Allen drops DC title to focus his energies

CHICAGO — In the coaching profession, time can be a valuable but easily consumed resource. There are stories of football obsessives so tied to the Xs and Os, they rise before the sun, and they stay on the job long after it sets.

But there is a line. Indiana’s Tom Allen reached his last season.

It was a Thursday night. That is the day Indiana’s head coach would watch film one last time and finish up his call sheet. The Hoosiers’ hands-on leader wasn’t quite ready to relinquish his defensive coordinator duties, but it was taking him hours into the night. The clock turned from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

He ended up sleeping in his office.

“I’ve never done that here. I’ve done that other places,” Allen recalled Thursday during Big Ten media days in Chicago. “I’m like ‘I’m not doing this.’ I didn’t get any sleep. I slept on the couch. It was crappy.”

Late in the season, Allen started to feel fatigued, though his players would have never known. Linebacker Reakwon Jones calls Allen a 5-Hour Energy Drink of a human being. He is constantly in the weight room with his players, lifting alongside them, doing many, many chin-ups.

But the energy Allen brought to the podium Thursday — preaching about his vision for the Hoosier program, wielding passion as he talked about recruiting and renovating facilities — it’s too valuable for him to waste. Especially if he had a protege who was ready to take the defensive reins.

That is why 32-year-old linebackers coach Kane Wommack became the defensive coordinator. And it’s a move that says as much about Wommack’s readiness as Allen’s desire to take a step of his own. If Allen is going to find the energy to drive IU to that next level, the third-year coach can’t burn it all on call sheets.

He needs that energy to be on his phone, texting recruits to sell the future of the program. He needs his time if he’s going to sit in his office with his players, from both sides of the ball, strengthening the personal bonds he covets.

Heading into an important 2019 season, Allen reiterates that the Hoosiers are trying to build the right way. Winning isn’t a snap-your-fingers kind of thing, and the painfully close losses of recent memory will take real effort to stave off in the future.

If the Hoosiers are going to take another step, not only do the players have to maximize their potential. So does Allen.

“You have to take care of yourself,” Allen said. “I want to be doing this for a long time. I want to build a program I can sustain and do it this way over and over again. Burning the candle on both ends wasn’t productive for me, and it wasn’t smart, either.”

After a 5-7 finish in ‘18, the Hoosiers know where they need to grow. Offensively, they weren’t able to convert for scores. Defensively, they were young and inexperienced. Hope springs eternal at preseason media days, but IU’s players believe they have the weapons to put up points this year, and their defense is a year more mature.

As a coach, Allen is looking to widen his impact. When Allen arrived at IU, he was tasked with transforming a program’s lackluster defense. When he slid into the head-coaching position, he believed it was important to keep his hand on the controls.

But now Allen wants to take a step back. With both Wommack and new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, he is going to leave play-calling to them. He won’t second-guess. That doesn’t mean he won’t have input.

“I’m going to be right there with (Wommack), the first three days of the week, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday,” Allen said. “I’ll be there game-planning with the defensive side of the ball. But gameday, yeah, it’s going to be different.”

Allen has faith in Wommack, who was a graduate assistant at Ole Miss in 2012 and ‘13 when Allen was working under defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, Kane’s father. The younger Wommack had a rapid rise, becoming the youngest defensive coordinator in the FBS at South Alabama. Before he was brought over to IU as a linebackers coach, Allen consulted with Wommack on defensive schemes.

With his trust placed in Wommack, Allen found more time to spend with the offensive side of the ball during the spring. It was a noticeable change for someone like senior left tackle Coy Cronk.

“I think just his presence in a meeting room just changes the way younger guys especially experience that meeting, how much they take away from it, how much it means to them,” Cronk said. “When the head man’s there, the atmosphere just changes. The defense has kind of been spoiled with that because he’s been the defensive coordinator.

“Now he’s not, so the offense is feeling his presence and I think that’s going to make a huge difference as well.”

Cronk and the seniors have an urgency about them going into 2019, knowing this is their last season to push toward a “breakthrough” on the football field. At the same time, they have all noticed an uncommon work ethic from the freshman class, which also seeks to shepherd change for IU on the football field.

Having secured two straight top 50 recruiting classes, Allen wants to keep that momentum going. And that should be another benefit of his purely head coach status.

“I want to be the best recruiter on the staff,” Allen said. “I want these coaches to understand how important it is to us to get the best players, and it takes a ton of time. A lot of work, a lot of hours. It’s been paying off, and we are getting players on our team that are considerably different than what we had in the past.

“Now we just have to keep getting more of them, and we have to shore up the o-line and the d-line.”

Finding big bodies that can move is a difficult task. That will take energy and effort. “That never stops,” Allen said, smiling, as he mimicked his fingers typing away on a cell phone.

“I love what we are building, but it just takes time,” Allen said. “I wish it happened faster, I wish it happened two years ago. But at the same time, I haven’t changed in my resolve and my focus and what I believe we have to do.”

10 comments

  1. I am of the opinion that this is the best move for Allen and his maturing as a head coach. Few if any head coaches hold a coordinator position. I know Spurrier did it at Duke, UF, and USC, but he had already experience as a head coach during his days with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.

    With Wommack as the DC the IU defense will be getting a clone of Allen, who was taught by Wommack’s father. There shouldn’t be any huge change in the style of play or scheme, so the returning players will have a firm grasp of their responsibilities. The defense will need to overcome the youthful inexperience of the DL.

    1. SOSD,
      I think you hit the key point, “With Wommack as the DC the IU defense will be getting a clone of Allen.”
      They are cut out of the same defensive philosophy cloth. TA may mentor young Wommack to a certain degree, but I think you will see Wommack being given much more room to run things as he sees fit, as long as the results are positive.

  2. Just depends for example mike leach,jimbo fisher,chip kelly,joe moorehead,lincoln riley,dan mullen,jeff brohm all called plays for the offense and they had success of course kelly didnt last year but its an acquired taste some can do it while focusing on the big picture and most would rather take CEO approach

  3. Smart move….and ‘mature’ move by Allen.

    You have to instill the confidence and there is no better way than via delegation and promotion. Smart leaders realize that there is rarely a best way to do anything. The blending of different ideas, utilizing varying people skills and personalities along with different approaches to a problem ultimately comes with rewards beyond any immediate realization.

  4. Allen has chosen his Coordinators. He’ll be in tune with their plans during the week but will let them lead on game day.

  5. Head coach, staff, and team developing a football program together. How beautiful that may become? IU is fortunate to have T. Allen. (not that there aren’t other high character coaches). After 6 seasons at Florida, Urban Myer players had 31 arrests and some were of the serious nature. How much is on Myer is debatable but it does correlate with the type of players he recruited, leadership, and supervision.

  6. Allen doing chin-ups in the weight room with the players? There’s that gravitas thing again; I can’t imagine Ara or Bear grunting alongside their charges.

  7. I’ve nicknamed my stomach the “weight room.” There’s that fajitas thing again.

  8. I’d appreciate it if Wilson toned down his sideline celebrations this season or at least became more selective about the circumstances in which he goes bonkers. Nothing wrong with being exuberant and celebrating good plays, but he needs to save the bonkers behavior for when his team produces that signature win or until it produces the sixth of seventh win of the season. If IU accomplishes either, I’ll join him in going totally bonkers.

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