Baby for Riggins, injury for Taylor, and other notes from fall camp

Indiana cornerback A’Shon Riggins has a great task trying to cover all that he needs to cover.

Standing before him are the Hoosiers’ receivers, big and tall. Behind him are a contingent of young corners, freshman Tiawan Mullen and sophomore Reese Taylor, just to name a couple, who are capable of unseating a senior like Riggins if he fails to cover the way he should.

But the smallest and youngest person in Riggins’ life has added new meaning to the word “coverage” — or the shifts he has to cover as a new dad to a 3-week-old daughter. His girlfriend shouldn’t have to do it all.

“It’s been a blessing, really, and motivation, as well, to just push through every day because I know I get to go home and see her,” Riggins said.

Sage Justice Riggins was born July 14, 2½ weeks before fall camp opened for IU football. There is just a little more on Riggins’ plate now, but it’s not unmanageable.

Senior receiver Donavan Hale has a 2-year-old son, Weston, who spent time at practice Friday. Hale has been able to offer Riggins some advice.

“The (biggest thing) he has told me is make sure I give her mother some time, like a break, take the baby, give her some time to sleep, especially during camp,” Riggins said. “Because they are with them all day.”

There are challenges in being a new dad. “She has her night and day mixed up right now,” Riggins said. But he says it hasn’t cut into his sleep too much, thanks to Sage’s mom. It’s also tough not knowing what his daughter is crying for, whether it’s a diaper change or food.

But the pluses of being a dad are more than evident.

“I think the best part is just seeing her smile, man,” said Riggins, while also smiling. “That’s the most beautiful thing to see. And she looks just like me. Of course she has a cute smile.”

In the dog days of camp, it doesn’t hurt to have something like that waiting for him when he comes home.

“It was a blessing and motivation all in one,” Riggins said. “Just another thing to drive me and put some fire behind me, just to keep going.”

Taylor coming back

At Friday’s practice, 2017 Indiana Mr. Football wasn’t suited up. Taylor was spotted on the sideline with a wrap around his right arm.

But defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said it wasn’t serious.

“Just got a little hand issue,” Wommack said. “I think he’s going to be all right.”

Cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby went on to say the Hoosiers expected to have Taylor back in a matter of days.

While an injury has taken one of the Hoosiers’ young corners out of commission for a short time during camp, Shelby still has more than enough bodies to work with. Along with Riggins, seniors Raheem Layne and Andre Brown return with plenty of experience. And a player like Mullen, the younger brother of Raiders corner Trayvon Mullen, has impressed.

“He has all the tools to be one of the top DBs in the coming years,” Shelby said. “He just has to keep learning. That’s the biggest thing. This season is long, there are a lot more checks. You can’t just go out there and run around.”

“Chess” is a word Shelby continues to yell at Mullen, emphasizing the thinking part of the position.

“What’s the next move?” Shelby said. “Great chess players anticipate the next move. People don’t just line up in formations. That’s one thing I have to get him used to. … He has a great football mind, and I’m excited about him.”

Depth is something a lot of position groups at IU are touting right now, but there are a lot of names in the mix at corner, including sophomore Jaylin Williams and freshman Larry Tracy.

Shelby reminded that no one’s starting position is safe, even the seniors. He thought back to walk-on Ben Bach, who rose up the Hoosiers’ depth chart in 2015 and started in a bowl game.

“It’s a long season, it’s a physical league, everyone has to be prepared to play,” Shelby said. “Everybody’s getting pushed. Andre and A’Shon are doing a great job of being vocal leaders, along with Raheem. I’m very excited about our guys. We have a good group.”

Creating a culture

Wommack may be in his first season as IU’s defensive coordinator, but this isn’t exactly a new challenge.

Aside from last season, when he was strictly the Hoosiers’ linebackers coach, Wommack, 32, spent two seasons apiece as the DC at Eastern Illinois and South Alabama. He called coordinating his “comfort zone.”

“I love building a culture of defense,” Wommack said. “I think our scheme is great. I think we are ahead of where the game is going and where it has been. But at the same time, the building of culture, to get players to execute at a high level and care more about each other than they do themselves, that’s what is fun about this time of year.”

Wommack likes to define IU’s culture as “Swarm D,” which means getting 11 hats to the football. A “loaf,” or any time a defender does not hustle to the ball, will be counted at practice, and it comes with a punishment of up-downs.

The defense has found other motivational tools, as well. During red-zone drills Friday, they were heard chanting “yibambe,” which is what the comic book hero Black Panther has called out to his fellow warriors from Wakanda in recent Marvel movies.

However you slice it, this is a motivated group.

“At the beginning of camp, I told the defense that we should have the mentality that we can be the best defense in the nation,” Riggins said. “A couple of years ago, we had a goal of being a top 25 defense, and I think we are a much better defense than that.

“We’re better than we were last year, and we have to have that mentality and play with that confidence.”

22 comments

  1. https://twitter.com/IndianaFootball/status/1160253773085904903 if this is an example of how IU will play defense this year then there is reason to be excited about this season. Matthews is one of the young players I am excited about.

    It sounds as if IU support staff needs to talk to players about how to avoid fatherhood until later in life. It is good Hale and Riggins are taking on the role of being a father instead of walking away but until you are ready to be married to the mother of your child you shouldn’t become a father when there are preventions that keep you from being a father.

    IU has the talent at CB and Safety to be really good in pass defense and just need the front to put enough pressure on QBs to make them throw the ball quickly.

    Will this team excite fans this year or disappoint us once again; this group has a chance to change that mindset.

    1. So, you’re saying the IUD needs to be employed for more than just Saturday?

      There have been players who’ve been fathers on most IU football teams for decades. Basketball, too, including players on some of Knight’s national championship teams. Some have been married, others not. It happens, and it’s more prevalent than you know, both at IU and every other program.

      1. I was friends with players at IU and know there were fathers on teams as far back as 1978 when I was at IU following my time in the Marines. I still am disappointed at pregnancies that aren’t planned with all the info on contraceptives out there especially today. It doesn’t make them terrible people just irresponsible people.

        1. Not irresponsible, just different from you and your views. A’Shon seems to be facing his extra challenges just fine!

    2. I don’t think they really care what you have to say about their children and their lives. Leave the judgement at the door, support these young men on their adventure. Your values aren’t necessarily the same as others, so please don’t try to drag their names through the mud for having kids during college. Riggins is 22, not 18.

      1. If you have never in your life been in a position that might have resulted in an unplanned pregnancy…good for you, I guess. I have been guilty of spontaneity. I confess. I regret zip. I like my life.

        As Bear Down mentioned, we don’t know that it was not all planned. Would you make the same comments about ‘disappointment’ about a 22 white guy with a high school degree working as assistant manager at Firestone who will not be a college graduate in the spring with a bright future ahead of them?

        Whether these young men have families or not is none of our collective business. They are college students with families. Pretty sure they aren’t going to bring the collapse of civilization. There are plenty of others working on that.

        1. ^^^Agree with most of that…

          I also don’t think V13 was implying anything other than the difficulties involved in raising a child within the demands and time constraints of being an athlete.
          It is his life and there’s really nothing the IU family should do other than be supportive. I hope there are options made available by IU to help in making his transition to raising a family easier.

          The costs and the health insurance requirements ….may be easier to absorb if you’re a manager at Firestone. Does the scholarship athlete have any sort of coverage to aid in the costs? Maybe the mom works, but then that puts more strain on finding daycare, etc. There are tons of “Choice” activists and “Right to Life” defenders….Stances are easy. But who covers the cost?

          And maybe this is a great argument for paying college athletes…? Maybe they should have excellent family healthcare as well. Because if so many our profiting off their abilities, shouldn’t they have some financial protection and family financial security/stability offered by the NCAA and the institution in the event a child enters their life?

        2. A married senior couple in college starting a family used to be considered a sign of maturity. But having unprotected sex, spontaneous or otherwise, is reckless and stupid unless in a committed relationship AND trying to have kids. Bringing another life into the world and caring for that life for a minimum of 18 years should always be a carefully planned decision. Curious, who are these ‘others’ working on the collapse of civilization?

        3. I don’t believe anyone is taking a superior attitude about a college athlete having a child out of wedlock. All they are indicating is how difficult it is to have a child when they have so many other things going on in their life, i.e. playing a sport, attending class, studying, financial responsibility. If a player can financially support his child and wife/girlfriend without relying on public assistance I have no complaint, but if welfare is required then I have an issue. That goes for anyone who has a child and then expects the tax payers to provide for it.

  2. Always excited about IU D with Coach Allen in the equation. Safeties have to be particularly overachievers in helping CB’s and LB’s if the DL is below average. Hagen can get it done if talent is there and has developed. DE’s have to surprise from past couple seasons.

  3. I’m always disheartened when I see young people have a baby out of wedlock or when they are still teenagers. The Brookings Institute determined there are three proven rules that give a 98% certainty that you won’t live in poverty. 1. Finish high school. 2. Get a full-time job. 3. Don’t get married or have a child before the age of 21. Okay I’ll get off my soapbox.

    The positive attitude/mentality is appreciated. You have to believe something before you can achieve it. They will have to make a significant increase to achieve the #1 defense in the nation. National powers Alabama, and Clemson are going to be difficult to pass. Within our own conference MSU is going to be hard to challenge as they return the majority of what was the 10th best defense in the nation.

    Glad they have such lofty goals, and I will be pulling for them to achieve it.

  4. I think HC is right on, the DL’s performance will determine how good this year’s IU defense turns out.

    As for the other subject, being a parent is hard enough when you’re a mature adult in a good marriage. I wish these young fathers and their families all the best. There’s no excuse for not being a responsible and involved father to a child you helped create, so I hope these are young men of high character and that they will continue to be loving, highly responsible dads.

  5. The team seems to have more confidence this year and believe they can have a winning season. As I have stated previously if they can come out of the first 5 games with 4 wins or more they could really surprise everyone in the conference the rest of the year. I know it isn’t likely and it is more reasonable to be 3-2 coming out of the MSU game but being an IUFB fan doesn’t have much in common with being reasonable so I want to see 5-0 or at least 4-1.

    I too wish our two young fathers the best but hope others avoid fatherhood until later in life. There is a lot to deal with as a young father and it isn’t easy when other pressures are in your life too. I would make the point that there is no reason to be responsible to avoid pregnancy but responsibility is better late than never so being a loving responsible dad isn’t too bad.

  6. IU Football has pretty much owned ‘poopy messes’ and ‘baby steps’ …..We are forever the infants of the BigTen. “Breakthrough” is standing upright for 10 seconds before 50 years of poopy messes and baby steps starts over again….Oops, our cute little bundle needs some reassuring hugs. Uh-oh, just tumbled over. Another 20 years of crawling coming soon. Maybe someday we’ll get off the soft pre-conference foods…? Nope, it’s another opening game against Gerber State? Time for another nap…Repeat.

    And these new young fathers really think they’re bringing something new to a party?

  7. Athletes, Scholarships, Fumbles, Babies, Insitutions of Higher Learning, Tax Dollars, Tax Dollar Programs, Speaking of poopy messes…at game 2000 watched IU take big lead over Phillip Rivers and NC State with same result a poopy mess loss. Girlfriend and I went to some games during mid to late 90’s and early 2000’s. Often she would comment that IU pooped in there pants again.

  8. I wonder if we now have “changing tables” in the locker room….? If only IU Football could ever change…? Maybe it starts with the qb? Is that a hand towel hanging from our qb’s waistband …or a hypoallergenic and alcohol-free moisturizing baby wipe gentle as water?

  9. I am definitely not interested in watching a qb running and limping around trying to survive for his life mainly within a couple yards from line of scrimmage or in backfield or throwing the 5 or 6 yard safety ball over the head or behind his receiver.

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