Allen on IU’s 2020 class, midyear enrollees, Penix, and more

To reel in the final piece of Indiana’s 2020 recruiting class, head coach Tom Allen utilized many of the program’s existing pieces.

Allen walked into the home of Mississippi offensive lineman Kahlil Benson with Hoosier line coach Darren Hiller, as well as offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan.

And receivers coach Grant Heard.

And defensive coordinator Kane Wommack.

And secondary coaches Brandon Shelby and Jason Jones.

And special teams coordinator Kasey Teegardin.

“We wanted to send a strong message to him and his family and all those that are associated with him that … we’re definitely one big family here, and wanted them to feel that in their home,” Allen said. “I think it was a powerful message that we sent and they received.”

Benson, a 6-foot-6, 332-pound offensive guard from Southaven, Miss., signed with the Hoosiers Wednesday to fill out the 2020 class, along with previous verbal commit Jalen Mayala, a 6-6 defensive end from Dacula, Ga.

Those additions bring the class to 20 total, smaller than previous years. That has affected its rank on recruiting sites. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Hoosiers have the No. 58 recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports.

But in that class, IU heavily targeted a position of need, offensive line, bringing in five freshmen, a junior college recruit, and a grad transfer. Benson, a former Ole Miss commit, is considered the No. 44 guard in the country, according to 247Sports. He picked IU over Mississippi State and held offers from LSU, Tennessee, Memphis, and Kentucky, among others.

“You want them big, recruit them big,” Allen said. “And he’s long and has really good size, already 330 pounds plus. But just comes from a really, really great family. I loved getting to know him. And when you go to (his high) school, just the kind of young man he is and the way he’s viewed by the principal, AD, counselors, teachers, just really impressed.”

Benson is just one piece of a somewhat evolving puzzle for the Hoosiers this offseason.

Coaching changes continue

One of the coaches not in Benson’s home that day in late January was defensive line coach Mark Hagen, who according to multiple reports is heading to Texas.

IU has already hired two new assistants this offseason, Jones for safeties and Kevin Wright for tight ends. While Allen was not asked about Hagen’s reported exit, he did discuss the additions of Wright and Jones.

“It’s always about fit for me,” Allen said. “I want to get guys that fit the culture we’re creating. We’ve got a really unique thing going here. The more I’m back here and I’m with our guys, and going to the weight room and I’m meeting with guys all the time … it’s just really neat to see this team just buy in to what we’re doing.”

Allen crossed paths with both Wright and Jones in past years. Wright was a high school coach in Indianapolis in the early 2000s, just like Allen. Jones was an assistant at Oklahoma State when Allen was at Ole Miss, and Jones eventually coached alongside Allen with the Rebels.

Allen will have to dig into his rolodex one more time this offseason to replace Hagen.

“That, to me, is critical with the coaches that you bring in, that we’re all aligned philosophically with how we do things,” Allen said, referring to the Wright and Jones hires. “It doesn’t mean (you don’t) bring in guys with new ideas. Absolutely, I want that. But I want guys that have bought in to the way we lead and motivate and build relationships because, to me, that’s key to what we do.

“These guys that we’ll add to that, I think we’re really excited about our staff.”

On the transfers, Penix

In Wednesday’s press conference to discuss the start of the late signing period, Allen was asked about the departures of quarterback Peyton Ramsey and left tackle Coy Cronk.

Ramsey, who starred in relief of Michael Penix Jr. last season, has entered his name in the transfer portal, while Cronk, a grad transfer, is now at Iowa.

“Those guys did it the right way, talked to me face to face,” Allen said. “And just appreciate Coy and Peyton for all their hard work and what they gave to this program and wish them nothing but the best moving forward.”

The exit of Hagen, as well as Cronk and Ramsey, do leave the Hoosiers with a couple of lingering questions as this offseason continues to unfold.

The most obvious is the quarterback room, which will rely more than ever on the health of Penix. The rising redshirt sophomore, who was sidelined multiple times in 2019 and eventually lost for the season to a right sternoclavicular joint injury in early November, has been working to better fortify his frame against the rigors of Big Ten play.

Allen said the angularly built quarterback from Tampa, Fla., is weighing in at about 217 pounds, which is 15 above his listed weight as a redshirt freshman.

“When I came back from being on the road and, obviously, constant contact with our strength staff, and I had him just give me a top 5 guys in the weight room and (Penix) was top of the list,” Allen said. “Just one of the top guys, just had a great work ethic and mindset coming back.

“Obviously, the season didn’t end with him, with getting injured, the way he wanted to. Encouraged by the leadership he’s showing, the work ethic he’s showing.”

The hope is Penix will be able to stay healthy, but the departure of Ramsey does make it all the more important for the Hoosiers’ backups to be ready. As was the case when Penix went out, rising redshirt sophomore Jack Tuttle will be IU’s primary backup. Freshman Dexter Williams, a midyear enrollee, will be the Hoosiers’ third option.

“That’s a challenge to Jack, and he’s done a tremendous job working,” Allen said. “He has a great mindset. He’s excited to be in that position. And he’s getting bigger and stronger. And he’ll have a chance this spring to get a ton of reps and continue to grow and develop.”

Injuries, midyear enrollees

As spring ball approaches, Allen gave an update on the health of some other Hoosiers.

Rising junior tight end Peyton Hendershot will not participate in spring ball as he recoveries from offseason surgeries. Hendershot should be “full bore” by summer, Allen added.

In the “limited” category will be linebacker Thomas Allen, defensive linemen C.J. Person and Jeramy Passmore, and defensive back Josh Sanguinetti.

On the other hand, Allen said rising junior running back Stevie Scott, who missed the last two games of the 2019 season due to injury, should be “fine” for spring.

The Hoosiers also have nine midyear enrollees from the 2020 class, and they will be able to participate in spring practices. The first name to jump out of Allen’s mouth was freshman defensive tackle Damarjhe Lewis.

“Big body guy who moves extremely well,” Allen said. “We learned last year with (freshman left tackle) Matt Bedford, when you come in midyear, that increases your chances to be ready to play in the fall. So I think he’s a guy who really sticks out to me and our staff, as well.”

Allen’s mind then came back to the quarterback, Williams, and defensive end Caleb Murphy.

“Obviously, at the quarterback position, he’s got a million things to learn, but from a physical standpoint and a leadership standpoint, is a guy that our coaches commented on right away,” Allen said. “Caleb Murphy is another guy, here in-state, big, 6-3-plus guy, 250-some pounds coming out of high school, big athlete, plays both sides of the football, high school wrestler, variety of things.

“Could play tight end, defensive end, a lot of different positions that he could be in. But just attitude, moves well, bends well. Those three guys stick out. (Tackle) Luke Wiginton is another big, long guy. And (JUCO tackle) Luke Haggard is another guy that the guys have commented.”

17 comments

  1. Gang,
    The initial report on MP’s weight gain (220) that I saw doesn’t match what Jon is reporting at 217, but that is still a good jump. If the S&C guys are able to continue this trend, would love to know the thoughts out there.

    1. The exact quote from Allen per the transcript: “So he’s close to 220 — 217, 218 right now. Really changing himself there which is really important.”

      1. Thanks Jeremy,
        That explains the different numbers. If the S&C can work wonders with MP’s durability, he can sure cause some DCs a major amount of headaches with that arm.

  2. I really wish TA would have given more minutes to Jack Tuttle and allowed him to throw a lot more passes. Tuttle got limited garbage time in games that were well in hand, and when he did play, all he did was hand the ball off and kill the clock. That could come back to bite TA this season, because it’s just not likely that Penix will stay healthy the entire season. Other than PR’s limited number of games last season, when was the last time an IU starting QB played a full 12-game season?

    1. Heck, when’s the last time any starting P5 QB played a full season? Well, last year I’m sure, but it doesn’t seem like there were very many of them. Just about every 2d-on-the-depth-chart-QB is likely to see substantial playing time. Which is why Tuttle indeed should have been throwing.

  3. Recruiting OL reduces the rankings of the class and with 7 OL in this class it is the big reason it isn’t ranked as high as the previous classes. 247 ranks two of the recruits as 2 stars but other services have the two as 3 stars.

    I understand why coach Hagan is leaving and I hope coach Allen can come up with an even better DL coach like he did with the last two coaches he hired. Penix is likely to be close to 225 by the time the season the starts. I hope now that Tuttle has been in the program for the year he will be better prepared to compete for the job.

    With all the young players, especially on defense, IU could surprise teams next year especially for the top four teams IU plays. I hope the team wins more games next year and really jack up recruiting in 2021. IU needed to bring in a number of OL to make up for the past several years, but I hope after this year they have the roster balance and can go after all positions. It should be a good year next year, if Penix can stay healthy all year. If coach Sheridan calls plays as well as coach DeBoer did, then the offense could improve with a much more improved defense IU could surprise teams next year. I also hope coach Teegardin can improve the return teams along with the punt and fg/xpt teams. If all this happens then IU could knock off a couple of the big boy teams.

  4. I’m relieved they did as well as they did. That said, in my opinion Hiller must be a ‘great’ teacher because he has a helluva’ time recruiting 1-1. When the entire staff has to show up in a kids driveway in the deepsouth,…well. I don’t know who the DL coordinator is at MSU, but it might be a good time to strike while he’s likely up in the air. I said 10 months ago that Luke Fickel would takeover at either ND or MSU. Hmmmmm.

    1. Brad,
      There is something you have to understand about the kids down here in the deep south. Convincing them to go north to play football is not always that easy. Mainly because they do not consider football up north to be on the same level as the region they are from and for good reason. If you are holding offers from multiple SEC teams, why would you want to go to the B1G, or any other conference. The only reason is will you play or not.

      At LSU, he would be a little fish in a big pond. The trick for IUFB was to get a kid within an hour’s drive time from Mike Leach at MS state and Lane Kiffen at Ole Miss away from home. That is not easy to do unless you can show him a lot of southern connections, which is what TA did. You have to remember, TA is very familiar with recruiting northern Mississippi as he coached at Ole Miss. KW and JJ are also familiar faces to the southern world. If both Leach and Kiffen had not been just recently hired and trying to get things going, this would not have happened. TA was very fortunate to get this kid.

      1. You realize Kiffin didn’t pursue him once he got the Ole Miss job, and that both IU and MSU were the only ones chasing him at the end. Neither had long term relationships with him, especially MSU, since they wanted other kids first.

        1. BD,
          I was very well aware of Kiffin’s recruiting actions which also include a major league faux pas of not notifying another recruit he had withdrawn an offer. The recruit holds a press conference on signing day to announce he is going to Ole Miss, only to find out afterward the offer had been withdrawn. IUFB was very fortunate to catch Benson before either Kiffin or Leach had time to settle in and establish the relationships needed in the area. Mississippi, like Louisiana, is a very deep talent pool, especially when considered on a per capita basis.

  5. Considering all things not being equal in football, thinkaboutit is correct….
    But, for a moment, consider how it would play out if all things football were somewhat equal? If the football was equal, would it be more likely for a parent to be joyous in expanding their kid’s horizons by sending him from the upper Midwest to the Bermuda-billy Triangle of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana…?

    From my vantage point, there’s no amount of exceptional football played in the South worth the regression present in placing a teenager at the hinge-point of discovery forks in the road to adulthood into the bosom of mega gun stores meets the strongest Trump base.
    There are more important things than national championships…

    Kudos to any young man with tons of football talent who is using it to expand into the frightening territories of diversity and opportunity beyond that which is the mirage of football; where the travels may take him to a norm that isn’t states bound by the desires of 70-year-old congressmen with lifetime Senate seats holding all things paving the way to true diversity, healthcare, livable wages and equality hostage.

    Bloomington may not be utopia …..(and it does reside in a state digging into a stubborn form of uber-conservatism seemingly stronger than ever in its history), but I still believe any young man (or young woman) will be exposed to viewpoints and ideas which, thankfully, still open up and bend as easily as our defensive line against an Ohio State running game.

    The ironic thing here….? ThiNkABouTit’s beautiful deep arguments, personal expressions, and creative thought always in full display here on Scoop is our best argument to come to Indiana. He loves ‘Southern’/SEC football…but it is his temperament of debate and his broad mind which speaks to the value of Indiana University.

    And on the other side of such ironies? I sort of find it troubling that Allen wants to turn Bloomington into a ‘Southern’ destination with all its overwhelming ideologies so narrowly kept narrow huddling up together under the veil of football. Hoping a Swinney will soon pluck him from Bloomington and place him where his brilliant football mind meets the preachings of Neanderthal games of checkers in caves long before the dinosaurs arrived.

    1. H4H,
      I’m sorry to say, you, and most who post to this board, really know very little about the south. So many are as trapped in the old stereotypes as I was many, many years ago when I first emigrated from my native Hoosier state into the deep south. Make no mistake, in general, the southern culture is far from perfect, but it is no less perfect than many of the other areas of this country I happen to be quite familiar with. As for sports, the southern basketball culture can no more compete with our historical Hoosier basketball culture than can northern, western, and east coast football can compete with the south these days.

      As for the political commentary, you will find I have no desire to engage in any such discussion on this platform. I seems as if every area of our lives have been politicized beyond reason. I really wish we could keep sports the one area where we fight over what really matters – whether or not we will beat PU tomorrow.

      1. You’re probably right…I do think it’s an interesting coincidence that the required delegates getting our current president elected align very neatly with states where college football is its strongest. Make of it as you will. Winning college football is a pathway to the oval office…
        And please try to tell me that the college football championship pregame festivities wasn’t politicized when considering the manner our commander-in-chief used the platform. It was beyond obscene. It is politicians more than citizens “politicizing” sports…..And when they do so, I believe journalists (along with and any commenter on sports threads) have every right to address why they believe politicians may pick certain sports …or certain targets (e.g. Kaepernick) to align or alienate with sectors of a population (demographically or geographically).

        I’m sure we are all “trapped” in stereotypes to varying degrees. A grandpa I never really got a chance to know headed to Arkansas when I was a very young boy….He became quite the recluse. Maybe I took it too personally.

      2. Common ground…? I’m sure I’d pick many of your favorite places of the ‘deep’ South as a destination to visit or live before West Lafayette.

        I guess all places are what you make them to be….It’s to your credit to be open- minded and to have searched for new experiences.

  6. think, the points you made in the most recent post are good ones. But I think you left out the appeal of having a better chance playing/starting that IU represents. Or should I say IU represents a lower risk of not playing for kids that are not five star-rated HS players. You sign with most SEC schools, there are four or five guys as good as you competing for playing time. At IU, the competition for playing time might be between two players per position. So a highly rated 3-star player, or even a four star player is far more likely to be a starter at IU than he is at LSU, AL, Clemson, Georgia, Florida, etc. Those schools grab a bunch of highly talented kids and then let them sort out who starts. A bunch of kids transfer, but the coaches don’t care because they’ll just re-load with next year’s recruiting class. It’s survival of the fittest in many of those SEC FB programs, but with IU, the approach may be perceived as a bit more humane and nurturing. And since many of these kids want to take the shortest path to the NFL, if you’re a starter at IU for two of your first three seasons in Bloomington, you have a good chance of being drafted after your third season in college.

    Now that IU has upgraded its football facilities and locker room, and improved the S&C program, there are fewer reasons why a talented HS player would exclude IU.

  7. Heck, when’s the last time any starting P5 QB played a full season? Well, last year I’m sure, but it doesn’t seem like there were very many of them. Just about every 2d-on-the-depth-chart-QB is likely to see substantial playing time. Which is why Tuttle indeed should have been throwing.

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