Allen rising up depth chart and other defensive notes

Doug Mallory. With musical accompaniment from Tone Loc and Run DMC.

Indiana is almost two weeks into fall camp and the coaching staff is starting to figure out which freshman are going to play and which will likely redshirt. Safety Antonio Allen, a four-star recruit and arguably the most coveted member of the incoming class, will apparently be one of those that makes an impact right away.

“Antonio’s kinda put himself in a position that he’s gonna be competing for a lot of playing time here this fall,” IU safeties coach and defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. “… Here’s a guy that’s played defense pretty much his whole life and been a safety his whole life, so having that background of experienced has helped him project himself a little bit further. What really shows up is the maturity level and the physicality that he displays when he’s on the field. He’s one guy that when he hits you, the ball carrier is going to stop in his tracks. He’s a tough kid. He gets after it pretty good. The things we’re trying to develop here, he came in with that kind of background, so that part’s really been encouraging.”

Mallory said that Allen is the one true freshman who is definitively a part of the two-deep and competing for a starting job with returning starters Greg Heban and Mark Murphy. There are a number of others who have a shot, he said. At linebacker, T.J. Simmons is ahead of the game because he enrolled in the spring and was  part of spring practice, and Mallory said he will have an opportunity to start. Both Clyde Newton and Marcus Oliver have also made significant improvements and have a chance to be involved in the rotation. Mallory said defensive tackle Darius Latham will likely have a chance to play immediately. Defensive end David Kenney has had some injury issues and missed some time, so Mallory said “the jury is still out.”

— Mallory said he’s seen some improvement in the secondary, but said that group is still giving up too many “explosion plays,” and saw that happen in Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Plays that could have been held for 5- or at most a 10-yard gain, if we miss a tackle on the back end, the result is a touchdown or a long run,” Mallory said. “I think the one thing, we’ve got pretty good skill on offense and pretty good speed. You look at Shane Wynn, if you don’t get Shane down in the open field, you’re not gonna catch him. We’ve got a couple of other guys like that too. We just don’t necessarily have that kind of speed on defense to run those type of kids down if we get behind them. If we can keep the ball inside and in front, we can be good tacklers in the open field, we’ve got a chance to be alright. We’ve got to eliminate explosion plays and just consistency is the big thing. I think at times, if there are four plays, we may play well three plays. Fit it up well tackle it well, then all the sudden, the fourth play, you get a mistake here or there, all the sudden, it’s an explosion play. That’s what we have to have out of our system.”

— Mallory said he thinks the cornerback position has become considerably more physical, which seems especially true because two players with safety experience are currently playing as corners. Tim Bennett and Ryan Thompson, both junior college transfers, have been getting much of the work with the first team at that position.

“The type of receivers that you see in this league, they’re bigger, more physical kids,” Mallory said. “When you’ve got small, slight guys out there trying to cover them or trying to get off those kind of blocks, they’re getting manhandled. Now, physically, we’re starting to match up a little bit better.”

Mallory pointed out that it usually goes the other way. If players make a switch in secondary positions while in college, it’s usually because they are recruited as cornerbacks, become too big for the position and move to safety. But he does point out that the players that have moved to corner have actually become more physical since they’ve been at IU, especially Thompson.

“Physically, he’s really come on,” Mallory said. “You look at a young man who came in here and could barely bench 225 a year ago at this time. Now he’s a 320, 330-bench press guy. So that’s a guy who’s really developed himself physically.”



  1. The likelihood of Allen starting or getting significant playing time is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, Allen appears to be living up to the hype and 4-star rating he enjoyed as a senior in High School. The bad news is that IU’s defensive backfield has been so bad that a true freshman is likely to start or get significant playing time at safety. I can’t wait to watch him play and make some hard tackles. And I hope this young man stays healthy and has a significant impact on the quality of IU’s defense. Heaven knows, IU needs more players like him on defense.

  2. I agree completely Podunker. Allen getting significant playing time means the guys who played behind Murphy aren’t measuring up. This kid brings the boom. Like a slightly taller, much thicker Bob Sanders. I can’t wait to see him bend a few face masks, which he did with regularity at Ben Davis.

  3. It should be pointed out that there wasn’t much discernible depth behind Heban and Murphy to begin with. Remember, Drew Hardin was dismissed from the team before the spring and Ryan Thompson and Tim Bennett both moved over to corner. The backup safeties as of the end of spring were Dawson Fletcher and Butler transfer Brandon Grubbe, so it’s not like Allen had a ton of obstacles. Probably should have been noted in the blog by me.

  4. Dustin, very well noted. I was thinking the same thing as I read the previous comments. It would be virtually impossible to keep Allen out of the rotation. I got to see him in high school and it darn near brought a tear to my eye when I seen the news he committed to IU. This season is carrying an overwhelming sense of optimism and I can’t wait to see our guys get on the field! I’m not making any bold predictions of going to the Rose Bowl or anything crazy like that, but I firmly believe that they should be playing in a bowl game this year. The offense should be among the most potent in the nation, and the D has just enough pieces (the newcomers) that they should be able to make a little noise.

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