Hoosiers want a top 25 defense in 2017

By the end of this season, Tom Allen expects Indiana to become a top 25 defense.

After improving 76 spots in total defensive rankings last fall, finishing the season at No. 45 nationally, his Hoosiers believe it can be done immediately.

When IU opens fall camp on Wednesday morning, Hoosier defenders will begin marching toward that central challenge. Following tiresome years of defensive breakdowns and overall unreliable play on that side of the ball, Indiana took big steps toward defensive competency in 2016.

And the Hoosiers don’t want to stop now.

“The great teams, the really good teams, are top 25 defenses,” senior cornerback Rashard Fant said. “We want to hold ourselves to that standard. Last year, we made some strides. We were a top 50 defense. Now, we want to take it even further and do the little things that will help us get to being a top 25 defense.”

Last year, to rank inside the top 25 in total defense, Indiana should have yielded 353 yards or fewer per game. The Hoosiers closed the season ceding 380 yards per game.

To achieve further defensive development, Allen is focusing on at least two specific criteria for success: getting off the field on third down and improving efficiency inside the red zone.

Indiana was reasonably strong on third downs last year, improving from No. 91 nationally in 2015, when opponents converted 42 percent of third downs, to No. 15 in 2016, when opponents converted 32 percent of third downs.

IU’s red zone defense, however, could up the stakes to better compete in the Big Ten. Indiana tied with Florida International at No. 113 in the nation last year after allowing opposing offenses to score on 90 percent of drives inside the 20-yard line.

Of the 39 red zone scores Indiana allowed, 16 were field goals, though. Allen considers that at least a minor victory.

“The way the NCAA creates the statistic, if the offense scores anything — if they even get a field goal — that counts against you defensively,” Allen said. “Well, in my mind that’s a win. In today’s game, the way that points are being scored, the tempo that’s being played, you hold them to a field goal (and that’s positive).

“What we have to do more of now is block more field goals and cause them to miss field goals with the pressure up front. We forced a lot of them. If you look at the number, they made almost every one of them that they kicked but one. I think we gave up too many touchdowns in the red zone. We’re emphasizing that. I think that’s going to be huge.”

Another mission for Allen’s defense is end-of-game execution. To see that through, the coach believes Indiana needs to continue fostering its depth.

IU has plenty of able bodies at linebacker and in the secondary, especially. For Allen, having fresh players on the field late in competitive makes a winning difference.

“To get into that top 25 is depth,” Allen said. “End-of-fourth-quarter situations, to be able to get those stops, that’s conditioning. It’s why we did things differently this summer because of that. It’s depth. All those things you’re trying to get with your team.”

And this year, with a defense hungry for further improvement, Indiana believes it can get there.

“It’s all those things you focus on, how you go from being a good defense to a great defense,” Allen said. “That’s the challenge.”

2 comments

  1. I love the sound of that, especially if Lagow and company can continue to score points while producing fewer turnovers.

  2. It would be great for IU defense to finish as a top 25 defense in the country especially based on the prolific offenses in the B1G. Defensive improvement and cutting down turnovers on offense will add 2 or 3 wins to last year’s total. We also have to see IU have the knack of pulling off the close games as so far getting close is all they have been able to do up until now.

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