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April 14, 2018

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

TOM ALLEN: Had a good, clean scrimmage. Really feel like our guys came in focused from our pregame voluntary chapel that we started the day with to our team meeting, which we had a lot of fun with. I just sensed a good focus from our guys, understanding that this is an important day for us because it's the next opportunity for us to improve. We've got so many new faces, so many young guys that every rep is critical, so really excited about the way that it was pretty clean on both sides, and I thought that our guys executed fairly well.

We'll get a chance to watch the film and see all that, but yeah, played hard on both sides and competed against each other and had a chance to have our specialists be a part of it and earn points and field goals, which I thought they did a really nice job with those. So a lot of positive things to build off of. It's been a great spring, and excited for us to get into our summer work. A lot of hard work ahead of us for sure, but I think we've had a great five weeks of spring ball.

Q. In what area do you think the team progressed most during the spring?
TOM ALLEN: You know, I mean, when you have this many new guys, especially on defense, just learning our system. You know, the fundamentals of it, getting their feet -- when you go against a tempo offense like we run, getting the feet set, understanding the base calls, base checks, and learning to play fast and confidently. I felt like we have a really good foundation for knowledge of both sides of the ball, and then to fundamentally improve our blocking and tackling. Those were two big areas of emphasis for us in the spring, and I feel like we made definite progress in those areas.

Q. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the offense because there's a lot of excitement coming up, obviously, but the defense, a lot of holes to fill, but it looked pretty good today.
TOM ALLEN: It did. I thought they tackled well. I thought that they were in the right position a lot, and that's just from the vantage point that I had. But didn't give up -- the windows were small in the pass game, and the run lanes were small in the run game, and I thought that max did run hard. So yeah, it was a good, solid day. That's how I would kind of describe it. Kind of a workmanlike attitude from our players, and I thought we had a good structure.

I liked the way it set up with our families to be able to be a part of it and our recruits' families to be able to sit there in the end zone and watch, and I thought it created a nice atmosphere for us, and you've just got to learn to adapt and overcome the weather, which has kind of been the theme all spring. I think we had 11 practices inside this year out of 15, which I don't think I've ever had that happen before, but that's okay. I thought it was a great, great spring for us, and the work is just beginning for the summer.

Q. Coaches are usually never satisfied with where they are right now because you always want to be better, but are you happy with where you are at this point or expectation wise?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I would say it's a process and a progression that you build. So when you talk about this phase of it, we have certain goals set up for spring football, and I feel like we've accomplished those goals and came out of the spring game pretty clean. We've got a couple guys dinged up, but neither one of them seems to be any long-term type of injury. I feel pleased with where we're at because the attitude and effort, the two things that those guys completely control, I thought was excellent throughout the spring.

Obviously we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a long ways to go as a football team, but you saw the growth, and we graduate one of the best kickers in the country, and we have guys that need to step up and make some big field goals. And got a guy coming in here in June that will come out of high school and compete, as well. Those are things that are a huge part of the program is special teams.

Q. It might be anecdotal, but do you see a faster team starting to --
TOM ALLEN: I think so. Sometimes when you see them all the time, you don't quite have a perception of it or perspective of it, but every time that someone comes and watches us that hasn't seen us for a while, they'll comment about the way our team looks and how well we move. So obviously part of that's recruiting, but a big part of that with the guys that are here is our strength staff. So a lot of -- we've got a 12-week cycle next for our guys, and that's a big deal for us as we get into -- and four of those 12 weeks are discretionary but the other eight are not, but those four discretionary weeks are critical, and guys understand that. When you believe in the people that are coaching you and leading you like our guys do, our strength staff, it really increases the effort, just the amount of focus you bring to each workout because they really believe in their hearts if they do everything they're asked to do, they're going to get bigger, stronger and faster, so that's encouraging.

Q. What is the key in terms of the summer beyond improving strength and conditioning? What are the keys?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, because of our youth, we have to do a great job as coaches. Within the parameters of the rules, we have limitations for the summer. We have to maximize those, and that means the development of our -- understanding of our scheme. A lot of that's meeting time that we can carve out legally, and we will do that, and then the player practices we will have over the summer have got to be at a higher level than I believe they've been in the past, now allow us to make up for some ground and some lack of reps that some of our young guys have. But we try to do a great job in spring ball of getting those base drills we want them to execute when they're by themselves over the summer during those player practices that will allow them to be able to get a rep base that will get a jump on and basically an advantage during fall camp. Those to me are going to be in addition to the strength and conditioning.

Q. Marcelino, having him back for all of spring, obviously especially with some playmakers lost, it goes back to the defense, what do you need next from him?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, his body is already -- he was already an impressive looking young man. He's even improved in those areas. He's bigger, stronger and faster, and what I need to see him do is be more consistent. He has got a tremendous skill set. His ceiling, I believe, is high, for his improvement. When you miss as many games as he missed, you come back, and even spring ball was a little rusty in the beginning, but I need him to lead that group of guys and do my job to the fullest of my effort and attention to detail every single day and then bring guys with me. I've said the same thing about Luke Timian, said the same thing about Wes Martin. I need that from him.

We don't have a lot of leadership on defense. We've got a lot of young guys, but when you're young and you're trying to figure everything out, it's hard to lead, because I'm always worried about doing my job. Some of these guys that have been here like a Jon Crawford and Lino and Jacob Robinson, those guys, Michael Barwick, now it's like they have to elevate their leadership because these younger guys, it's tough to be able to learn something and then lead, and so we're not asking those young guys to do that, we're just asking them to master their area of responsibility, so Lino needs to be more consistent and elevate his leadership.

Q. The linebacker room is young, but now Lino is there --
TOM ALLEN: That's right, and that's one reason why we put those guys in there was to try and gain some balance, and there's other reasons, as well, but the bottom line is that you see how critical he is to what we do, and he's a talented young man. We've got to elevate the next guy behind him. Isaac James had a great spring. He's shown some real promise there and the depth is growing. You look at a guy like Juwan Burgess, I thought he flashed today. He's a gifted, gifted player, but he's young, and he missed the whole season. Same thing with Bryant Fitzgerald. Those guys are special players that -- that's why I kept them in there. I said, they need reps, they need reps, and that's why we did that.

But excited about the depth that we could create. We have 12 of our signees here today, and there's some good looking young men in that group. It's an exciting time for our program. You know, but it has to continue. It's a process of building. It's a strong recruiting class that's coming in here in June, but you've got to have another one after that and another one after that and another one after that. So it's going to take time for sure, but I love the direction we're going, and more than anything, I love the mindset of our football team right now.

Q. How do you think your team dealt with the logistics of not having spring practices outside?
TOM ALLEN: You know, I think that kids are pretty resilient. I always tell our coaches, if we respond the right way and we're excited about it, they'll follow suit. You know, and as coaches, we've got a great group of men that understand that you've just got to make the best of certain situations, and hey, we've got indoor for a reason. I don't ever look at it as a negative. We're getting just as quality reps as we got if we were outside. I hate it that the fans couldn't be here, from that perspective, but in terms of our work that we needed to get done, I thought it was a great, great day, and I think, once again, the young men will follow the lead of the coaches.

Q. Who are four or five or six guys that really caught the coaches' attention this spring?
TOM ALLEN: I mentioned a few. James Head would be one that I feel like that really kind of jumped out to me. Ahrod Lloyd, I'm going to keep mentioning him. I know he's a walk-on that no one really knew much about, but you saw him even today making plays. That young man is going to help this program because he's quick, he's tough, he's strong and he's fast, and so to me, that's pretty good qualities to have, and he cares a whole bunch, and I'm really excited about him.

I think a guy like Britt Beery is developing. He's a young offensive lineman, and he came here as a D-lineman, moved him to offense, and he's continued to grow. Even though Whop played last year, Whop is a different kid. He's quicker. He's got a burst to him that he didn't have last year. We've kept track of his development, and he's putting himself in position to be -- he needs to be an absolute game changer for us when he touches the ball.

I've been impressed with Mike Penix. I've been impressed with Peyton Ramsey. Today I felt like -- he's a winner. The kid is a winner, and he's tough, and he cares. Here's what I tell our football team: I want guys that I can trust. I want guys that are tough. I want guys that are dependable. And that to me defines Peyton Ramsey, and that's a young man that's going to help this football team win a bunch of games. Whatever that role may be, he may be the starter, and I know that's what he wants, but the bottom line is he has all those intangibles that you want in a young man.

And also, I would say Mike McGinnis and Thomas Allen really improved a lot at the linebacker position, and that to me is a huge void for us in our defense. Reakwon Jones is a guy that really -- I know he won a couple awards for us for spring, but that was consensus by the staff and the way that he's played, and I could mention several others. I just think when you have such a young group of guys and so many new faces, we should be talking about somebody different every single week, and that's what I hope, that that's going to happen, and I just think that we've got to keep pushing each other. Coaches got to push each other, as well, and just keep building this thing.

Q. How important is it to have Marcelino Ball back?
TOM ALLEN: If you would have told me last year we were going to miss him for eight games and play the kind of defense that we played, I don't know if I'd have believed you, because he's that valuable to our defense. Great to have him back. He's one of those guys, too, when I talk about him being consistent, he's better when somebody is behind him that's chasing him, and that's why we've got to have that. That makes him better. But he's a very valuable component to our defense.

Q. Which position group do you feel like had the best spring, and which position group do you have the most concern about?
TOM ALLEN: I would say probably the group that had the best was the offensive line. I really loved the way they gelled. I think that, yes, we have everybody back from last year, but that's a critical part of our team. We're only going to be as good as we are up front on both sides of the ball, and they've been so impressive in the weight room. They've been so impressive in practice. Wes Martin is our leader, he's Mr. Consistency. He's our strongest player on the team. He's one of our most explosive players, and he's one of our best young men we have, his character and his leadership, so I'm not surprised that he's reflective of that.

I would say my concern is the linebacker role. I just know how critical the linebacker play is for any defense, and as young as we are, there's just a lot of question marks. Yeah, spring was good and they did some good things, but we've got a lot of work to do there. We're counting on some younger guys to come in here and give us depth at those positions, guys that aren't even on campus yet, so that would be my biggest concern. Depth at receiver, playmakers at receiver, obviously a bunch of guys out. I like the guys we have, but we've got to get some guys healthy, and we've got to get guys coming in got to step up and help us, and we've got to figure out how that room is going to look, as well.

But to me, there's always a lot of question marks that when you're not playing a game, you don't really know for sure what it looks like, but I do feel like this spring was very productive, and it was a great building block for our future.

Q. You were able to get Michael Penix in and obviously it was very valuable for him to come in early. Having Brandon Dawkins coming in later on after the spring practice and whatnot, how difficult is it going to be to get him integrated into the offense?
TOM ALLEN: It'll be challenging. To be honest, I think that's one of the realities of a guy joining in June after spring is already done. But he's also not a freshman out of high school. That's a major difference. He's a guy that played four years of college and graduated, very articulate, sharp young man, and has been a starting quarterback in the Pac-12, so that brings a different type of attitude and level of confidence. What we have to do a great job of is meshing his previous knowledge and skill sets to what we do, and that's a big part of what Coach Sheridan and Coach DeBord have to do once he gets here.

Q. Taking it one step further, how excited are you at the potential of having a quarterback like that come in with the experience he has, being so young at that position?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, you know, right now the oldest scholarship quarterback we had before we added Brandon was a sophomore. To be able to bring in a guy that's a graduate transfer was something that we felt like we needed to do, and we just had to find the right guy. So bottom line is it was very important for us in our program, and I'm excited about having him because I know competition makes all of us better. Iron sharpens iron, and bringing a guy like that into our program -- he's got to kind of prove himself. He doesn't done anything here, and he knows that. He's coming to compete, and he's coming to make this team better, and that to my is what I want out of all of our guys, especially in that room. That room drives your program. You're only as good as your quarterback on offense, and we know that position is critical, and so I'm excited to add another guy to a talented young group.

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