Hoosiers set to start spring practice on Saturday

Tom Allen has three main objectives for his third spring practice season as Indiana’s head coach.

For one, Allen is handing off his defense to new coordinator Kane Wommack, and the next six weeks will serve as an adjustment period for some of the tweaks and wrinkles Wommack will bring to IU’s 4-2-5 setup.

Second, IU has a new offensive coordinator in Kalen DeBoer, and spring practice will be the Hoosiers’ first chance to learn a new playbook and the terminology within.

Third, Allen is eager to create a depth chart based off of the spring’s top performers.

Ahead of a crucial third season in Allen’s tenure as IU coach, the Hoosiers have a clear list of tasks to tackle once spring practice opens on Saturday.

“We’re ready,” Allen said.

On the eve of the first practice, Allen didn’t anticipate many position changes on the roster. The most notable move involves athlete Reese Taylor.

After spending the bulk of his 2018 action at running back and receiver, and moonlighting as IU’s backup quarterback during the final four games, Taylor will spend the next six weeks — and maybe more — on defense

Taylor worked at cornerback during last year’s fall camp before making a permanent move to offense in Week 2.

“He spent a lot of time on offense in the fall and want to get him on defense and see how that plays out,” Allen said. “I just want him to feel comfortable and confident in a position. We bounced him around different times in the fall and I think for his future benefit, and his development, I think it will be able to get grounded there. He’ll be excited. That’s what he wants to do. So we’re getting the best players on the field.”

In another move, sophomore Cam Jones is moving from the hybrid-linebacker role to safety, where he’ll work at both spots.

Jones, who appeared in 11 games at the “husky” position and shared the team lead with two forced fumbles, will primarily work alongside redshirt sophomore Bryant Fitzgerald and senior Khalil Bryant at free safety. The move could allow Jones to move out of starting husky Marcelino Ball’s shadow and find a more consistent path to the field.

Sophomore safety Devon Matthews will also see work at both safety spots after spending most, if not all, of last year at free safety.

Elsewhere, Indiana will be hoping to see further development from its young offensive linemen this spring. Outside of quarterback, the O-line could be the make-or-break position group for IU’s 2019 season.

Tackle Aidan Rafferty, a 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman, is now up to 310 pounds after arriving on campus last year at 265 pounds.

“(He) has really changed his body,” Allen said. “Nick Marozas is up to 300, another one who came in in the low 270s range. Those are two guys we red-shirted and are well over 300 now.”

Allen praised another offensive tackle, redshirt sophomore Caleb Jones, for his offseason work, while declaring his hope that Jones can elevate his standing on the depth chart during the next six weeks.

On the defensive line, Allen said redshirt freshman ends Jonathan King and Gavin McCabe were two of the top performers during winter workouts.

“Jonathan King is a guy that I’m looking forward to seeing perform this spring,” Allen said. “He’s put on a lot of good weight, and he’s learning how to really train and discipline himself to be special every single day. I really love his mindset and attitude. Gavin McCabe is another young guy that we redshirted. I really feel like he has a chance to grow on the field. He’s really worked hard. He’s our strongest defensive lineman. He is a 600-pound squatter, which is really impressive for a redshirt freshman. I love his mindset.”

Injuries, meanwhile, will limit the participation of a handful of Indiana’s most exciting young players.

Receiver Whop Philyor, running backs Cole Gest and Sampson James and cornerback Larry Tracy will each have a modified workload as they prepare for the 2019 season.

Philyor (ankle) and Gest (knee) will stick to seven-on-seven drills and individual work this spring. James and Tracy, two of IU’s early enrollees from the current signing class, recently had minor medical procedures to clean up lingering injuries.

Allen also says that Matthews will get “a lot of reps”, but will wear a blue non-contact jersey while doing so. Defensive end Allen Stallings is also nursing a minor injury that will limit him this spring.

Defensive tackle LeShaun Minor (unspecified issue) is still listed on the roster, but will not be active with the team this spring. Allen did not elaborate on Minor’s extended absence.

“Overall, not any big surprises, I don’t think,” Allen said. “Those guys were ones that we pretty much knew. Don’t have a long, long list of guys but definitely have some.”

20 comments

  1. This Spring is important for the development of the young players but also for the offense to get installed. This is a very important year for coach Allen’s tenure and it will be based on a defense that is talented but still young at LB and thin on the DL along with an offense with talented skill players but needing to replace three OL men.

    I like that coach has made Spring Practice open to the public so people can get out and see how the team progresses. The roster is in transition and it will be up to a mix of older players and young players to become a winning team this year. I am excited about the young talent and wanting to see how they do this Spring.

    1. V13,
      I agree this year will be a very important milestone in the Allen tenure at HC. Although TA has 3 recruiting classes under his belt at this point, in actuality his first class was a bit of a hybrid between Allen and Wilson prototype recruits. TA’s 2nd & 3rd recruiting classes all bear the mark of TA’s vision for the program. The point is a majority of the team are now clearly TA recruits. Albeit the more experienced players still have the Wilson influence, including the incumbent QB, but the Allen recruits are now more numerous. I am speaking in terms of body type and FB IQ specifically recruited for the Allen System as opposed to the Wilson System.

      With your coaching background I expect you are quite aware of this, but these nuances may appear to be very subtle to some. Rest assured they have a major impact in the success or failure of a coaching philosophy. This is the year we should truly begin to see if TA is on the right track or not. May not get all the W’s everyone would like to see, but at this point what is seen on the field will tell the tale. Got a tough schedule this year and might not get 6 wins. It all depends on where and how those L’s come. An L to a top 25 team on the road with the game being decided in the last couple minutes looks a whole lot different than losing at home to a team at a lower level than top 25.

  2. thinkaboutit, The big thing I want to see this year, do we have players that come up with the play that wins games. So often IU can play close but come up short when it came to winning games. This is the improvement I want to see in the team. If those players aren’t on the team then winning games will always be a tough battle for the Hoosiers to get to 7 or more wins.

    Several games, this coming year, will show if IU is able to move up because they have
    play makers. I see NW, PU, MSU, PSU, and Neb as the toss ups that IU needs to win most of these games if the program is to move up in the B1G.

    1. I agree V13,

      But I also believe the coming up short in games, rests solely on the QB play witnessed the last 2 years, but especially last year.

  3. Without question a more dynamic QB will make a big difference in the outcomes. It also takes receivers that make tough catches when challenged in the end zone. RBs that make someone miss or finishes off a run to get into the end zone. A defense that makes the key interception, sack, fumble recovery, or run stop. That also means special teams need to be an asset not a detriment to winning.

    IU needs to make the plays every other team has made against them when the game was on the line. % would say that IU should have won a couple of the close games against OSU, Mich, PSU and MSU. Instead we lose everyone of those games and that is what I need to see changed in the next two years.

    1. Agreed V13,
      There’s plenty of room for improvement across the board. I give the receivers a bit of a pass in that they have taken an unnecessary beating due to they type of plays which had to be called as a result of the poor QB play. You know as well as I do, the ball has to get to the receiver in as advantageous manner as possible, even in the end zone, and that has not been happening consistently.

  4. thinkaboutit, I was talking more about past receivers and chances they had to catch the winning pass with tough coverage. Our current receivers haven’t been in that situation yet and I hope they can come up with the big play.

  5. Biggest thing I want to see is play calling developed from a cohesive offense. That is the genesis of big plays creating momentum and and end of contest game winning plays.
    Also would think a couple of these athletic, growing, maturing S’s would in their 3rd, 4th or 5th seasons could be quality B1G LB’s. IU over the last 3 seasons have better luck recruiting good talent there than LB. So develop and grow a S or 2.

    1. HC,
      I think we have reason to be optimistic that the offense will be much more cohesive if either Penix or Tuttle are at QB. New OC DeBoer will not have to be calling an offense with one weak armed QB tied behind his back. It will make a huge difference assuming one of those two are starting. If neither Penix or Tuttle is your starting QB, get ready for more of the same.

      Believe there will be improvement on defense. Last year’s inexperienced defense took it’s lumps, but should have learned much with the experience.

      1. You boys need to re-watch the 2018 FIU game. 43 yd. frozen rope down the middle of the field caught by Hale in the EZ. Weak armed QB’s don’t make those. Penix no doubt can make the same throw. But DeBord didn’t call but maybe, maybe 4-5 more the rest of the season. But called dozens upon dozens of outside shoulder sideline passes. Kinda like throwing to TE’s, the position he coached, not much action attempted. He earned his name on top quality talent. Without it he failed miserably at both CMU and IU. If PR was a big weakness of the offense he owns not recognizing it and/or starting Penix somewhere during the season. To the common, average CFB player he is an inept OC with zero play calling skill.

        1. There may have been the occasional strong looking throw from Ramsey(probably when the wind was at his back), but most his tosses were not deep…And even the short stuff seemed to take forever to reach the hands of a receiver.

          If Allen starts Ramsey with either Penix or Tuttle healthy/available, he will destroy whatever tiny amount of coaching credibility he has left.

          Ramsey is a mid-major level qb. I’m sure he’s a good kid with a tough attitude. And I’m sure he does everything necessary in showing his coach he’s learned ‘Leadership 101,’ but If we are to somehow enter ‘big time’ BigTen football, then it needs to be with a big time arm offering more dynamic options in an offense.

          1. Ramsey’s arm is fine as evidenced by 66%, 2900 yd. and 19 TD. The joke of the offense has surrendered and left town.

          2. And the most bizarre part of the whole deal was Clarion essentially admitting Penix was a far better qb during the Penn State game in which he and his family were in attendance….I can go back to thread, but that’s the way I remember it.

            It was like “Where has Michael Penix been my whole life”.

            My position? Penix had the far bigger arm and the more dynamic play-making capabilities…but he was too physically underdeveloped to take the seasons’ long punishment. Committing to the opening game starter decision too soon likely killed ever seeing Dawkins. Maybe he still leaves…Maybe he doesn’t. We’ll never know. Hate to see another high potential qb leave due to not wholeheartedly giving the appearance of a fair and open competition right up to opening kick.

        2. just watched the Ramsey to Hale FIU TD again. Ramsey threw from his 23 and Hale caught 8 yards deep in endzone- 31 yrds. Ramsey had no pressure and got to step into the throw. Nice throw but nothing to carried away about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLDKcBwCeEg

          Watching the season highlights, you quickly learn that IU was the Stevie Scott show and not much else. For as much as Ramsey had the ball, he made few highlight plays- either running or passing. Most of Ramsey’s highlights are throws back to the middle and most times the receiver has to wait on the throw. Ramsey was too quick to run or too quick to dump the ball off. But I think that was DeBord drilling into him not to take negative plays.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7dTgEAYwvQ

          1. Precisely correct 123 & H4H,

            No OC would fail to take advantage of a QB with a capable arm. 123, you just exposed the “frozen rope fantasy.” All anyone needs to know about Ramsey’s capabilities is to look at how the defenses in the B1G, not FIU played him. It was 8,9, 10 men in the box which means they literally had no fear of a 41 yard “frozen rope” or any other form of deep threat passing from Ramsey. H4H is correct not unless a there was a strong wind behind him.

            This should get sorted out this fall with the new OC, if not there will probably be a new HC in the near future. Not sure why all the prejudice against MD, he did the best he could with an empty QB room. Here is where the proof will come in, PR spending the rest of his IU career holding the clipboard behind Penix or Tuttle or maybe both. That will mean it was always the QB problem. The only way it can be DeBord is if Ramsey is starting again this fall, and suddenly becomes all world IN THE B1G, not just against non conference opponents.

            One last thing, those 2900 yards and 66% completions also added up the bottom of the B1G in yards per completion and don’t forget about the number of interceptions to go along with those 19 TD’s. Didn’t look at the final numbers, but suspect a very poor QB rating.

  6. “But I also believe the coming up short in games, rests solely on the QB play witnessed the last 2 years, but especially last year.” BINGO!

    I reference the three Michigan games from 2015 through 2017. The two games in Bloomington went to overtime and the one in Ann Arbor was a 20 – 10 loss. We just did not have enough play-making talent to win those close games, any one of which would have been signature wins and “program-changers” for IU.

    1. The last Michigan game in Bloomington was lost by DeBord. He did not have a clue. Wolverine fans in the stands behind me were shaking their heads and asking questions as to what the hell’s going on with IU down in the red zone on the last possession. He is coaching ineptness.

  7. Yes, I remember those series and asking the same questions at the time. Both those games in Bloomington should have been wins for IU. We were not beaten, we gave both of those games away.

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