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INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 26, 2019
TOM ALLEN: All right. Good morning. Exciting time of the year. Can't wait for this week. Been looking forward to it for a long time and really anxious to get the season started. I know we've talked after each practices and throughout the process, but game week's finally here, and we're really looking forward to this one.
A lot of hard work has gone into it since the last time we played, and a lot of just trying to get this program where we want it to be. So really, really encouraged by the response of our players and the way we've been able to grow together.
Had a great experience on Saturday with going to the Colts game; took five of our players and got a chance to be on the sideline there, and just appreciate the Colts and all that they do for our program and the way they handle things, and just appreciate Chris Ballard and his professionalism. So those guys that got to go really enjoyed that experience.
Got a really good strong group of leaders that I just think everything we do together just seems to exemplify those qualities of the kind of young men that we have in our program. Obviously today is a day that we are going to announce our starting quarterback, and our starting quarterback is going to be Mike Penix for the 2019 season. I know that's been a question that many of you have been asking about, and it was a very difficult decision in regards to the competition involved with the young men that, you know, Jack Tuttle and Peyton is just -- Peyton is an awesome kid. He's one of the finest young men I've ever been around. And so much respect for him, and that was a hard conversation.
But I love each one of them, and that doesn't change. None of that has anything to do with it. But those are tough decisions that have to be made by head coaches. And so it wasn't what Peyton didn't do. It was more of what I believe Mike can be. And so just we let these guys compete, and it was very, as we said all along, it was very close. We made the decision last week so we could get the proper reps. And I'm excited about the future of our program. Peyton understands his role, and the way he handles that and responds to that is critical, and he and I have had a good heart to heart about that. And I know it's hard. I don't diminish that whatsoever. But he's had an awesome attitude about it since outwardly, and I know he's a competitor and wants to be the guy. But he will be ready at moment's notice and accept that role and do an awesome job in that.
And as we all know, a lot of things happen throughout the season, and we're going to need all these guys. Going to need Jack to fulfill his role, and he's got a bright, bright future. He's got a lot of talent. So really appreciate the way they competed together and the bonds they built and the way they've responded to the situation. And now we're all behind Mike as our starting quarterback and looking forward to seeing him take off and lead this football team. Questions.
Q. Coach, you said going into fall camp that on paper, Peyton Ramsey was the starter and somebody was going to have to take it away from him. Obviously Mike did on the field, but what did you guys see that made you feel comfortable that he was ready to be the starter and took the job from Peyton?
TOM ALLEN: Well, for me he had to get healthy. You go through spring ball, and he was released to practice for spring football, but he was limited. If we would have had to play a full game in the spring, he wouldn't have been released for that, for full contact. So you had to get him through the summer and you had to get him into fall camp, and obviously we don't let our quarterbacks be live during the fall. But you have to see that it is back to 100 percent, you know, and then make that progression to be able to grow.
And the thing that's a little bit unique about the situation is it's not like he didn't play last year. He played well in the first game against FIU, played well against Ball State, played really well against Penn State, you know, before the injury. And so we do have a body of work to look at in games, because that's sometimes hard to tell in practice. So to me it was just about him coming back and just seeing where we felt like the best direction of our program is, once you go through those practices. But it was, I'm telling you, it was not some easy decision, you know, and it was a lot of discussions and a lot of going back and forth. But you gotta follow your gut, follow your heart and don't look back.
Q. Obviously you talked about it being the future of the program and the importance of that. Is it a game-to-game thing from here on or does he have a pretty wide leash?
TOM ALLEN: He's our starting quarterback here at Indiana. It's not a game-to-game decision. But like anybody else, he's gotta perform, you know. But it's not viewed like that. He's our starting quarterback, and so he's gotta go and lead our team, you know, and he knows that we've made our decision and he has my full confidence.
But I tell you what, and that's why I've said all along it's great to have three guys in that room that can play. It's a long season, a lot of things happen, and it's proven over time that you often play more than one. So we just gotta -- but, no, Mike Penix is our guy.
Q. We've seen him in practice, the mobility aspect, even, I think, in the fall coming back from the ACL, it didn't seem like it bothered him much. I know Peyton is a guy that could give you some of that running threat, but it always felt like Mike was maybe just that little bit faster and more explosive than the other quarterbacks. Is that something that you want him to utilize regularly or is it something where it's more kind of as the option presents itself or do you want him to be more of a true kind of dual-threat guy in that way?
TOM ALLEN: Well, I would say that schematically it remains to be seen that we want to consistently have a quarterback that can extend plays, you know, that can create with his legs, that's a threat to the defense that they have to acknowledge that. Peyton gave us that. Mike gives us that. Jack can do that.
In terms of just pure quarterback-designed runs, there will be some. That's going to be part of what we do. I don't know that there will be any more than there was before in the past. But I do feel like that to me, I always have the lens from the defensive side of the football and where those plays really, really hurt you is those third-down situations or those scrambles where they create with their legs, and you have to account for him in either the rush or with a backer or somebody to be able to have eyes on him. And it affects your coverages, and affects the way you rush the passer, affects the way you call things defensively.
So to me, I just see it being that guy that can create plays with both his arms and his legs, and I think that's where Mike's at his best.
Q. Coach, you talked about leadership and production when you were talking about deciding on a quarterback. What intangible qualities did Mike show in terms of that aspect of it, the leadership aspect? What kind of leader do you think he can be?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, and that's where I would say, you know, all three of those guys are somewhat quiet in some ways, especially Peyton and Mike, by personality. So they've both been challenged to be more verbal leaders, and I think that's an area that we both really worked hard at, Mike's really worked hard at. The thing that he brings that you really can't teach and coach is just that natural calm and poise. I mean he has that presence about him. The situation doesn't seem to be too big for him. He seems -- you put him out there, like I said, had he not played in games, you know, you just don't know. But he has, and I've seen that. And so that exudes to the guys around him. You get in those moments, and he's just kind of effortless at times about how he goes about what he does.
And so I just think that that's a leadership quality that it affects the people, it gives them confidence to know that he's just, you know, he believes. He believes in himself, and he plays that way. And he's got a very live arm and athleticism and all those things, but just that quiet confidence about him.
And there's no question; he's still young. He's a redshirt freshman. And so that's where I think Peyton can come along side him and help him in those areas. And that's a leadership piece that I expect in guys working together, and that's part of being a team. And to me, it's L-E-O. It's care more about the team than yourself. And we talk about LEO. We talk about I don't care who gets the credit because it's not about me. Those are challenges that I've given to that room, and we've given it to the running back room and the receivers and on both sides of the ball and the specialists.
So I just think that that's where the strengths that Peyton has, the strengths that Mike has, they can come together and work together, because at the end of the day it's about helping the Indiana Hoosiers win on game day. That's the part where its tests your true character of who you really, really truly are. So that's what I'm excited to see from our team.
Q. Coach, kind of a two-parter. Was this the most difficult decision you've had to make as a head coach here at Indiana, and knowing that it was going to take something special to unseat the incumbent quarterback how confident are you in how good this offense can be this year?
TOM ALLEN: Well, it probably has been the most difficult one. I will say the decision I had to make previously with Richard was hard, because I had a lot of love and respect for him, too. I'm a relationships guy, so if you take time to build relationships with these guys, it's hard to sit down with a guy that you know has worked so hard. So it was really tough to sit down with Peyton. That was a tough, tough, conversation, because I have so much respect for him. And that's not going to change. So I do care.
Also the thing that's neat is I think Mike cares, too. He cares what Peyton thinks, and he wants him supporting him, behind him, and he's got a great heart, too. So I think that's a neat quality for Mike and for Peyton to have towards each other. And I think Peyton cared about Richard and what he was going through. So I just think there's just a -- there's some high-character, high-quality guys that we're dealing with.
So it makes it hard when you dive into this and you know how hard these guys work and what they sacrifice to do what they do and help our team be successful. So, yeah, it made it really, really difficult from that perspective.
But then at the same time, you know, I believe in Mike Penix. I do. And I think he has a lot of talent, for sure. And he's gotta go out and realize it on the field and just keep growing and developing, and I expect him to. And I think we've got a lot of weapons around him, and I think those guys, they see it, too. They're at the same practice I'm at, you know, those running backs and receivers and linemen. And that's the thing that's so unique about this is they all would say, we have so much respect. We love these guys, and we believe in them. And they've told me, Coach, whoever you think is best, we're going to play hard for them, and we'll just follow your lead.
And so it's just -- you know, I think that we've got guys, and I told this to Mike, I said, Mike, you just gotta go be you. You don't have to be Superman. Just go be you; just play football and distribute the football to the guys around you. You got a talented receiver corps; you got a talented running back corps, you got big strong offensive linemen in front of you, and you just play the game and play with confidence and prepare at a high, high level and don't feel like you have to do everything yourself. Just go out there and just be you.
And I'm excited for our offense; I'm excited for what we can become, and Coach DeBoer has a great plan, and I believe in him. And so I'm excited for the future of our offense.
Q. With Mike being a left-hander, do you have any different kind of conversations either with Caleb or Coach Hiller, just all of a sudden Coy has been protecting blind sides for three years. Now it's Caleb's be job. Does anything change at all? Is that something maybe that you even discussed with Caleb kind of leading into fall camp saying, listen, if this does happen, then you need to be prepared for a little bit more kind of pressure on this side?
TOM ALLEN: There's no question there's a lot of things that you have to adapt to being a left-hander in terms of the movements and the way you -- certain throws, certain types of calls that you make or don't make based on the hand of the quarterback. I know even defensively we have things that we do based on whether the guy is right-handed or left-handed. So, yeah, those are adjustments that we've obviously going into this you're aware of it. From day one Kalen was aware that that would be always a possible. So even as Mike was in there, you have to make those adjustments.
But we got a left-handed quarterback, left-footed punter and left-footed kicker; quite a few lefties here at Indiana. That's interesting. I don't think I've ever had that happen before. But, yeah, we had to definitely make some adjustments with some of those things.
Q. Tom, considering that you were here with Peyton with a couple of years of game experience and Kalen wasn't, I'm just curious, what was the decision-making process like between your input and what Kalen's input was for the quarterback job?
TOM ALLEN: Well, I think you had a fresh perspective. He comes in it with no preconceived thoughts about anything because all he would have done is watched us play on TV a few times and then watched the tape. But he obviously quickly realized that Peyton is a special guy, special leader and tough guy and does everything that you ask him to do, you know. So, but I think it was a more objective, you know, in some ways ability to go through and say all three guys, you know, because really, it's -- and there's no question, I think, at the very end, you know, Peyton and Mike kind of separated themselves a little bit. But I think all three guys had a fair opportunity to, you know, with a blank slate come in with a new coordinator and learn a new system, and as I said from the beginning, that's exactly what we did. We let him -- there's a few things that we kind of kept, but overall we just said, hey, you come in and install what you want to call things and how we're going to do things. And so all three quarterbacks had the same opportunity. So I think he had a pretty objective way of evaluating it.
But we spent a lot of time, a lot of time talking it through and evaluating things and going through it and watching film and talking as a staff. So I just think that at the end of the day, you know, it was my decision, for sure, but I think there's no doubt Kalen was 100 percent on board. But we were -- like I said, it was not just some clearcut decision there. It came, you know, and we had to go through. So he saw the same thing I saw. But both guys have a lot of good things they bring to the table, so at the end of the day you gotta make that tough decision. You gotta pick one of them.
Q. Tom, as you come out of fall camp, who in your mind won the fall defense or offense, No. 1, and then No. 2, what are your thoughts on Ball State?
TOM ALLEN: Great question about who won the fall. We go through and do competitions each day, and I'm telling you every single day it came down to the wire on who would win that competition for the day. And oftentimes the last rep that we would come down to, and so we would have first-down competitions, third-down competitions. We would have move the ball, which is basically you put the ball on the 25 and if the defense holds them to a field goal, then they win that competition; if the offense scores a touchdown, they win, or if they drive the ball. Two-minute situations, you know. So I'd have to go back and look to be specifically accurate, but it was so balanced, you know, back and forth, which is good to see.
I felt like certain days -- you know, it seemed like whoever won the previous day, the next one came back the next day with a different sense about them. I will say that we had -- the last time we did end-of-the-game situations, the defense came up with two stops to win that, which was good to see. But we really put the offense in a really bad spot. They had zero timeouts and had to go score a touchdown. So from about 50, 55 yards out. So those can be challenging, with not much time left, less than a minute to go. So put them in a bad position probably for that.
But I will say that moving down, when they need to get field goals, that's when the offense usually had a pretty good job of winning those competitions. So I will say that, you know -- so I guess I'm not giving you a concrete answer because I don't know, you know, to say which one. It was so close. I very rarely felt like, man, when I walked off the field, one side just completely dominated the other side of the ball. I don't think I ever felt that way at the end of a practice. It was either one side were faster or stronger or vice versa.
And talk about Ball State: I got a lot of respect for Coach Neu. One thing, and I've told our staff and I've told our players this. All you gotta do is put the film on them and see how hard they play against us. And see how they started their seasons out. And they've played extremely well. If you look back since Coach Neu took the job, they've always played very, very well week one. So that's a tribute to him and their staff and how they get them ready through fall camp and managing that schedule and getting their guys at a high level.
And they went up to Notre Dame last year and darn near beat them, you know, and played extremely well. I'm telling you, they are going to -- whatever their very best shot is, we're going to get it. There is no doubt in my mind. So we gotta come ready to play our best football, and I know it's the first game of the season, there's a lot of unknowns. There always will be. You can study film all you want; the other coordinators are the same, and they've got a very veteran football team, and I have a ton of respect for their skill guys. They got some talented receivers. They got an excellent running back crew and a quarterback that played the last three games that did a really good job, played excellent against Western Michigan, a really good football team, when they beat them.
And 9 of their 11 starters are back on defense. So I know they've worked really hard, and Coach Elson is their defensive coordinator. I've known him for many, many, many years; excellent football coach and great football mind. So I know they're going to play really, really well. We're on a neutral site, a venue we've not played in since I've been here, and none of our guys have as an Indiana Hoosier team; some of them have played there individually. And it's a beautiful place, but it's new for us. So to me it's a great opportunity.
Our word for this week is prove because we got a whole lot to prove. That goes for the whole season. We got a chip on our shoulder, and we haven't played for several months, and last time we did it wasn't what we wanted. So we've had a long time to let this fester and let our guys really, really work hard to create change in this program, both recruiting and now player development, and now we get a chance to go out there and prove it on the field. That's why I'm so excited about Saturday.
Q. This is kind of a loaded question in a way, but how close in your mind was Mike to winning the job last year? I know he had the injury, but what were the things that maybe allowed him to close that gap and pull ahead as you think about evaluating him this time a year ago and now?
TOM ALLEN: I don't like to speculate on things that didn't happen. But there's no question he was playing well against Penn State. So I guess those things could have played out a certain way. He was definitely getting to the point where we were believing in him. Once you get to two guys and you felt like you could put either guy out there and they're going to do great things for you. I just think that for me -- what was the second part of your question?
Q. What were the things he did with the injury that maybe changed the way you evaluated him this time a year ago?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah. That's a good question. I think the biggest thing is another year older. If he was a true freshman and I didn't know certain things that would be, I wouldn't probably feel the same way about naming him the starter. So I just think that he's been in our program now, he came mid year, and he's here and he obviously had the injury. I know those injuries are hard. How he recovered from it, I think those are variables. I mean, to me, the grit that you have to have to overcome an ACL injury and to see how he handles the rehab tells me a lot about him as a person. It tells me a lot about his work ethic, his toughness, his fight; is he disciplined enough?
You talk to our trainers; how does he handle the process of going through that long rehab that that injury creates? And so I think that's another variable that helped prepare him to be more ready for this, even though at the time, I guarantee you it's the worst thing he wanted to have happen and had not been hurt like that before. But he'd probably agree it taught him a lot of valuable lessons.
And I think just the time. I rely on our shrink staff. Those guys, we talk a lot about our players and especially our leaders and just helping him grow in those areas and things we did over the summer. He's part of our leadership council, and just being able to be more verbal and taking ownership and calling out receivers when they don't do things the right way or run the wrong route or whatever. Just having that confidence, it takes time to get that. So I think those are things that I saw, and there's no question, just like any other young player, you know, you put him in those positions and you just -- you want to put him in a position to be successful. But he just needs to go take it and run with it, you know, and take off, and realize the full potential of what he can become, and that to me is really what you see and what you make decisions off of.
And you obviously have to have confidence that he's able to be the guy to lead this team, because it's different than coming in off the bench than it is being the starter and knowing you're the starter and standing in front of the media and answering questions. Things don't always go your way, and I told this to Mike and I said it to all of our quarterbacks when I recruited them, and that is that the head coach and the quarterback, those two guys are very similar, and their two positions are similar, and they get too much of the blame when things go bad and they get too much of the credit when things go right. But that's just the nature of being in those positions, and you better be able to handle it, both the good and the bad. So to me, that's part of the growth that that position demands.
Q. Coach, Ball State has won a handful of times in the recent history of this series. How much is that going to be a part of your messaging this week to the team?
TOM ALLEN: To me, any time we play somebody that, you know, on paper, you know it's a Big Ten Conference versus the MAC Conference, and I know the history of that. I've seen many, many MAC teams beat Big Ten teams, and it happened many times even last year. And so that to me is what we talk about, and there's no question I'll talk in the right way about the mindset that this football team is going to have when they step on the field against us. But some of that stuff that's happened in the past, you know, it's in the past.
I'm really focused on what we're building here and how we approach these type of games and how we play in these type of games and how we play to our standard of football here at Indiana. And that to me is what's the key. But I'm never one to shy away from the reality of what can happen. But it's week one, and if you're not ready to play week one, then you got issues, because it's been a long time to have a chance to play. And so I fully expect us to play our best football, and when those guys step on that field, that better be their mindset, too, or they're not going to be out there very long.
Q. Kalen has talked about the need to create more explosive plays offensively. What about Mike's game leads you to believe that he can create more big plays for the offense?
TOM ALLEN: Well, I mean, I guess in two ways, if you just talk about him at that position with his arm talent and his legs, you know. Those are two pretty obvious things that can create that. But to me it's not about throwing the ball 60 yards down field. It's the placement of the football to create the space for an underneath route that creates the separation by ball placement and velocity to be able to get him in position to take it and run with it after he catches it. And that to me are the variables that he brings to the table. But that's where he's just gotta go and execute the offense.
But that, to me is, yeah, those are things that I think that he has as some of his strengths, and that's what we expect to see.
Q. You talked about the ACL. Compared to last year in terms of his mobility and how he looked, is he 100 percent of where he was or would there still be some rustiness?
TOM ALLEN: No. I think he's 100 percent, and that's how we feel. And you look at him. He actually took a hit, not intentionally, but during one of our scrimmages, he got rolled up on, which I think was probably a positive thing just to know that, hey, I took a hit. And he was probably concerned at first, but was like, okay, I'm fine; I took a hit and now I'm good to go. He's going to get hit on Saturday. So it's live bullets now. There's no more blue jerseys. He's 100 percent.
Q. Speaking of hitting, how are you goes health wise going into the weekend? I know Reese Taylor had the hand. Is there anything else?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah. I tell you what, we're very pleased with fall camp. We went really hard and tried to balance it all out. But Reese is the only one right now that he's really day to day. He'll be back practicing here. He's practicing today and will practice all week. So we'll see where he's at.
But other than that, you know, so far so good on that. You never know how those things go, but credit to our shrink staff and credit to our training staff for doing a great job getting guys -- when they did get nicked up, getting them back and getting them prepared.
Q. Coach, Ball State has a veteran offense line. Probably not what you're going to see later in the year, but still, a lot of guys back who play a lot of football for them. You got a lot of new faces on the defensive line. How excited are you to kind of see how your guys do against a unit that's played together quite a bit and could give them some problems I guess?
TOM ALLEN: I think that's a good, you know, something to focus on. We gotta be able to -- they're very experienced, and I've coached against the MAC teams enough and offense line play there of the good ones, especially when they've been there a long time, and I felt like even a year ago we went down to FIU, their O line was similar; they had been together many, many years and played a lot of snaps, and they're well coached, and that's what I expect to see from these guys. So, yeah, it'll be a challenge. We got a lot of young guys, new faces and new opportunities, but yeah, that's where the game is won and lost is up front. So that's going to be a key thing to focus on, and we've just gotta prove on game day that our D line is what they need to be.
Thanks, guys. LEO.
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