. Sophomore linebacker Micah McFadden leads the Hoosiers in tackles. Freshman David Ellis is the return man.

Sure, this week’s news that redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is, again, sidelined with a season-ending injury puts a bit of a damper on the Hoosiers’ youth movement. But future assets surrounding the most important position on the field are starting to stack up.

Mullen coined his class “the new wave” before the season even started. It may be crashing on the beach before most would have expected. But not Mullen.

“I want to know what goals I need to reach, I said ‘em, I wrote them down, and I committed to (Allen), and he was committed to doing the same thing,” Mullen said. “He was on the same trail, and everybody sees the results.”

Tiawan Mullen

247Sports rankings: No. 55 CB, No. 69 recruit in Florida

There were three four-stars in last year’s class (RB Sampson James, DE Beau Robbins, and LB/S Cameron Williams) but the three-star corner and U.S. Army All-American from Fort Lauderdale seems like the early gem of this class.

Mullen’s seven pass breakups are more than twice as many as the next Hoosier (Williams and Bryant Fitzgerald each have three) and his performance against Michigan State senior Darrell Stewart is still a highlight of this season. Last week, he forced a fumble on the Wildcats’ first play and later fell on another loose ball. 

He isn’t all that big, just 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but his long arms allow him to make up for a lack of overall size. His competitive spirit can’t be questioned, either.

Florida athletes sometimes transfer schools to put themselves in a winning program, but Mullen dedicated himself to Coconut Creek, which built from 1-9 to 6-5 during his tenure. His senior year, he led a team that made the state playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

“A kid like that, this kid, he cared about coming here and making history,” Allen said. “Well, he wanted to do the same thing at his own high school and took pride in that.”

Mullen should be a leader at IU for years to come.

“Everybody else goes to these other schools, I want to be a part of history, I want to make history,” Mullen said. “With Coach Allen, he’s made for this job. He’s made out of steel, and his coaching staff is made out of steel, and his players are made out of steel. And we love each other.”

Matthew Bedford

247Sports rankings: No. 66 OT, No. 25 recruit in Tennessee

Another three-star, Bedford came to the Hoosiers as a raw 6-foot-6, 307-pound lineman who hadn’t focused on the offensive tackle position until his senior year.

His size and athleticism shined through early but struggles absorbing the playbook and letting go of mistakes made it seem like he might need more time to sit back and learn.

Bedford wasn’t afforded that opportunity when senior left tackle Coy Cronk went down for the season in Week 4. There have been some struggles, including last weekend’s game versus Northwestern, but they have been fewer and farther between than Allen could have imagined.

“They did a lot of things schematically that were tough,” Allen said of Northwestern. “So … we’re going to continue to need Coy to help him keep developing and just accepting that new role of being, you know, a guy that’s going to help this team get better and in whatever it takes.”

But Cronk admitted it himself: Bedford’s a better player as a freshman than he was. That’s high praise coming from a fourth-year starter who strung together 40 career games.

Bedford should only get better with time, which along with redshirt sophomore right tackle, Caleb Jones, should give the Hoosiers two solid bookends for the next two-plus years.

“It’s mostly my job to make sure he knows he’s a heckuva football player, he’s progressing, he’s a lot further along than I was, and you’re not going to be perfect on every block,” Cronk said. “So I try to help him. It’s not an easy position, and you have to do it in front of the entire country watching. I try to help him manage that.”

Micah McFadden

247Sports Rankings: No. 139 OLB, No. 317 recruit in Florida

One of a bevy of three-stars in the 2018 class, McFadden was still somewhat overlooked coming out of Plant High.

It was obvious the second he arrived in Bloomington that he had the athleticism and the instincts to make plays on the ball. It was just a matter of him figuring out the scheme and being in the right position on every play.

His sophomore campaign started with some struggles tackling and wrapping up, but the 6-2, 232-pounder has come on as of late. McFadden had 11 tackles at Nebraska, and he currently leads the Hoosiers with 42 tackles, including six for loss.

Pair him with fellow sophomore Cam Jones, who is fifth in tackles with 27, and the Hoosiers appear set with explosive, playmaking linebackers for a good while.

Stevie Scott

247Sports rankings: No. 80 RB, No. 16 recruit in New York

After the year Scott produced in 2018, it’s easy to forget he’s just a sophomore.

He has nine 100-yard games, which is good for 10th in program history. His 19 career touchdowns rank him ninth on the Hoosiers’ all-time list.

When he’s rolling, pounding his shoulder into tacklers, the 6-2, 231-pound back can change a game. IU sees it every time they put Scott in motion.

Unfortunately, overreactions to Northwestern’s defense led to two IU false starts to start the game.

“They shifted their whole alignment, which caused our guys to jump,” Allen said. “But they did that quite frequently, so it’s all about trying to take him away. And now, nine games into the season and going on No. 10 and they’re still trying to take him away. Now he’s being able to be very effective against good defenses.”

Not only do the Hoosiers have Scott, but fellow sophomore Ronnie Walker offers a change-of-pace option and a reliable pass blocker. Freshman Sampson James, the top-rated recruit in the 2019 class, also waits in the wings.

“Sampson continues to develop and grow,” Allen said of the Avon product. “He’s a very big, physical guy, too, that’s going to keep getting bigger. So to be able to have two guys like that in this league is very critical.”

The defensive line

When it came to awarding a defensive player of the game after a 34-3 win over the Wildcats, Allen couldn’t name one.

He just went with the entire defensive line, including one name he still can’t pronounce.

“Guys like Mike Ziemba, Jerome Johnson, Allen Stallings, Demarcus Elliott, Jonathan King, Sio,” Allen said. “Still struggle with his last name, so I just stick with Sio.”

Ziemba (junior), Johnson (redshirt junior), and Stallings (senior) are older players, but the last three — ending with Sio Nofoagatoto’a, a true freshman — have a chance to develop into interior mainstays over the next several years.

Elliott, a junior college transfer, and just a sophomore, has nailed down a starting defensive tackle spot next to Johnson. He’s sixth on the team in tackles, including five for loss and three sacks.

Nofoagatoto’a and King, a redshirt freshman, are both coming along. Nofoagatoto’a, a raw talent from American Samoa via Australia and Florida, started to emerge just as Juan Harris left the program. King has been quieter, but he was in on a tackle for loss that turned into a fumble during the Northwestern game.

That defensive tackle corps has a chance to develop alongside edge-rushers like Lance Bryant and James Head Jr., both sophomores eligibility-wise.

“Just the whole group there played so hard, disruptive, good against the run,” Allen said. “I thought we did a good job being on all of our run fits and the zone reads on the perimeter, just changing things up. Guys played that well.”

17 comments

  1. By IUFB standards the last ’18 & ’19 recruiting classes were the best IU has seen in many, many years. While the ’20 class is still work in progress, it is within striking ranges of being another good class. We cannot go by the class rankings, but rather by what is the average recruit. The number of recruits in a class will skew the ranking high simply by the sheer numbers. However, the average rating tells the tale and TA’s last two classes are showing this on the field.

    Obviously, IUFB has miles to go on the way to consistent respectability, but this year has been a good start with 3 more games yet to go. IUFB may not be able to compete with the elite B1G teams yet, but they are beating the teams they can. Question is, “Can TA keep the momentum going forward as the hill gets steeper?”

  2. Question is, “Can TA keep the momentum going forward as the hill gets steeper?”

    Yes, if Michael Penix gets healthy and leads this team next season. There’s the answer you were looking for…

    Now let’s talk reality. Injuries effect a program fighting for relevancy to a degree far more detrimental than established dominant programs rich in tradition and overflowing with depth of talent. A great talent at qb certainly helps, but any key position injury hurts Indiana far more than those teams they dream to one day overtake. It’s simply a matter of depth…It’s also a matter of a teenager’s perception and luring the best recruits away from top programs in the BigTen.
    It will take far more depth to sustain and be consistently competitive for any team attempting to work their way from the lower tier of the BigTen East to the top. There are three teams in the way…They are almost always in the way.
    Most IU fans have long abandoned the attention to details…They don’t notice incremental ranking averages and differences. They are in a deep slumber …and big noticeable wins are required to jump start the passion void. Can barely recognizable momentum from a team make fans believe it’s anything new after so many years of hype regularly ending in ‘same old…same old’ Indiana Football.
    I’m not convinced this is anything new. Who have we really taken down? How would we fare against a top team from the SEC? What have we proven in the BigTen East when we’re 0-annihilation against OSU and have yet to take the field against the other two powerhouses of the East forever light years ahead of IU Football?

    The fans were abandoned..(it’s not the other way around as some have attempted to present such an argument here). They were abandoned because of decades of a university accepting the lowly competitive standards. I can’t blame the fans or the university. I was fine with it when we were hauling in banners and going to Final Fours every few seasons.
    For all those great football programs of the South, very few have much to brag when it comes to basketball.
    Passion lives where there is success…Fans are the same everywhere. Those acting loyal are as fair-weather as the next. Easy to be loyal when the winning is happening. They’re not too loyal at Florida State right now.

    Sustain momentum? Be relevant again in a major sport? Best odds to maintain such relevance when considering the subsets/conference/ environment each major sport operates? Common sense tells you it only takes seven or eight talented guys on a roster to take a basketball team deep into a tournament(given and quality coach/teacher). We also know Indiana is far more the breeding ground for top basketball talent than it is for football talent. Which stage do you feel relevancy could be reclaimed and sustained faster? Where is the passion still existing and do you want to risk losing that passion over baby steps for a football program operating in the BigTen East?

    March Madness takes away a ton of bowl sadness in little old Indiana.

    1. H4H,
      I don’t disagree with you assessments, but we all have to remember the world of college athletics is changing whether we like or not. Even the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the world have come to understand a basketball only school will not make it long term in the new paradigm being forged. Interestingly enough the latest legal salvo to be fired in the push to pay college athletes comes in the form of a lawsuit filed by a former football player at Villanova of all places. So much for being a basketball school in a basketball conference.

      The momentum to pay players is driving changes to amateur athletics which will have unforeseen consequences we cannot even begin to imagine. The need for athletic department revenues will become pressing under a wave of state and federal legislation. The signs are unmistakable and will be dismissed by any school at their own peril.

  3. Here is a paradigm shift. I would call this a very competent new tradition for IU.
    T.A. Coaching career at IU for next 10 to 15 years or whoever is coaching at IU.
    *1 game above 500 (more wins than losses in big ten).
    *win more preseason games than losses.
    *Equal total career record for whoever is coaching anything above more wins than losses for both, preconference and big ten plus a bowl victory here and there. That’s as good as it gets for IU.
    There might be some kind of a championship season in there somewhere.
    The traditional powers will take their turns at championships. IU like the middle of the pack and other lower teams in big ten will always struggle to sustain anything year after year. One ☝️ game above 500 in big ten and pre conference (if schedule is upgraded) plus an occasional bowl victory)= tremendous success for IU football. Everything else belongs to OSU, MICHIGAN, PENN STATE and whoever is hot during a particular era and it most likely won’t be IU.

  4. Only a couple reasons why IU FB would not be able build on this momentum and surpass programs like Minnesota, NU, Purdue and Iowa. Facilities are greatly improved and on par with the other Big Ten programs. Coaching staff is good and getting better. Recruiting has improved and will improve even more now that we have a winning program.

    Administrative incompetence and fan support are the only things that can derail the momentum that TA and his staff have created. It’s up to the Hoosier Nation to increase support and attendance at home games and hold IU’s administrators accountable.

    1. I don’t see much incompetence from AD Glass and staff. Or we wouldn’t be 7-2. They’ve not made the mistake some have called for which was to force feed a desired outcome.

      1. Okay BP,
        Going from the present backwards: Bill Lynch, Gerry DiNardo, Sam Wyche, and failure to support a winning coach in Bill Mallory. That’s just the highlights of the last 35 years. Could go into detail, but that’s a good start. Sad thing is the same incompetence bled over into the basketball program as well.

  5. Minnesota is giving Penn State all they can handle at the moment….Indiana against Penn State next week will tell how far the Indiana program has come. As “thinkabout it” stated can Tom Allen keep the momentum going forward…….Minnesota and Purdue (injury plague this year) still have strong recruiting classes coming in….Both universities are improving on the football field.

  6. It is just utterly ridiculous stupid looking for both, college and pro the guys back in studio analyzing games in their expensive suits. I get it and I know why. However, appropriate dress would be sweatshirts, sweaters, flannel shirts, or pull over shirts etc. Pro sports have like 4 talking analysts looking ridiculously stupid making tons of money trying to talk intelligently. Priorities sure are messed up.

  7. Alright, I going to put it out there…..Breakthrough wins – Significant seasons….Jeff Brohm at Purdue beat highly ranked Ohio State in 2018, Lovie Smith at Illinois beat highly ranked Wisconsin this year and now PJ Fleck at Minnesota beats a highly ranked Penn State team this year. All three of these coaches where hired around the same time as Tom Allen and each one of these coaches as produce that signature win. Granted as a Indiana fan I am hoping that Tom Allen is producing for the long haul. Hopefully building a tradition at Indiana. Now I know most of the fans on this form have no respect or concern for PJ Fleck or Jeff Brohm, but they are producing. Maybe there is something to hiring an established college (PJ Fleck at Western Michigan and Jeff Brohm at Western Kentucky)coach (not assistant) to run your program. It remains to be seen over the next couple of years, which program made the correct hire.

  8. Penn State will be a real test for the Indiana Hoosiers football team, since they lost to Minnesota. If Indiana comes out flat this game could get “UGLY”. Hopefully Tom Allen has them ready to go.

  9. BP & HC, I wasn’t talking about current administrative incompetence, but the things that the current and future administrators could do or fail to do that would derail the momentum IU FB has established. If IU’s current or future administrators return to behaving the way their predecessors did, IU FB will back-slide into the basement of Big Ten FB. think did a nice job of referencing some of the past neglect and incompetence, most of which has been well chronicled on this and other sites in the past. Today, administrative support for IU’s FB program is as good as it has been since Hep was hired and the North end zone construction was funded. I give credit to Fred Glass for leading the fund-raising effort that continued to upgrade the FB facilities.

    Going forward, IU must pay TA a competitive compensation package with a contract extension. That should be the first order of business. Look at how MN has rewarded Fleck, and look at the results! Fleck’s team just produced the biggest win in the history of MN FB, and they will be playing in the Big Ten Championship and then go to a very prominent bowl game. And I guarantee you, donations from MN alumni are going to flood the coffers of MN’s Athletic Department as a result of Fleck’s success. All of MN’s home games will be sold out next year and ticket prices will be increased.

    God forbid anything happens to TA, but if it does, IU can’t repeat the mistake they made with Lynch. That profoundly stupid decision was a disaster and it set IU FB back a decade. If we lose TA, IU has to hire a quality replacement and give him strong support (just like MN did when they lost Kill due to his health issues.)

    Fred has to continue being proactive in helping TA keep his key assistants for as long as possible. Good coaches will leave to advance their careers and become head coaches. IU can’t stop that, but Fred’s got to prevent TA’s best assistants from leaving for a lateral career move simply for more money. IU has to maintain continuity in the coaching staff so that TA can finish building the program’s foundation.

    Expand TA’s recruiting budget. As of last year, the recruiting budget for men’s BB was greater than TA’s recruiting budget. That’s ridiculous! Archie’s “Inside Out” recruiting strategy and the need to sign three or four players a year should not cost more than TA’s need to recruit 20 – 24 players a year.

    Football is where the money comes from. Invest in it with good leaders/managers, and IU FB can make an excellent Return-on-Investment. As MN is realizing right now, the potential upside is HUGE!

  10. Good post IU79. Hiring proven head coaches like Brohm and Fleck may not be the only way to build a winning program, but it’s probably the shortest distance between two points. Fleck took over a program that had been reasonably well lead by Jerry Kill (winning seasons, bowl games, etc.). Brohm took over a program rich in tradition, but one that had suffered a four year drought. IU’s circumstances were different and its administration was highly risk averse. It took the low-cost/low risk route and hoped it had the right man in TA. It may turn out that Glass got lucky and that TA becomes the best FB coach in IU’s history. I think the difference between the hiring decisions made by Purdue and MN had more to do with upside potential. Both Purdue and MN have bigger, more “invested” fan bases for FB. Their expectations were/are much higher compared to the Hoosier Nation (which has no expectations for football). So, the potential for greater revenue returns at Purdue and MN justified paying more to hire experienced, proven head coaches. As for programs like Oklahoma and OSU, well you can’t really compare the inertia of programs like those with a program like IU FB. IU could never have hired either Riley or Day to be our head coach, no matter how much money we offered them. But I suspect that when Lincoln Riley and Ryan Day were hired, they had been identified by OK and OSU as having the potential to become the head coaches when their bosses stepped down after grooming them. And I’ll be stunned if Ryan Day doesn’t become the Big Ten’s highest paid head coach after this season is over. As for Riley, he’ll either get a huge raise or become the head coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

  11. after today maybe all the talk about the Big Ten East being the toughest division, should be tone down some…..Minnesota beat Penn State and Illinois beat Michigan State. Maybe only Ohio State is the class/best of the Big Ten, but that is a normal thing. The West division of the Big Ten ismaking a statement this year.

  12. I agree again. IL, WI, Iowa and WI are all going to bowl games. MN is probably going to play for Big 10 Championship, then play in a major bowl game. Purdue can become bowl eligible if they win out. Only NU and NE in the west are having bad years.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Big Ten is, from top to bottom, the strongest conference for FB this season.

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