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INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 27, 2018
TOM ALLEN: Brandon Hawkins had to leave the program. We wish him nothing but the very best. He's a fine young man.
Very excited about the two guys that I consider our top two quarterbacks. Peyton Ramsey and Michael Penix, the work they've done since they've been here and throughout fall camp, have done a tremendous job competing against each other, really doing a great job of putting themselves in position to win the conference for our coaching staff and teammates.
Got to go out and get it done on game day. Going to be moving Reese Taylor to quarterback. I think you know how I feel about that young man, how special he is. He's been working on offense throughout camp, but going to put him in that quarterback's room and allow him to be able to get grounded there, utilize him to the fullest.
I'm very excited about that room, what that room has, how they're going to be able to work well together, move in the right direction.
Then also excited about kickoff. Feel like our guys have really bought in this off-season, really excited to be able to see them compete. Went out and recruited to try to address our depth. All those guys are going to have an opportunity this weekend to compete for the first time as Hoosiers, multiple positions on both sides of the football. That's what excites me the most, is to be able to see those new guys be out there, representing our great university down in Miami.
Excited about the start of the season and really looking forward to game day. It will be here very, very soon.
Q. When Brandon learned he was not going to be the starting quarterback, did he give you any indication he was going to be leaving the program?
TOM ALLEN: Not at that point, no.
Q. What was his reasoning? What did he tell you?
TOM ALLEN: Just going a different direction with his life, so kind of wanted to sort some things out, figure out what's next for him for him. Along the conversations we had. Those conversations are personal and private. Like I said, I wish him nothing but the best. He's a good kid.
Q. Can you take us through a timeline of when he came to you or how that all played out.
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, as we always do, you go through and you have an intense competition, so you always talk to the young men the day before you announce it, which is what we did. From that point on, he was obviously making some decisions and thoughts for himself. A couple days after that he and I met, then yesterday he let us know where he's at.
That's the situation. Pretty efficient timeline. But it's game week. We're ready to roll.
Q. You talked about when he was going to name a starter, you were going to give them time before the mock game. As the one, the true starter, how much time is Ramsey going to have?
TOM ALLEN: He has had several days. The thing about it, really what I feel good about with whoever we decided to go with, was the ability to give them a lot of reps with the ones. We rotated those guys exclusively. Once I made the decision, we met with all three young men and told them who was going to be starting, Peyton Ramsey has taking the one reps since. Gave him a chance to get a couple practices under his belt, good through the mock game, go through everything what we did this weekend, which is game planning for FIU. He's had quite a few reps.
He as well as the other two guys throughout the competition have been with the ones quite a bit, take it during practice reps, scrimmage reps, into the practice finish drills where we're going through situations and working on that. So feel like he's had a lot of quality reps with the ones.
Q. What has impressed you and what do you like about the offensive side of the ball this camp?
TOM ALLEN: The thing that sticks out to me is the multiple guys that we've been getting the ball to. I think that's a key thing you want to be able to do, is distribute the balls to your guys that can make plays in space. Receivers have done a really good job. I say that comparing back to last year's fall camp, comparing the two.
I actually went back and watched film from the scrimmages last year, different practice sessions, trying to compare where we are, what the players look like physically, how they're moving and stuff. Just encouraged by the offensive production by our receivers. A lot of different guys catching balls. That's been encouraging.
The number of runningbacks that have shown up that are guys making plays. Offensive line getting push in the run game, being able to have just a consistent group of guys working together there that we didn't have in the past. So those things I think have helped those guys feel more confident going into week one and feeling good about their execution.
Obviously, like anything else still a new group that has to mesh together completely. I just think they seem to work well as a unit, now they have to go out and execute on game day. That's obviously what matters most. That's what everything you do is built around. That kind of sticks out to me.
Q. What has to happen for Morgan Ellison to be reinstated?
TOM ALLEN: That's totally out of my hands. I have no comment.
Q. Is it likely he's reinstated?
TOM ALLEN: I don't know. Just not in my hands.
Q. Couple years ago your first game history as D coordinator down at FIU. Different coaching staff. How similar or different are they offensively from what they were a couple years ago? How can they stretch your defense?
TOM ALLEN: Interestingly, they have a lot of the same players. They were young back then. We had to come from behind to beat them. Losing in the fourth quarter in that season. New quarterback, that is a difference. Runningbacks that played then are now older. Almost the entire offensive line have played a bunch of ball. Played with a lot of those guys a couple years ago. Receivers the same thing. Obviously new guys here and there.
New system, but interestingly similar in a lot of ways with what they do. They're more multiple. They do a lot of different personnel groupings, more than we're used to seeing in today's game. Don't see a lot of that like we used to in the past.
I think the strength of their team is the runningbacks and running game. Their offensive line is very, very mature and experienced. So they're going to have a new quarterback. They haven't named one yet. Whoever steps behind center will be the different from the guy that started the last three seasons. That makes them different for sure.
They've done a good job. Coach Davis obviously won everywhere he's been, recruits really well. They have some new faces we haven't seen yet play. They'll be good players. The last two times we played them, we've trailed going into the fourth quarter. That was before I got here, then the year I was here. It will be a dogfight.
Q. Talk a little bit about Luke Timian and Whop Philyor at the same position. Does that mean they won't be on the field at the same time or is that a part of how your two deep looks?
TOM ALLEN: That's part of how the two deep looks. They'll be on the field quite a bit. You kind of list things a certain way in terms of one personnel look, then you'll be able to find ways. Those are two of our better players. Getting them out there together, keeping them fresh, too. They do a lot of running with the way we operate offensively. But those are two of our better play-makers on offense.
Q. Looking at the two deep, is Justus the guy at kicker?
TOM ALLEN: Field goal kicker week one. That was a tight one, too. Went down with the older, mature guy. Just the way we charted everything, I feel like he's earned the right to be the starting field goal kicker going into week one. Charles Campbell is right there on his heels. We'll get a chance to see what he can do, too.
Q. Is that a situation because you have a right-footed and left-footed kicker, you can use one on hashes?
TOM ALLEN: That is very possible.
Q. Last year at the end of the season you talked about depth being a big issue for you. Do you feel like that area has been addressed in a positive way?
TOM ALLEN: I believe we're moving in the right direction, I do, in the area of recruiting. We're not where we want to be, where we need to be depth-wise. I feel better bit, yes, than I did a year ago. We have the plan to be able to play a lot of guys, not just because it's an early game. I believe that gives us an advantage in terms of late game finishes, in terms of stamina and execution at critical times. That to me, with our weight room, the changes we made there.
I do believe, yes, it's better than it's been since I've been here, not where I want it to be, not where it's going to be, but definitely moving in the right direction.
Q. I know injuries and things you can't predict this, with Reese going to quarterback, looked like he was going to be a guy that played a decent amount this year. Can he slide into the package you were thinking about using with Brandon Dawkins?
TOM ALLEN: I see him definitely playing, yes. Obviously we go through and reevaluate some things as far as how that's going to look. But he's a guy that I view as a play-maker. You want to get him touching the football. In some ways this kind of gives you a chance to be more creative with that, to be honest with you.
At the same time I still want him to be utilized package-wise on offense and now it's obviously expanded. Our staff had a lot of conversation about that young man, he's really special, not just as a player, but as a person. When I talk to him, Coach, whatever I got to do to help this football team. That's the kind of kid he is. His one word is 'adapt'. He made sure I remembered that as we were meeting with the coaches. That's pretty cool to me. He's an unselfish guy that loves IU. Those are the kind of guys we want to put on the field.
Q. You mentioned Thursday talking about the quarterbacks that Michael Penix will play early. Is it possible, likely he plays in the opener? How have you thought about that?
TOM ALLEN: I try not to pigeonhole that, back ourselves in a corner. It wouldn't surprise me if you see him on Saturday. I don't know when, where, how. I just think he's a young man that we want to be able to grow his development into the program and see how he handles all that and responds.
We'll find out for sure on Saturday how it plays out. Yeah, I do believe I'd like to get him involved.
Q. What did Hendershot do to beat out Dorris at tight end?
TOM ALLEN: I think for Peyton, he really was challenged, I believe, this off-season to play to his level. As I tell these guys, I want to see the guys here that we recruited. His athleticism, his ability to make plays in space, running and jumping and strength. He's a big old strong guy physically. Blocking. You got to be a complete player to play tight end. Austin has really improved. I was so proud of him. He's probably one of our most improved guys on the offense. So they're both going to play. Others in that position, as well. To go through, you have to list the depth chart. Probably sometimes we make more of that than we need to. They're all going to play. From there you re-evaluate. This is how we looked at you from the off-season, spring and fall camp. Now you get a chance to do it when it counts and we'll see how you do.
Week two could be a little different. But those tight ends are all going to play.
Q. New guys taking new roles on the defensive line. How do you feel how ready they are to perform and see them in game action?
TOM ALLEN: Jacob Robinson has elevated his leadership. Obviously been here for a long time. I love the way he owns the defense on the field, how hard we practice, how we run to the football, getting the guys together, getting their mindset right. He's a key. Gavin Everett is so solid in there, been a huge addition to be able to be a guy you can count on. His ability to produce. Allen Stallings is another one that's really grown and developed this off-season, his physical strength, stamina.
Love that group. On and on. Jerome Johnson has continued to develop. He's got to be a play-maker back. Ja'marez Bowen is another guy I've been encouraged with his growth. I'm anxious to see those guys play. We're going to count on them, rotate them, play a bunch of them. I didn't even mention some of the guys. Freshmen are going to play. Just really it's going to be by committee. That's how we've done it at that position last two years since I've been here. Not going to be any different. You start on both sides of the ball, big men lead the way, then those guys have to set the tone for our defense by how hard, physical and technically sound they play. That's a big part of what we do in our scheme. It all relies on their initial movement and how well they play with their hands and run to the ball.
I think it's a good group of guys that's bought in. Coach Hagen does a tremendous job of holding them accountable.
Q. Whitehead had a good year last year. What kind of progress has he made?
TOM ALLEN: The weight room has been good for him. He had not been a guy that had really maximized that area of his development in the past as much as he needed to. He got stronger, better condition. I think it's helped his leg strength with that. It's also more about just control more for him at that position.
I think a big thing we focused on is being able to pocket punt him, be able to do that as a part of our arsenal, to feel good about it. Obviously he has the ability to kick on the move, which is what he does best. To have the versatility to be able to change those launch points where we're going to kick from, improve in his accuracy in those types of kicks. It's all about ball placement for me, how we call things, how we set the protections.
I think he's just grown. He's got to go out and compete. A year under his belt now. At this time last year was his first football game ever in his life. He was nervous and so was I (laughter). I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Obviously he did a great job. Now he's pretty comfortable. Even just kind of knowing how to warm up before a game was something he had to kind of figure out. He was kicking a zillion balls before, I had to get him back and get that number under control. Year two for him to be able to just keep being a dependable guy that does a great job flipping the field.
Q. A rule that I think has flew under the radar is the headset rule. I think they originally made it 20, now 23. How does that change things? What kind of plan do you have in place so there's no snags on game day?
TOM ALLEN: It's created some changes. We've had to have several meetings about it. You have to designate who is going to be on the headsets. We're one of those staffs, whatever the rules are we're going to follow the rules. We've had to make some changes. Not massive changes. We don't have the numbers of staffing that some places do, which is really the intent for the rule, to create some competitive balance with some people's budgets, the way they're able to staff their coaches.
It's very strict about who is in the press box and who can be on a headset. Some programs are going to have a lot of guys that used to be that are not any more. That's not the case for us because we didn't have all those extra guys on our staff. It's a guy or two that we've had to tweak. But it does affect, you have to go back and look at how old certain guys are. That's part of the rules, to who can be on, who can be off a headset. The we had to go through and sometimes those rules have to be figured out, the fine print, what it actually means, ask questions, come back with all that. We feel good about it, got a good plan, feel like we're going to be able to maximize the information on game day, that's the keys.
Q. Special teams question. Jared Smolar listed as the kickoff guy. I presume on the road you can only take two kickers. Really nice to see J'Shun Harris' name. Talk about that a little bit.
TOM ALLEN: First of all, with Smolar, he's going to be our kickoff special it. When we brought him here, that's what I envisioned. That's the role he settled into. Has the possibility to be a long field goal guy, too, in situations of such. I think right now the rule is you can take 70 for a conference road game, then you don't have the limitation for a non-conference road game. Gives us a little flexibility this first road game we have to take a couple extra guys you wouldn't be able to take to a conference game. We'll do that. That usually affects special teams.
Also one thing that really helps us is Drew Conrad is a guy that's extremely talented. Our old holder, backup punter, can kick off, kick field goals if he had to. He gives us tremendous value. For that very reason he's probably our most valuable special teams guy on the teams because he can do so many things really, really well and he takes a lot of pride in running that side of the ball.
When it comes down to us taking the 70 guys, he gives us a lot of backups that you have, which is really a key thing. Every time I see J'Shun out there, I feel the same way. I didn't think he'd be able to go this year. When we first started talking to our medical staff, I kind of prepared myself in my first conversation with him. Kind of love him up a little bit. From the very beginning, he never flinched. Coach, I'm coming back. I was like, You serious? He said, Yes. This is before surgery, anything. He had his mind made up. I'm going to finish this.
He's been that way. Because of that, he's ahead of schedule. I didn't even think once he got injured he'd be back for this game. Got him on pitch count in his preparation. It just shows you the power of your mind and your heart and your attitude, how it affects the way you heal sometimes, the way you work at that healing process and rehab and everything. Special young man. He's going to help our team, be very successful at whatever he does.
Q. Marcelino Ball, what have you see in things he's improved on from last year? How important is his production for your defense to what you wanted to?
TOM ALLEN: Very important. When we lost him last year, I was really concerned. Fortunately we had some guys step up and fill that void.
The things that stick out to me first of all is leadership. He has completely embraced, I have to give Coach Wommack credit, because he's working with him. We moved him into that room to get him more in tune with those fits. Defensive back by our system. Just be able to grow him in that area of coverage with the linebackers. He has totally embraced the leadership role, taken Cam Jones under his wing, spent extra time with him, been in meeting rooms with him late at night during fall camp, helping him, which I think is really not something that -- it was always just about as long as we got him squared away, he'd take care of himself, ready to play, that was it. To see him embrace that leadership role has been huge.
It's also I think helped him be a better player because he's more locked in. You're showing somebody else what to do, you have to be on top of your game.
I feel like we've really worked hard with him finishing. Coach Nelson has worked with him a lot, he works with our huskies. Jim has done a great job of helping him finish on his pressures. That's where he's obviously gifted athletically. But to be able to get to the passer to use technique, to defeat offensive linemen, blockers. That's a big part of his production. We need that guy to be doing some things for us and how we play him. There's going to be times where he has to set the edge, be in coverage, and he won't be. When we do, he has to be able to finish those pressures.
Those are the two things that jump out to me. I believe he's been playing his best football these last few weeks here in fall camp for a lot of different reasons. Encouraged by his growth.
Q. J'Shun, for a guy who has seen limited time on the field, have you ever been around a player that has been able to make a bigger impact despite they've had limited time?
TOM ALLEN: Probably not. Not a guy that has been away this much. Speaks to his character. He's one of our guys, when he speaks, the guys listen. Whether it's after practice, little things that guys need to do or not do. He's earned their respect, for sure, by the way he's handled the adversity he's been through.
We all know when life throws you curves or throws you heartaches and tough things, that's when you grow. We don't like it, but we know those times cause us to expand and grow and strengthens us. That's what it's done to him. I think he's caused him to be viewed a different way, too, because of what he's been through, and he's been consistent in his attitude and his approach to life, hasn't chosen to feel sorry for himself and complain, do all this, whatever else he can be tempted to do when things don't go your way.
I just think that he's one of our leaders, on our leadership team. I think that's just kind of an example of how the guys view him. Just really proud of him. I just think he was raised right and he's taken that. Those invested in him along the way should be proud of him.
Q. Connection to higher powers to get the kind of weather you needed. Heat and humidity is back.
TOM ALLEN: I agree. It was warm during the mock game, started getting warmer. Has the Florida feel to it out there right now. It's very important. You can't simulate that. You can talk about it, do different things. I lived down there for many, many years. We have a big chunk of our players from the south. They'll be ready for that part. We need as much heat as we can get. It's definitely here.
Thank you. Have a great day.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports