Allen: Hoosiers just “gotta win”

During Big Ten media days in Chicago this week, Indiana coach Tom Allen wasn’t going to give away fine details about offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s new scheme.

But he was perfectly willing to say what it wasn’t.

“Well, we’re not running split-back veer or the triple option under center, so I don’t think it’s going to be dramatically different than it has been in the past,” Allen said.

True, most college football programs aren’t looking to copycat the run-heavy schemes of Navy and Air Force.

While some statements made at conference media days are bound to be vague, there were moments where Allen’s words were both memorable and meaningful, outlining both the trajectory of the program and specific players.

Here are a few that stood out:

We gotta win”

Media days tend to attract questions that are about more than just one team. For instance, Allen was one of many coaches asked about the possibility of realigning the Big Ten’s East and West Divisions, an issue he was mostly indifferent about.

“They may decide to do that, I don’t know,” Allen said. “But I’ll promise you this: they won’t ask me.”

At the same time, another question about declining attendance nationally for college football games hit home for Allen. Attendance at Memorial Stadium declined 6.8 percent from 2017 to 2018, averaging 40,965 fans per game.

But Allen wasn’t about to talk down to IU’s fans. He recalled last year’s Penn State game, as weather worsened and attendees exited.

“Like I told our players … ‘Well, you know what, we win that game, we find a way to finish that game, and they regret leaving. OK?’” Allen said. “Many left early, we didn’t finish the game, and they are like, ‘Told you so.’

“I’m not blaming anybody, I’m just saying, that’s on us and what we gotta do. We gotta win.”

Winning close games — and, in turn, energizing the program — was a topic of conversation for both Allen and his players Thursday. It will take better depth to win those contests. They will need more production in the red zone.

But first, the Hoosiers have to put themselves in position to succeed. This offseason, Allen has been preaching the virtue of just doing a little bit more.

“Maybe it’s stretching, maybe it’s an extra set of squatting or benching, or maybe it’s extra jump rope or more sprints,” senior left tackle Coy Cronk said. “It’s something extra every day and it’s a conscious effort.”

Losing can be a powerful motivator.

“You lose sleep over it. It makes you nauseous,” Cronk said. “You come up short, then you come up short again, and now you have three years of coming up short. It’s not where I wanted to be. It’s not why I signed up to be here.”

“There is nothing like the power of knowing somebody could take my job”

Stevie Scott was a revelation for the Hoosiers last season, setting IU true freshman records with 1,137 rushing yards, 228 attempts, and 10 touchdowns.

But one year’s freshman sensation can be the next year’s flash in the pan. The term “sophomore slump” was coined for a reason.

Allen wouldn’t expect to have that problem with Scott, though. Not with freshman Sampson James ready to roll. And not with junior Cole Gest returning from injury and sophomore Ronnie Walker waiting in the wings.

“We’ve seen a lot of guys have big freshman campaigns and then kind of lay an egg as a sophomore because they think they have something going on and they don’t prepare the same way,” Allen said. “One thing I think helps him is he’s got a whole bunch of guys in that room that are very talented. Because of that, he better not let up, because if he does, he’s not going to get to play much.”

Regardless, with so many capable running backs, Allen can’t guarantee Scott is going to put up the same numbers as an individual. A team’s total yards is what counts.

He does believe Scott should be better than ever, especially coming off his first full offseason with the program. At the same time, Scott can’t be overconfident.

“To me, even though he had a great freshman season, it has nothing to do with his sophomore season,” Allen said. “It might give him confidence, but it isn’t going to get him any yards at all.”

”He’s positioned himself to be dominant”

When Allen listed his main concerns for the upcoming season, depth along the offensive and defensive lines was paramount. There is a reason the Hoosiers went and got a couple of junior college defensive tackles in Demarcus Elliott and Juan Harris.

But as far as starters go, Allen was bullish on redshirt junior defensive tackle Jerome Johnson.

“I tell him ‘I want you to be a dominant three-technique in the Big Ten,” Allen said. “They shouldn’t be able to block you, because you are so fast, you can run sideline to sideline, and that’s what I expect him to be.”

As a program, the Hoosiers talk a lot about the need to develop strength through the weight room, and Johnson could be a shining example. The Mississippi native came to IU with only one other Division I offer, an FCS school, Alcorn State, but he has developed his 6-foot-3, 295-pound frame.

Most important of all, he’s improved his work ethic.

“I challenged him about his work ethic and the way he walked into the weight room, his demeanor. Sometimes he acted like he didn’t really want to be there,” Allen said.

“I expect him to have his best year, I do. I’d be highly disappointed if he does not, because he’s so athletic and he’s so strong.”

”Could be a game-changer for us”

As part of their training program, the Hoosiers have placed an emphasis on measures like “miles per hour” and acceleration.

Speaking to the latter, Allen mentioned his top two performers.

Of course, “husky” Marcelino Ball, one of the most athletically gifted players on the team, can accelerate in an instant. Second on that list: Reese Taylor.

Taylor, the sophomore from Ben Davis, bounced between defensive back and quarterback in 2018 because of a depleted group of IU signal callers. But now the former Mr. Football is set at corner, and he could be someone to keep an eye on.

“He’s going to be really special,” Allen said. “He’s so quick, he’s so explosive, and he’s got the toughness to play defense that I didn’t know for sure he had coming out of high school.”

Of course, it would have been really hard to know, because Taylor was too busy making defenders miss as a Giants quarterback. But he came to IU wanting to play cornerback, where his ability to accelerate and break on balls could be useful.

“He believed that’s his opportunity for the best chance to be where he wants to be years from now,” Allen said. “He’s going to be a returner in the special teams game and he’s going to be a great corner. … Could be a game-changer for us.”


  1. When this season is over we may look back and say why didn’t more see how improved the team would be. On the other hand, we could look back like usual saying what might have been. If IUFB’s fortune changes this year then recruiting, the S&C program, with the changes in the staff assignments will be a big part of that change.

    Coach is right that at times you just have to WIN. Are there tough enough players on this team to make plays at critical times? You have to want to make the play to have a chance to win the game and having players that want that role turn programs from also-ran to winners. I hope 2019 is the season where things begin to change for IUFB despite the schedule challenges.

    1. They’ve been posting a ton of new player pictures on Twitter. The S&C program is definitely doing their job as V13 noted recently. Jonathan King looks way bigger and stronger. James Miller looks like the Junkyard Dog now. Even Penix looks like he’s put on some serious muscle.

  2. “Win Today”….”Gotta Win”….?

    Thus begins again the curse of using the “win” word. You mustn’t read from the book! You have awakened ‘The Army of the Dead Wins!’

  3. Just an observation using updated roster;
    15 OL 300+ lb.
    11 of 15 310+ lb.
    6 DL 300+ lb.
    4 of 6 310+ lb.
    The same weight gain trends which I didn’t commit to memory are prevalent throughout the roster. Lots and lots of extra muscle. The LB weights are the biggest I can ever recall for IU. Should be a positive in holding their own or wearing down opponents. Some may not realize or believe what has happened across the LOS from them.

    1. I think players seeing these changes in themselves are the reason many of them are saying they are coming and teams better watch out. The bigger sized LBs inside will help take on B1G offenses – HC they are bigger than I remember too; part of that is recruiting players like Bohomme that comes in 6’3 238. Some of our young players have a chance to be special players in the B1G.

        1. And judging by the new player pics on Twitter, those program numbers look to be true.

  4. 2019 I U Football attendance should increase with home games with Ohio State and Michigan both of these teams have good fan support of following their teams on the road. Better weather conditions should also help, 2018 season other than the Ball State game had poor weather conditions. Purdue has increased their season ticket sales by 2,400 for the 2019 season and that’s an area that I U Football needs more people in the stands to get the football revenue to a respectful level to support the program.

  5. maybe i am missing something, but the head coach just advise that his best two “Game Changer” is Marcelino Ball (husky position) and Reese Taylor (defensive back). I understand Marcelino Ball came in to play the husky position….But as stated Reese Taylor was switched between offensive and defensive positions (slot receiver, running back and wide receiver) last year. Why wouldn’t you have at least (attempted) tried to play Reese Taylor at quarterback at some point last year??? Presently you have a game changer player, whereby the only time he will touch the football will be on kick returns or punt returns … i hope that our present offensive cord is a lot better than the last offensive cord and finds a way to get the football to Reese Taylor in space (on the field of play) I hope he is an excellent corner-back, with the potential to be in the NFL….but if not Indiana needs to find a way to get him on the field offensively. I know that Reese Taylor is a special talent, but can he beat out defensive backs Jamar Johnson, Noah Pierre, Devon Matthews and others defensive backs that practice that craft or positions on a daily basis. Reese Taylor should definitely be a (or occasionally) backup to Whop Philyor slot position (get Reese the ball in space).

    1. RT was a winner in high school because he is a gifted athlete, not because he is a gifted quarterback.

      He knew this and that is why he will be a cornerback. Personally, I think he made the right call.

      Who knows? He might have been the next Randal El but that is not how the smart money would bet.

  6. IU79, maybe the answer can be found in what TA said; RT believes his best chance for a future in the NFL is playing cornerback. Maybe it was as much RT’s decision as it was the coaching staff’s. RT had to suspect that the odds of playing quarterback in the Big Ten and in the NFL were stacked against him. If he’s as smart as I think he is, RT must believe that his best chance of playing professionally is by becoming a cornerback.

    IU South, isn’t it kind of sad to suggest that home-game attendance will increase because OSU and Michigan fans travel well and will buy a lot of tickets to watch the game in Bloomington? You’re probably right, but it bothers me that those fans will probably represent 35% of the total number of people inside Memorial Stadium during those two games.

    It’s been a while, so can anyone tell me if the highway (37) construction has been completed or improved enough so that it will no longer be an excuse for not attending IU home games?

  7. Po, Highway 37, is now I-69 and basically completed toMartinsville, with some work started to connect with Indy. The Ohio State followers are close to 50% of the crowd, with some IU SeasonTicket Holders selling their tickets to Ohio State Fans. I spoke with some of the Ohio State fans, and it’s easier to buy away game tickets and nearly impossible for them to get tickets for the home games.

  8. As I recall R. T. did want to play qb in college. Though still on that track while coming to IU he was probably advised and the decision making process led to a different direction. Anyway, he needs to become relevant game day as a sophomore.

  9. Reese Taylor wasnt going to see the field as a QB,for the the life of me i dont know why some of you continue to pedal the notion that a 5’10 175 pound guy can take major D1 punishment at that position For 12 games plus if can recruit then there is simply no need to entertain that idea other than wildcat packages once or twice during a game this isnt the sun belt or mac conference

  10. 4 of the top 6 and 5 of the top 10 hs players in Indiana are lineman. IU went after all but got none. MId level teams like Iowa, Michigan State and Minnesota owned IU at the line of scrimmage last year and those are the types of teams IU needs to beat to actually break through. Those top recruits all verbally committed to teams IU played last year. Losses in recruiting battles usually mean losses in games.

    1. They have stars in their eyes and IUFB hasn’t shown that yet but it will come with more Southern players coming to Bloomington.

    2. Saffold, Spriggs, Kinney, and now Big Wes all prove that these recruits may have made bad choices! Recruiting is a game of chance for everyone!

  11. I was glad to see this article that added some insight into how Tom Allen and IU played out at media day. I admire TA for not hiding behind some slogans or excuses, but holding himself and his team accountable: they do gotta win. He gets it, and knows it’s what will ultimately put fannies in the seats. I believe IU has an excellent man at the football helm in TA. And I truly hope he proves to be a very good if not excellent coach as well. Time will tell, and he should be given time to show what he can or cannot do.

  12. Coach Allen’s Diminishing Expectations:

    2018: Break Through!
    2019: Finish (we can still break through)
    2020: We gotta win

    Always better to under=promise and over=perform than the other way around.

    1. The penchant for Allen to over talk / over sell is one of several examples of his lack of head coaching experience that have hurt him. Hope he’s learning those lessons.

      1. Oh please. You must have the memory of a goldfish.

        At least he’s winning a few games. Kevin Wilson was preaching ‘Win Today’ en route to a 1-11 (0-8) season.

        1. So it’s ok for TA to preach ‘Breakthrough’ then have the team regress as long as another coach said something outlandish and also underperformed? Is that how that works? Moving on to a more interesting point- the football reporter for TheHoosier said the best performing quarterback in the spring wasn’t Ramsey or Penix but Jack Tuttle.

        2. I was actually speaking about the obvious missteps of a rookie coach, something that’s been evident with Allen. If you want to divert the conversation to Wilson, that’s fine, and it’s fair to say he also stumbled due to his lack of experience, though not as badly as Allen has. It’s also fair to say the team Allen took over was infinitely better than the one Wilson did, so one of them was in a much better position to deliver solid results early (neither did, however).

  13. Any slogan that went onto a billboard(e.g. ”Win Today”) was the work of Fred Glass. Wilson inherited a program from Bill Lynch. I highly doubt Allen would have survived for three seasons in the same scenario. Wilson had built a far better foundation for Allen…I’m pretty sure most reasonable fans would agree that Lynch was, hopefully, the bottom. Lynch won 3 conference games in his final 3 season (one per season with 11th place, 10th place and 11th place respectively). Wilson won 6 conference games in his final two seasons.

    Puhleeeeease! Let’s quit pretending Allen and Wilson began their coaching at IU with similar teams.

    Lastly, maybe should try “Win Yesterday!”

  14. To have forgotten where Bill Lynch left the program is the “memory of a goldfish.” A dead upside down goldfish floating in stagnant water was the ‘Bowl’ Wilson was gifted.

    1. If you truly believe that, and aren’t a hypocrite, you must think Tom Crean is some sort of basketball god considering the team he he took over.

      Must be hard to keep up with all those flexible standards.

  15. You’re the one with the “flexible standards.” You made enough for Archie and the New Albany one-and-done with his “wrecked hand” ….It’s all whatever suits your personal fancy. We’ll be keeping up with those flexible standards longer than the excuses made for Crean’s coaching incompetence.

    One man’s wrecked program at IU because of a 3-way calling scandal…is another man’s wrecked beginnings because a ‘god’ of a basketball player from New Albany hurt his wrist. Hypocrisy abounds.

      1. Chet,
        I believe his knee must be feeling better or maybe much worse. We were getting a kinder gentler H4H there for a while and I for one, was starting to worry. If our dear Jester ceases to be our Jester we won’t have a jester at all.

        Now that I have teed it up for him so eloquently, I fully expect a classic response.

        1. There really isn’t any kind of behavior baseline.

          Don’t make the mistake of thinking there might be some sort breakthrough. Many of us have picked up that snake before only to be bitten in return.

        2. You’re skating on thin ice, thinkaboutit.
          I finally got an appointment with a knee specialist….Dr. Harding….Dr. Tonya Harding.

    1. It is.

      I honestly have never been happier in my life than right now. My body is tattered and torn but it does what I need it to. Love where I wake up every morning. Married 34 years to the love of my life and the kids don’t ask for money and seem to like me.

      That’s all I need.

        1. Harv, nobody owes you an apology for being happy just because you are miserable.

          I did the work, made more good choices than bad, and seized opportunities with fervor. The harder I worked the luckier I got.

          You could have served in the military, just like several of us on the Scoop. They have an open door policy. Everybody had a story about why they ended up there.

          You could have worked nights with three little kids at home while you went to grad school. Good times.

          I have no idea what your game plan was or how you chose to pursue it but it doesn’t matter. That is entirely on you.

          I’ve had health issues, just like everybody else. I just played the cards in my hand. Hell, Harv, I’ve got the Big C but, you know what, everybody has something. You just frickin’ deal with it. I consider myself really, really lucky because things seem to trending in the right direction. Despite falling apart I’m pretty healthy. In fact, I just got back from the gym. Now, I’m gonna blend up some fruity/veggie concoction like I do every single day because that is what you have to do.

          Your grim outlook is on you. The fact that other people being happy bothers you is not an attractive trait…to anybody.

          Suck it up. This isn’t a rehearsal. You can run out the clock or you can make your life better. Either way…it’s all on you.

          1. It’s all good, Chet. I’m glad you got some things off your chest there. Some of what you said is true…Much is not quite so bad a portrait.
            Anyway, you take care of yourself. I wish you nothing but the best days ahead….and for your family too. Do you still have a dog you take on trips? I used to enjoy those stories…

      1. You know,
        There are times when being able to use emoji’s here would be very useful.

  16. Chet, your last post articulated my circumstances. My only source of consternation is working for an arrogant, narcissistic and obtuse man who has no clue how to motivate, manage or lead people. Otherwise, life is good, but would be even better if IU won seven football games in 2019.

    1. I’ve certainly enjoyed some bosses more than others but I never had to deal with a really bad one and I’ve experienced a lot of really good ones.

      Luck of the draw, I suppose.

      The only problems on that front were when folks higher in the food chain thought I should put more emphasis on work than family. I always considered that my ‘time to update the resume’ signal.

  17. Never suffered “narrow scope” bosses very well. Either trying to chase you out of the office when you had a task to do that could only be done in the office or calling you into the office from the field for some very inconsequential meeting that could have been covered over coffee and donuts some early morn. They could always tell someone how it’s done but never had done it successfully or unsuccessfully himself. Gave up on having a boss about 40 year ago and it’s been damn pleasant.

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