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INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 5, 2020
COACH ALLEN: The second signing day, seems to be a unique feel to it. First one came and went and getting ready for a bowl game, a lot going on. And this one is not as eventful because of the numbers you're dealing with.
Had a couple spots to fill today. And we were able to fill both of those, so continue to be excited about the offensive line additions and how this class has rounded itself out. We knew it was going to be a little smaller class than we've had.
But also adding Kahlil Benson, big ol' offensive linemen out of Southaven, Mississippi, just really excited about him and his potential here, as is the case with all these guys. They've all got to come here and prove that they're what we think they're going to be. But just from the physical perspective, obviously a big one, you want them big, recruit them big. 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 the school, just the kind of young man he is and the way he's viewed by the principal, AD, counselors, teachers, just really impressed. Getting a first-class young man that's going to come here, work extremely hard. And he's got tremendous ability to grow and develop in our program.
And then Jalen Mayala, defensive end, we were really trying to find this class, long, athletic, played linebacker, as well as rush end in Archer High School in Atlanta down in Georgia, just continues to give us more length on the defensive line, ability to create pass rush, which we're trying to get to. Just adds to the small group of D linemen that we brought in but also a lot of young guys in that room already.
So really excited about bringing those two guys into our class and also really encouraged by the nine guys that have been here already, the nine mid-year enrollees that are working very, very hard in the weight room and excited about their growth and their attitude, mindset, that it takes to be a Big Ten football player. So getting these guys enrolled is very big for us. And just really encouraged by their progress so far, getting them indoctrinated with their classes and their schedules and all the things we do, and more importantly just getting them used to being a college student-athlete, going into the workouts and managing their schedule and managing everything you have to do coming from straight from high school. And Dylan, coming in as a grad transfer, has done a great job so far.
So just 19 guys out of high school/junior college and one grad transfer that's already with us. So that gives us our 20-man class that we have for 2020.
Q. I think it's now seven offensive linemen with Benson in there. I know you lost obviously a few with the seniors. But do you feel better about the depth, I guess? Why was that such a point of emphasis in the class?
COACH ALLEN: It was. And you've got a little bit different levels there. You've got five high school linemen. You've got junior college player that has two years on the field to play with a potential redshirt as well, 3-for-2 as we call it in that regard, and also a grad transfer.
So it gives you a couple of older guys as well as five younger guys. So definitely needed to replace guys that we're losing at those positions. The O line is a very important part of our team. And they're all really guys that you want to get in here and start developing. That's why it's nice to get some of those guys here mid-year as well.
But just trying to get some inside guys, some outside guys -- outside meaning tackle bodies, which is length, guys that can play on the perimeter, and be able to have the mass to play on the inside in the Big Ten. It was obviously a big focus for this class and excited about the guys we brought in.
Q. Coming off eight-win year, going to the Gator Bowl, were there any examples of that success paying off in that cycle? And are there any early signs of it paying off in the 2021 cycle?
COACH ALLEN: I got asked that before. I think my answer was that I kind of felt like moving forward was where you were going to see the bigger benefits of it. A lot of the guys we had in this class were already either committed, really, really bought into what we were doing before we had the season we had.
But I do think getting a young man like Kahlil, I think that was part of it. I think he'd be able to talk about, not just to hear but to see, what we did being from that part of the country there where the SEC schools were heavily in contention for him.
And so that allowed us, against an SEC team in that bowl game and the season we had. I think that was definitely a byproduct of that. And for sure moving forward with the '21, '22 class, those next two classes will be very important for us.
Q. You talk about still getting adjusted to the new cycle when you first got up there. Have you settled into the idea of having the early signing period now and then this day following up a month later? And if so, how have you adapted over the past couple of years becoming a head coach and going through the different recruiting process?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I think you do. You go through it a few times. And we get into a routine now, we feel very good about the schedule I had and the second wave of going through and giving me as a head coach a chance to go out and visit different schools.
It's really a dual purpose; it gives me a great chance to get physically in the schools, spend time with coaches; meet principals, counselors and teachers, just kind of be very visible in those settings. And also get a chance to eyeball the young guys. I don't get to go out in the spring, as you know.
That's a new component. As you talk to coaches across the country I'm sure they all have that. The ones I talked to have similar approach. You just get your schedule used to that. You organize it accordingly to try and get a presence both in state and out of state, in key areas, and also bouncing that with the few guys you're trying to finish your class up with.
So you build your schedule off the guys you're trying to get in this class, and then you build -- those are the priorities guys -- and then you build everything around that once you get to a certain area.
Q. Departure of Coy as a grad transfer and Peyton putting his name in the transfer portal, a surprise in the offseason? Did you have any conversations? What are your thoughts how that could impact the team?
COACH ALLEN: Definitely conversations. Those guys did it the right way, talked to me face to face. 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.
Q. Could you revisit your depth situation now you've had a chance to see Dexter? And giving Peyton's news, do you still feel comfortable with your numbers and everything?
COACH ALLEN: I do, and we go through and you look at that room, Dexter's mid-year. So he's already here with us. I know he's already caught the eye of our strength staff in the way he goes about his business and his athleticism and his arm talent. Haven't seen him throw here but he throws with our players, they've already started those things. They obviously talk.
But I think that really encouraged by Michael Penix. We set out a plan for him and his weight has increased quite a bit since the end of the season. And really encouraged by that and have a specific plan for him.
When you go through -- 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 he was top of the list, just one of the top guys, just had a great work ethic and mindset coming back, just kind of 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, getting ready to have a big spring, big summer, and a good 2020.
Q. You talked about Florida as a place you want to hit, but you've taken guys now Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee. I guess, is there a comfort level or a response level that you feel like you're getting just from the South in general, especially with the backgrounds you've got on your staff of guys who have been in Florida and Mississippi and places like that? And two-fold question, are there other places that as you sort of think to 2021, 2022 and beyond, you'd like to try to open up -- I know the people use the word pipeline -- but opened up more recruiting opportunity in those areas?
COACH ALLEN: There's no question we target Florida. Have been pretty aggressive about talking about that and our numbers have shown that. Didn't get the same signings this year out of that group, but it's a cyclical thing that sometimes can change, but we're still spending a lot of time down there. We'll continue moving forward.
But I think the South in general, just in regards to the connections on our staff, I think that's a big part of it. I think that helps in a big way. And I think that you'd be able to go through -- and we have a good foundation here in the Midwest. That will never change; Indiana will always be my first priority.
I want to get the best players out of Indiana to come to IU and be part of this and branch out from there. So you really try to get to areas that you feel you have the best opportunity to get the highest level guys that can contribute and come here and be elite Big Ten football players.
We have a specific goal that we have for this program. And if you go through and look and see how our team has been shaped and the guys that are making plays and doing great things, a lot of those guys have come from the South.
But there's always going to be a core guy from the Midwest. We've expanded into Michigan. That was kind of the addition of Mike Hart and Nick Sheridan on our staff have given us that inroad there. And we've got a lot of players from that state, not a lot but several key ones. And got another one this class from the state of Michigan.
So I think Nashville we've targeted it as an area that we feel like we probably haven't got as much out of as we would like to. So moving forward, kind of target that more a little bit, moving into the next class and beyond. And continue to hit the parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Those are the ones that we have focused on and kind of spot recruit the Mississippi, Alabama areas, and then really aggressive in Georgia and Florida. So that won't change.
But once again, I think you marry it to the strengths of your guys on your staff to be able to have those relationships, to get in there, and the coaches that know them and trust them and be able to get those guys up on campus and show them what we have.
Even just this last cycle, we had guys we brought up here and with the additions we've had in our locker room and the facility upgrades and just the investment of football, it's creating so much of a change here that's not happened in the past. They see it. They notice it. It means a lot.
And I think even just the new extension for me and the new contract, just all the things are showing that we're building something and it's a long-term build. It's not a short-term type of situation. So I think all those go into it just trying to be very thorough with recruiting. We work very hard at it.
But you have to go where you have connections and have a chance to get guys on campus and get them -- to expose them to what we're doing, because every time they come they're just kind of blown away by what they see when they get here and then the culture and the family atmosphere that they fall in love.
Q. Obviously with the small senior class you knew it was going to be a smaller 2020 class, but as it seemed to swell by maybe one, two, three spots here leading up to the February signing period, how did you and the staff kind of talk and congregate and make sure you guys were adding an extra one or two guys while still maintaining the quality of those guys that you brought in?
COACH ALLEN: There's no question, it's a key. You have those discussions all the time. You're not just taking guys to just fill a spot because it's there. For me you're always thinking ahead. We're thinking two, three classes ahead of time and really going through -- and it's a process that we're not where we need to be yet. But when you look at your roster and each position and where the departures are going to come by grade level, and to have a better flow there.
We're still not in sync with that from the past or from what we were inherited. So I just feel like it's a matter of getting -- you like to have it where you don't want to lose a whole group of guys at one time.
Obviously when you have a big influx of young men like we've had in the last two classes, the current freshmen and sophomore were such big classes. Those guys are predominantly our team now. Two years from now there will be a big departure.
So just, through different means -- and that can be, even you start to get those numbers right through getting some older guys here. We don't do a lot of that, but we do a little bit of that. But I think it's just roster management. Always trying to think ahead, create the depth you need for the current season ahead of you. And always be thinking about the season next and the next and balance your roster and get offense, defense special teams flowing in the right direction with the proper depth to be where we want to be in the Big Ten.
Q. With the transfer portal becoming more popular, how does that affect your recruiting with high school recruits in terms of you could plug a hole with a guy who has been around the block a couple times as opposed to a high school player? And then how do you as a coaching staff, if a guy enters the portal, adjust on the fly to that? Is it something that you kind of keep in the back of your mind, or you just go with the flow and have a contingency plan?
COACH ALLEN: Well, it's definitely changing the way you view recruiting. I know just having conversations with high school coaches kind of over the last few weeks when you go out and they get in schools. I know they see how it's affecting the way colleges are recruiting, where you're still going to have the majority of your class is going to be high school guys. But now you have a group that you kind of, some are setting aside for those transfer guys, which is something you never discussed in the past.
So I think there's really two-fold there. The first part, when you say we've not used that as a major part of our plan here, I'm a big believer in developing, getting guys out of high school and developing those guys. But, when due to injuries or when you have guys on your own team that choose to go elsewhere, and it's obviously very, very common -- across the country now, everybody seems to be in the same boat with this. But bottom line is you have to have a plan when that happens. Sometimes you don't know. Sometimes you have a heads-up, sometimes you don't. So you just have to sometimes adjust on the fly when that situation occurs.
So to me it's just every school has their own philosophy how you're going to build your program and we've chose to build it off -- some have structure things, we don't recruit a lot of junior college players here for a variety of reasons. And so the academic piece is number one, and that has limited us in ability to bring in those guys that have a year or two left to play based on their academic status coming out of high school.
And we've taken a few graduate transfers, not very many. And so we've got one currently right now that we just took and trying to get maybe one or two more potentially, if that works out. But just talking to coaches, some guys it's a part of their plan is to be able to -- especially a guy comes in on a new staff -- I've seen it happen a couple of places, they come in new and utilize that quite a bit.
But it also -- there's variables involved with that. Every school is a little different based on your graduate schools and your admissions policies for those graduate schools and what kind of graduate programs you have at your school really can be a variable that's a big issue there.
So we take the resources we have and maximize them. And so to me I just want to be able to, as much as possible, keep guys here and develop them. And if they choose to want to have another opportunity somewhere else, then we'll work with them and help them.
Q. You've had about a month with these January enrollees. Any pleasant surprises, guys who might be more physically ready than you thought?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, and at this point it's all based on talking to our strength staff. I've had a chance here this week to be on campus with them, watching them lift and do One Team Run, which we had on Tuesday.
Damarjhe Lewis is one who jumps out to me both in terms of talking to the coaching staff and just what I saw. Big body guy who moves extremely well. We learned last year with Matt Bedford, when you come in mid-year 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.
And I think Dexter Williams, you know, 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.
Caleb Murphy is another guy, here in state, that -- 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. Luke Wiginton is another big, long guy. And Luke Haggard is another guy that the guys have commented.
There's several -- and all of them have done a great job. But I just think that it's such a -- it can be such a positive thing when you get them here this many months earlier, the weight room, number one, and the spring ball piece will come later. But from a physical perspective those two things really add up and it can help you.
Q. I think I saw with Kahlil Benson, there was a photo of you and basically the entire staff went to visit him. How does something like that come together? Obviously you have less people you're targeting at this point. But I guess why do you take the whole staff to go talk to him?
COACH ALLEN: It wasn't the whole staff but it was the majority, for sure. But it just sends a message that he's important to us and that we obviously can only go -- I can't be in multiple places at one time. So as we shared with them, I chose to go there as head coach; we chose to bring the majority of our staff.
That means if you're there you're not somewhere else. You can only do that in so many places. And he's a guy that we really felt strongly about. And we wanted to send a strong message to him and his family and all those that are associated with him that he's a part -- that we're definitely one big family here and wanted them to feel that in their home. I think it was a powerful message that we sent and they received.
Q. You touched on Mike's progress in the weight room. Is he still on target to practice in the spring? And have you mapped out his spring game practice schedule also?
COACH ALLEN: Yes he's been released. He'll be full bore for spring ball. We don't hit our quarterbacks in the spring. So that won't change. But he'll be -- whereas last spring he was not full. He just threw seven on seven throughout the spring, did not take team reps. So he's been fully cleared for that, is doing a great, great job. So he's close to 220 -- 217, 218 right now. Really changing himself there which is really important.
So he'll be -- plan is our spring game is scheduled to be on a certain date and we'll announce that soon. But he'll be in those practices, and getting a lot of reps and going full bore with the team and doing everything, no limitations.
Q. To that broader question, where is everything health-wise? I imagine there are guys that played through things and needed them cleaned up after the season. Are there guys you expected to be limited as you approached spring practice?
COACH ALLEN: There's a few. Going through the list here in my head, I know Peyton Hendershot will not be involved in spring ball, just getting, recovering from some postseason surgeries and getting his body right. But he'll be full bore this summer.
And so I know Thomas Allen still will be limited in spring in regards to no contact, still coming back from the shoulder surgery.
And then a couple other shoulder surgeries we had. C.J. Person will be limited for spring. And then Jeramy Passmore is coming back. He'll be out there, which is great. Won't be full bore with everything, but he should be able to do drills and do things there to progress and build that.
And Josh Sanguinetti same thing. He had surgery during the season. He'll be limited, but he'll be out there in a blue jersey.
So a lot more guys out there. Like we had the same thing last year with Devon Matthews where he was not able to hit during spring but got all the drill work in. So we have a few guys in that regard.
Stevie should be fine. Everything is looking good with him from him missing the bowl game.
And so other than that, I think that's the key ones that will be limited or not in spring. But don't really see anybody that has issues long term. I feel they'll all be back this summer ready to have two good solid months of June and July. They'll ready to go into fall camp with good recovery whatever they had postseason.
Q. You had a luxury last year that maybe only Nick Saban had was the quarterbacks -- 1A, 1B. With Peyton moving on, Jack Tuttle, talk about the development of him and the importance of him being ready because we saw how important this past season?
COACH ALLEN: Without question. And that's a challenge to Jack, and he's done a tremendous job working. 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.
He's got to be ready. And Dexter's got to be ready. And everybody else in that room.
But I think those as we know -- and it's very, very important that you have those guys ready when called upon. And Jack's going to be a very, very important part of this football team and very, very important part of our 2020 season.
I think it's true at every position, but obviously quarterback position, as we know, is extremely important and you need two-plus guys to get the job done.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the move, Kasey Teegardin, and then the new assistant coaches, Coach Wright and Coach Jones?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, really excited about the addition of Jason Jones. Actually, met him years ago. I'm a person -- I never knew Mike Hart before I hired him, so not every single person on our staff is a guy I personally knew. But it's usually going to be somebody that I knew really, really well that has worked with that guy that I can get a true, honest, day-by-day what's he like on a consistent basis.
But this is a situation where I did know Jason and worked with Jason. But first met him when he was at Oklahoma State and we were recruiting, and just always impressed. Such a sharp guy. And you can just tell. You can tell with these people. You get to be around them more.
We coached together at Ole Miss and just an excellent recruiter, excellent football coach, can really coach the whole back end. He's coached corners, safeties, can kind of do anything he needs to do back there. The chance to bring him on our staff was a great thing for us.
And I really, with the departure of Coach Inge to Fresno with Coach DeBoer, my first thought was to move Kasey there. And I know he's done it in the past. But it's kind of like myself. When I, as a defensive person, and Kasey is a defensive coordinator at a smaller level, like I had, and to be able to have the big-picture view of commanding the special teams -- because you stand right here you've got the whole team with you when you do -- we have special teams meetings every single day during spring practice, during the fall. It's just a big part of the team.
So, to have that personality in front of the group is very important to command that room. And then also to be able to have that ability and desire to want to grow and expand in your leadership on a team. So to me, special teams are -- because I experienced it myself and was predominantly a defensive-minded person as a coordinator and had a chance to go into that role at Ole Miss really for the first time at that level.
And just dove into it and learned it and was able to have a great experience. So, I challenged him about that when I first talked to him about taking on this opportunity and to be promoted to the special teams coordinator.
And Kasey has embraced that. And I think he'll do a great job. We have a great system in place with that unit and culture that's been established.
But just want to continue to grow it and want to see someone come in there and put their own personality on how kind of we motivate and lead them, the structural part I'm going to be very involved with.
And I love special teams play. I know how critical it is. And just want to -- I'll continue to be involved with helping in that transition to a new special teams coordinator.
But really exciting about bringing Jason on board and then having Kasey in a new role, he'll do a tremendous job with that group.
And he's also going to coach our Huskies as well, which in the past we've divided it up different ways with our staff. So, that will be great for him, and he's excited about that as well.
On the offensive side, the addition of Kevin Wright as our tight ends coach, just couldn't be more pleased with about bringing a guy in who I've not personally coached with in the past, but coached against many, many times. And so much respect for him. And every place he's gone he's done extremely well.
And just wins and develops players. And you talk to his former players and you look at the product and you just know what you're getting.
He's an Indiana guy. He's just -- his dad's been 50-plus years in this state as a high school coach and counting and still coaching at Sheridan. And all the years he spent in Indiana just helps so much in recruiting the state. He knows everybody, so well connected. And then you go down to IMG and spends five years down there and loses two games in five years, which is pretty amazing.
But it's a unique situation. They obviously have been there many times, recruited there, and his connection with the whole country, high schools across the country that they've competed against and then interacted with. And also an extremely great reputation in the state of Florida.
He's going to help us in recruiting, even here, big time in the Midwest and the Cincinnati area and the Indianapolis area, and have a big, big presence there, which is where he spent so many years coaching and where he was raised, on the north side of Indianapolis.
So, it's always about fit for me. 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 weight room and I'm meeting with guys all the time -- there were several already today again. And it's just really neat to see this team just buy in to what we're doing.
And every offseason it just keeps getting better and better in terms of the work ethic and the mindset and the buy in and just the belief in what we're doing. That to me is critical with the coaches that you bring in, that we're all aligned philosophically with how we do things. It doesn't mean -- you 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.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports