Allens growing together at IU

There’s a balance that comes with coaching your son. Tom Allen understands it well.

Decades ago, he played linebacker for his father, Tom Sr., at New Castle High School, where Tom Sr. required his boy to work a little harder and do a little more than the teammates around him.

Today, as the head coach at Indiana, Allen is experiencing the other side of the father-son football relationship. His only son, Thomas, is working to earn the starting inside linebacker job during IU’s spring practice.

During Thomas’ first 14 months with Indiana’s program, Allen didn’t overly worry about his approach to coaching his son. With Thomas redshirting and working with the scout team, there was no need.

This month, things have changed.

“Now, he’s in the middle of stuff, learning how to take that criticism from your dad,” Allen said. “You’ll notice on the field he calls me ‘Coach.’ Coach Allen. Obviously, he’ll always be my son, but the key is this: he knows he has to earn it. He’s gotta earn it just like I had to earn it above and beyond when I was a kid.”

Thomas is up to the challenge.

As he navigated the recruiting process as a high schooler, Thomas found himself caught in the middle of two extremes.

On one hand, he had the opportunity to accept a scholarship offer at Indiana, where his father worked as defensive coordinator at the time of his commitment in June 2016.

On the other hand, with offers from Rutgers, Colorado State and South Alabama, Thomas had an opportunity to forge his own path. But doing so came with a difficult realization.

“At the end of the day, it was, ‘He’ll always see you play, or he’ll never see you play,'” Thomas said. “I’m real close to my dad, real close to my mom, real close to my family. So I wanted them to see me play … I wanted my grandparents to see me play. They’re an hour-and-a-half, two hours up the road. And my grandpa is my best friend. I want him to see me play all the time. So that was it.”

With the Hoosiers essentially starting over at linebacker this spring, following the graduations of Tegray Scales, Chris Covington and Dameon Willis, Thomas is in line to play meaningful snaps this fall.

Although his exact role is yet to be determined, Thomas has been neck-and-neck for first-team reps this month with senior Mike McGinnis, a former junior college transfer.

Thomas, who played high school ball in both Tampa, Fla. — where his father spent one season as defensive coordinator at South Florida — and Oxford, Miss. — where his father previously served as Ole Miss’ linebackers coach — brings strong credentials to the IU defense.

He was named the 2016 Tampa Bay Defensive Player of the Year after posting 147 tackles, including 51 for loss and six sacks. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound redshirt freshman played for winners in both states, totaling four division championships and three state runner-up appearances during his high school career.

“I’m here because I want to play for my dad, but I’m (also) here because I was born in Indiana,” said Thomas, who was born while his father was coaching at Ben Davis in the late 1990s. “I’m from here. I want to play for here. I want to do great things here. And it’s just a cool experience that I get to play for my dad.”

That opportunity, of course, comes with a unique arrangement.

“With Dad, it’s just different,” Thomas said. “It’s ‘Coach’ on the field and then, off the field, we have a rule: ‘You can’t go back to Mom and complain.’ It’s a fine line. On the field, it’s business, and then off the field, it’s a different relationship.”

One his father recognizes.

“I’ve been on the other end of it,” Allen said. “I played for my dad and the butt chewings from your dad in practice, it’s different. I know how it feels.”


  1. I hope young Tom Allen shows in the next year or two he is a B1G LB and helps his dad move IU up in the B1G East. Having a son play for you is an unusual situation but it is nice he gets to play where his dad, mom, and grandparents can watch him play.

    LB is a position of question of this coming season. We need four of them to step up and give IU the production that Scales and Covington did by themselves. I know having Ball and Crawford back will help them out. IU also needs the DL to step up and become difference makers all across the DL. IU needs to be better against the run than they were last year.

  2. Better against the run?on 41 attempts they gave up 160 yards a game thats not bad 3.9 yards a carry its hard to get better than that the 27th ranked defense in the nation last year the offense has to improve that was the big issue

  3. Without question the offense was the bigger problem last year. However there were games we needed to win where the run defense wasn’t good IE PU and Maryland. The stats look nice but IU ranked 9th in the B1G for rush defense with PU better than IU.

    If the offense can control the ball and score on a consistent basis that will help the defense. I hope with the OL returning and IU getting the graduate QB they want the offense will be more dynamic and control the ball allowing the defense to rest between series.

    1. Anyone can point out a game or two but if ask what was their biggest issue it was sustained drives on offense and the o line

  4. I did not realize that Allen the player was that big. At 6’3″ and 237 as a redshirt freshman, he must be one of the biggest linebackers IU has had in many years. Guessing that by the time he’s a senior, he’ll easily carry 245. And if he can run, he’ll be formidable. I hope it works out for both him and his father.

  5. PO, I agree with you about younger Allen. In HS he was a big hitter and got to the ball. How fast he is compared to the B1G I don’t know yet but hope to find out at the Spring Game. Mo Burnam seems to be stepping up and coaches have said McGinnis is constantly around the ball. Add in Jones and Walton which I hope gives IU the players to rotate in to stay fresh during the game.

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