IU getting back to takeaways

Inside an otherwise strong Indiana defense last season, one area left Tom Allen wanting more.

The Hoosiers struggled to seize the takeaways that their coach craves.

Interceptions and fumble recoveries were few and far between for IU in 2017, so during the first two days of this month’s fall camp, Allen has emphasized the need to become greedy and opportunistic on defense this season.

“We’ve always emphasized takeaways,” Allen said, “but it’s almost a renewed emphasis on it because we didn’t get the number we had to get last year to help us win. So we’re really emphasizing it.”

When Allen arrived as IU’s defensive coordinator in 2016, he preached the importance of defensive takeaways. The Hoosiers responded with 23 that fall — 13 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries — good for fifth-most in the Big Ten.

Last season, those big moments were hard to come by. Indiana finished with merely 13 — eight fumble recoveries and five interceptions — which were the second-fewest in the conference.

The departure of middle linebacker Marcus Oliver and his skill of stripping the ball was, perhaps, one factor. But the Hoosiers came close to recording several takeaways last season that they simply couldn’t finish, a theme to the 2017 campaign.

In an October overtime loss to Michigan, for example, Indiana had opportunities for three takeaways, including two potential picks that weren’t caught. Another was reversed on a controversial pass interference call.

That Michigan game marked the midway marker of IU’s schedule, at which point the Hoosiers had recorded only four takeaways, three of which came in a blowout victory over Georgia Southern on Sept. 23. The Hoosiers’ first interception didn’t come until safety Jonathan Crawford stole a pass from Penn State’s Trace McSorley on Sept. 30.

After the offense came out strong for Friday’s first practice, the Indiana defense asserted itself Saturday with a pair of takeaways, including linebacker Reakwon Jones’ interception of a tipped pass.

“The offense did a great job (Friday) and it forced the defensive guys to run a whole bunch after practice,” Allen said. “So they were highly motivated today. It created some natural tension. We were trying to rake at the football and we did get a couple.”

As for making sure IU’s takeaway fortune rolls into the season, defensive back Marcelino Ball adheres to a simple philosophy.

“We just have to take the ball,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. Wherever the ball goes, you gotta go. Simple as that.”

4 comments

  1. hopefully, trying to get takeaways, does not interfere with the teams ability to make tackles properly.

  2. Focusing on take aways has an additional bonus as it gets more players to the ball. Take aways is a frame of mind but requires explosive players that separate the ball from offensive players. I hope this years defense makes enough take aways to move into the top three in the B1G.

  3. Turnovers are apostrophes on both sides of the ball. The more apostrophes the more opportunities from field position. Changing/creating momentum. Increasing leverage for a positive W/L. Allen needs IU to be 20 + TO’s to insure a breakthrough. His D backfield will have to do ‘more’ than their share to reach those #’s.

  4. Takeaways will increase as more of IU’s defenders don’t have to think about what to do on every play and as their speed and strength improve.

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