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INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 6, 2020
TOM ALLEN: Welcome. Excited to get the 2020 spring football practice season rolling. We take the field tomorrow morning, and really, really excited about getting back on the field and coaching our guys. It's been a few weeks since we've -- more than a few weeks, but glad to be back with you guys and get the chance to see our team get back and play some football.
Got three -- always have goals, and this year I'm going to say more areas of focus for spring. We have a much more mature team than we've had the last couple years and a lot of guys returning, and so to me, as I share with our staff, just the focus on effort is going to be paramount. You always talk about that, it's always a big deal, man, I'm going to be all over that in every phase, every drill, everything we do, just to elevate the ultimate performance, just because of the competition that we have and the depth that we have. That's going to separate guys.
I don't care what drill it is, special teams drills, every single thing, we're going to be looking for the finish. We did that even yesterday morning with our team in our team run. It was just so much about doing little things right and finishing. So that's number one.
Number two is going to be attention to details, and that's obviously technique, but just all the little things. We've spent this off-season talking about one more. That's been our -- just the focus of after the bowl game and just coming up one short in that game. Just need one more stop, one more 1st down, one more a lot of things, one more kick, one more point at the end. So just the attention to detail. Once again, you've got a veteran group of guys, a lot more of those than we've had, guys that have played, guys that have been here, and just almost an obsession as a coaching staff with the details. That will be felt by our guys and our leadership guys to be able to embrace that.
And then number three is body language and eye contact. That's something I'm really going to emphasize with our guys, once again, just trying to get them to a whole 'nother level. These are all things that you naturally want, but just an extra emphasis on the body language that we have during the game, how we respond to adversity, just the eye contact with your coaches when they're correcting you. The essence of coaching is the correction of errors, and so how you do that is critical. And I want eye contact from our players with our coaches. Once again, just a heightened sense of the little things, to be able to elevate where we are and where we want to be.
So those are the three things that to me we want to focus on emphasizing, and just really excited to see, and with all the work in the weight room they've done the last several weeks, to be able to get them out there and move around with maybe a little extra muscle mass on them and how they handle that and just excited to see them move around.
I like the speed of our team and the way they've worked so hard in all the things that we've asked them to do, so those are things you really want to see from your guys when you get a chance to get out there, even though we won't have the shoulder pads on, we'll have helmets only tomorrow, and have a chance to do that.
And then also just want to officially say just such a huge thank you to Dave Ballou and Dr. Rhea for what they did for us, what they brought to us here. Obviously hate to see them leave, but we wish them nothing but great things there at Alabama. Learned a long time ago, you hire great people, you just aren't going to keep them forever. Love to always keep them a little longer, just like with Kalen DeBoer, same thing. But if you've got them for one year, they make you better; if you've got them for two years, they make you better, and I always challenge our team when we talked about this after it happened, hey, I'm going to thank those guys, they made all of us better, and that's why I want to just publicly say to them thank you and appreciate all that they did for us.
And also, just since it's already been out there this morning, just wanted to -- Sampson James will be back with us, will be back with us in our meetings tomorrow and be practicing with us.
That's good news for the Hoosiers. Sometimes you make mistakes, and he's admitted that, and it's been a few days, but we love Sampson. Nothing changes. Peyton Hendershot's status has not changed, so no update with that, but as that evolves and continues, I'll let you know.
Q. Are there going to be guys who maybe are going to have to miss because of some injuries, maybe some older guys that you don't feel like you need to put as much on because they don't need the reps as much? Are there some moving parts that we'll see guys maybe not as involved starting tomorrow?
TOM ALLEN: Well, first of all, we do have a few guys. You always have off-season injuries that you have to deal with. I know that Stevie Scott, just from a wear-and-tear running back position, didn't plan to overuse him in the spring, just wanted to be -- to continue to grow and develop and be at a high level, so I don't expect him to be as highly used as he has been in the past just because I want his body to be fully ready to roll in the fall. Thomas Allen will be coming back from surgery, so he will be non-contact throughout spring. C.J. Person had surgery so he will be out for spring and get a chance to get himself rehabbed. Josh Sanguinetti, coming back from shoulder surgery, will be able to be out there in pads, blue jersey, which means no contact, but kind of like Devon Matthews had a year ago where he was able to practice but not hit, and so he'll be in that situation. Jeramy Passmore, same thing, from his ACL injury he had in the fall, will be able to get some drill work in, won't be involved in team things. Dylan Powell is coming back from a minor surgery that he'll be limited in some things, but expect him to continue to grow and develop. So he won't be out there full bore for everything.
Those are the guys right now -- at this point going into fall practice. We do have some guys that we'd like to move around a little bit positionally. Dave Ellis is going to be able to be a versatile guy for us, already has been, playing running back as well as slot receiver and has the skill set to really play inside or outside receiver and specialize in returning kicks and punts, but he will do some work at running back.
And then defensively Brian Fitzgerald, Fitzy, will be getting some work at the husky position. We really want to try and take some of those secondary guys. We're a five-DB defense, three-safety defense, and Jamar Johnson will be able to play some free safety. Want to be able to move him around and create his flexibility. He just makes plays every time he's out there, so really looking forward to that, his ability just to be versatile.
To me it's about position flexibility. It really helps us become a better football team the more times we have guys like that able to move around, and spring is a great time to really experiment with that and get a lot of quality reps in, and I think that's really going to be helpful.
Raheem Layne is going to play some safety, the rover position, which is our safety to the field, by alignment. Will also cross-train back at corner, as well, but really feel like that he's gotten bigger and just trying to get our best players, once again, with the ability to play multiple positions. Just really excited about our defense. We're excited about our offense, and our specialists, as well.
Those are some guys. And then we'll be finding a new kicker.
I know that Charles Campbell is one that would be expected to be in that position. That's what he needs to follow through with and do, so he'll be replacing Logan Justus, at least initially, and that's what my expectation will be that he's the guy. So this will be his chance to come in that role without somebody technically in front of him.
Q. Obviously with the strength position, kind of where are you at in the process as far as the replacement and what kind of feedback have you gotten from people you've reached out to or who may have reached out to you about it?
TOM ALLEN: It's interesting, it's been a heavy amount of interest in that position, as you would expect. I think any time you have a guy that comes in here and does such a great job like Dave Ballou did, it just increases the opportunities for other people to come in here and do the same. You see where he went from that position, and I think that it's neat because I feel like he's taken that position for us and just put it to a whole 'nother level.
So I'm very excited about the interest for sure, and hope to have it wrapped up in the very near future.
Q. With so much turnover on the coaching staff this summer or this winter, how have you adjusted to all the new faces in the building?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, you have new defensive line coach -- and I'll tell you what, I'm so excited about Kevin Peoples. I think that he's just as good a technician as I've ever been around, just even in the meetings, and I knew him way before here, and we have not worked together, but he's going to make us better. I think he's such a great technician and teacher and he's going to build great relationships with our guys just already in the short amount of time. So I think you're going to have a chance to see some exciting things there with that group, and bring Kevin right in, a guy that haven't coached with, either, but know well, and man, just brings such an expertise, so special, so sharp, and has handled so many things in the different places he's been. IMG, it's like running a college program in so many different ways, even more so than your typical high school, even though it's not really a high school setting, but the recruiting piece that they have to go through to go across the country just in the nature of being there is just a very unique preparation for college coaching.
He brings all that with him, and then the ties to Indiana and all the coaches he knows and his dad has been coaching forever in this state and such a highly respected family. Those are two really great additions, and then Jason Jones, as well, and I know he's a phenomenal person coach, all wrapped up in a great recruiter and knows our system.
So I just think that, yeah, those are three new faces for sure, but if you come here and spend any time with our staff, there's a lot of good chemistry with the guys, and that's because there's some relationships already established there, but I think when you get guys that fit with you -- so that's really the only change we've had on the football side of it, so you look at our offensive staff, and even though Nick is a in new role, you've got one new face on that side of the ball and you've got two new faces on defense. Doesn't really feel -- maybe from the outside it kind of appears like that a little bit, and I guess there's been change for sure, but I don't feel -- I think probably the more recent situation with the strength staff probably makes it a little more of a bigger change.
But from a football perspective and the players and the coaches that are here and in those roles, it feels pretty -- doesn't seem quite as much as maybe it might appear. But I'm anxious to see those guys out there coaching their new positions and their guys -- even Coach Teegardin in a new role will be different, but he is going to be involved, and he's going to coach those huskies, which is a safety-type position for him, so that puts him in the mix with the guys. So I really feel like we've kind of strengthened ourselves with that, and I'm also going to be more involved in special teams than I have in the past.
So I think in general, it's going to be, yes, some changes, but a lot of positive things for sure.
Q. You talk about all the changes and that success is going to bring this with the coaches leaving, coming and going. Do you have conversations with the players or reinforce to them that this program is still heading in the same direction?
TOM ALLEN: You do, and in this very room, talking to the players, when you do something that hasn't happened in 26 years, people take note. I just feel like that's the nature of having some success, and we've obviously got a long ways to go. It was a great first step to get where we want to be, and those are positive things, but I think with that comes change, and it comes -- people want to hire your guys to go become head coaches, as we saw, or be coordinators like with Coach Inge, and a chance to make those moves.
I think you have to -- as I told our team, with the situation with our strength staff, I just said, I'm just going to ask you to trust me. A couple years ago we made a decision to make a change, and I had the room, and I said, how many of you guys knew Dave Ballou before you came here, and like six guys raised their hand, and this whole room was pretty full. And I said, how many guys knew Dr. Rhea before you came here, and one guy raised his hand and that was Kevin Wright, who they worked together at IMG. I said, my hand is down, too; I didn't even know the guy. Think about that. Two years ago pretty much nobody knew those guys in this room. We found them and we brought them here, and they did a phenomenal job, so I said, I'm just going to ask you to trust me, and we'll make the best decision, the best fit for this program and bring in a guy that's going to, just like before, take the program where it's at to another level in your area or position.
So that's why I've challenged every new hire to be that way, to take their room, their position, their side of the ball, their responsibility and elevate and build off the success that we're having. That's been the challenge and the charge to our guys.
Q. I guess how have you seen Mike progress as the off-season is coming?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I'll tell you, just with him sitting right over there getting ready to go up here next, but just really encouraged by his growth and the way he's responded to the challenge I've given him and Coach Sheridan and others, as well. But you know, he's a year older, a chance to learn from last year's situations and opportunities that he was given, and to be able to grow and develop, both physically in his leadership -- I've seen that. I actually feel like even in the midst of the last few -- these last couple weeks, just being able to, as spring ball gets closer and he's part of our leadership council and he and I have met and others have met and just to help him grow and develop, and just take on that role of being -- hey, this is your football team. You're the starting football of the Indiana Hoosiers in the Big Ten and a great opportunity and responsibility that he has.
So I've been very, very encouraged by the attention to the details, as I mentioned, as an area of focus for our team. That was one of challenges to him in his preparation, and that's part of it. That's part of growing up. That's part of being a year older and being in this position, and that has to continue, and he knows that, and that's taking it into spring football and the leadership in the locker room and being that positive voice and the guy that has the confidence to confront when things need to be confronted, and that's probably the hardest thing to do as a young person with your peers.
So I just really have been encouraged because it all starts with the daily disciplines that you have to establish, and then once those are in place, then you have earned the right and also the confidence to expand your leadership out to not only the offense but to the entire team.
So really been very encouraged by that, and I expected it, and so -- but at the end of the day, he's got to do it, and that's what he's done.
Q. Coach, I know Coach Sheridan has been a big voice in the offense since he's been here, but now he's the lead voice with the offense. How have you seen him the last few months grow into that and take charge with that side of the ball?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I'll tell you, been around him a lot, you know, and once again, when we first brought him here, he's one of those coaches that I have not spend time with, didn't know well, but was recommended to pursue him, and just from day one was so impressed with just the way he handles himself. He's really, really sharp, extremely bright, and I'll tell you what, when I -- a year ago, he wanted to be the offensive coordinator a year ago when I hired Kalen DeBoer, and we met, and I just basically felt like he just needed some more time and some other opportunities came for him, and I said, hey, I'd like to move you to tight ends and he hadn't done that, hadn't coached that position before, so I'll tell you, I really felt like that I learned a lot about him, the way he embraced that role, out of his comfort zone, the chance to grow and learn more, expand his knowledge of the whole entire offense with the run game that the tight end is tied into. Sometimes people have the tight ends coach coach the tackles, and so you're linked in with the pass game, the run game and just all those components. And the way you coach tight ends is different than the way you coach quarterbacks by even demeanor and the way you handle that position, and when you coach tight ends you're now coaching usually special teams because the quarterbacks coach is with the quarterbacks all the time. So when that's going on, special teams work is going on, if you're coaching quarterbacks you usually don't coach special teams, so he was now involved in coaching special teams for the first time, so it was a whole different level of things expanding things that he was doing.
And my philosophy is if you're a good coach, you're a good coach. I think I've coached every position on both sides of the ball except wide receivers at one time in my career, and I've called both sides of the football and special teams, and so I just think -- and I'm from the mindset, my dad was from the era where you would have coaches that would coach on one side of the ball maybe for several years in a row and then you would flip and you would coach different positions, maybe even flip sides of the ball.
I just believe if you're a really good coach, you can coach about any position, and so we get rigid where we think, oh, he's an O-line guy or he's a D-line guy or he's a this guy or that guy, I just don't believe that.
And I saw that from Nick, and I thought that -- I felt like he grew in this last year, and so all it did was just confirm to me the way he responded to that and bringing somebody else in when you want that job, and the way he handled that and the way he learned from Kalen. So to me it was just a very, very natural obvious thing for him to be -- another year seasoned, another year ready to roll and I'm excited. And the way he commands the room, he's got great demeanor in front of everybody. He's the coach that we use on recruiting visits to address all the parents, and he just kind of has a great demeanor to him, got a good sense of humor, kind of witty, and he's just sharp and he handles himself really, really well. Always just so impressed. He's the guy I communicate on the headsets about situations on offense and managing the clock and just all those things that go into being able to manage things at a high level.
Very, very confident in Nick, and obviously I know it's a new opportunity for him, but I think he's going to do a great job.
Q. What position group do you feel is the strongest heading into the spring and which position group do you think needs the most work in the spring?
TOM ALLEN: Oh, I would say the most work that sticks out to me is offensive line. Probably most springs that's usually what I would say. But we have more younger guys there that I want to see develop, and it's going to be critical that they develop for both depth and just finding out who are going to be the guys. I just think that you think of all the mid-year guys that are here, there's four offensive linemen that have a chance to get a whole extra spring in. Matt Bedford's success that he had as a freshman I'm not sure was possible had he not been here the previous spring as a mid-year enrollee. So I just think that position itself, and I know you've got your two -- we've got three starters back to really anchor everything, and Mackenzie has played a lot of football for us, so that's a very positive thing.
But just the depth of the whole group and some guys we've redshirted and maybe even now the redshirt, going to the redshirt sophomore season in the fall, just ready for those guys to step up, guys are redshirt juniors, it's time to rise up. So that's a group that to me has probably the most questions and needs the most growth.
Strength-wise, I think about our secondary. I think there's a lot of experienced guys there. You could say that about maybe even the linebacker position. But if I just go overall with the corners and -- I love our receiver corps, too. So between those two skill sets, I think that we've really got an opportunity to really -- the DBs would probably be the most depth, most guys that have played a lot of football and played at a high level. And a lot of good competition. We've had guys -- gosh, we've had springs here where we had three corners going in, and we just had -- we knew we had issues with that, and that's not the case anymore.
But that would stick out to me, those two spots.
Q. I think you sent out a tweet a couple days ago saying we don't flinch --
TOM ALLEN: Blink.
Q. Blink, sorry. Between Peyton's situation and players leaving and the coaching turnovers, how have you managed to keep an even keel through all this?
TOM ALLEN: Well, that was sent out on purpose, and where that comes from, when I was -- given the charge from Dave Wommack, Kane's dad when I worked for him, we were trying to find qualities of predators to use for our defense, and so they had had the land shark had become a big deal at Ole Miss, and that was part of the defensive culture that they had there, and so -- and it kind of died off by the time we got there because it's hard to have something like that when you're not playing good football.
So there was a reason why we got hired, and so it kind of had lost its luster, but we wanted to bring it back, like hey, let's embrace this. It's already there, so the whole shark thing. So I did the study on the shark, so there's the reality is sharks don't blink because they don't have eyelids. They can't blink. So therefore when we go through and talk about that, so you use that whole concept, no matter what happens, if something happens good, if something happens bad, we don't blink. So I had all these different qualities of a shark that we applied to our defense in how we were going to play and how we were going to perform.
So I've just never lost that thought from my mind even though we don't talk about that overall here defensively in terms of the land shark concept. That's something totally from Ole Miss. But at the same time, that idea that we do not blink, no matter what happens, and yeah, we've had some change. We don't blink. We've had some guys make some mistakes. You don't blink. You have things that happen that you don't expect. You don't blink. And we talk that way with our guys. So when I sent that out, they knew exactly what I was talking about because we talk about a lot in our program.
I just think it's a great life principle because when you start flinching and start worrying about things going on around you, you're not very effective. This program does not blink.
Q. Last year this time and in the fall when Kalen was here, you talked a lot about spending more time with the offense and doing all that. Have you thought about how you want to devote your time to certain areas and such in the spring and in the fall, as well?
TOM ALLEN: Well, I think that I'm trying to have good balance with that. It's a great question. As you go through now, and Kane is in year two running the defense, so there's more of a comfort level with that, to be able to not be in all those meetings. I'm going to continue -- last year I was with the quarterbacks a lot with Kalen because he was new. I've been with Nick already, but I do want to be -- that position is such a critical position, you'll find me being in there.
I'm going to probably be in the offensive line just because of all the new faces and the young guys. I'm going to be around those guys more.
But you know, I guess I want to have great balance with our team even. I'm going to be on both sides. I'm not going to just devote maybe as much to one as the other. Even with special teams, just be a presence, and like I said, I'm going to coach even certain phases of it this year more than in the past.
I just think that as I continue to grow in the confidence of the guys around you that you have, and I don't ever want these guys -- I'm not looking over their shoulder to make sure, I just always want to make sure we're all on the same page with everything, and I just love watching our guys coach and teach and all those different things. So I plan to be very involved in a lot of different things in regards to visible presence. I'm still going to be in the defensive post practice meeting room the most. I like watching the film and going through the corrections, and that isn't going to change. Pre-practice it'll be more offense than defense on that.
Then on the field, I'm going to be probably more involved in special teams than I have the last couple years.
Q. As far as the early enrollees go, at this point, how do you feel about them collectively and individually?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I think those nine guys have come in here, had them over to our home and spent more time with them here recently, and just continue to be impressed with their focus, their work ethic. I just feel like they've done a tremendous job. I could talk about all of them individually. I mean, they have a chance to prove themselves here this spring, be -- it's interesting, you start talking to some of them, some of them have come from states that have spring football and some come from states that haven't, so those that haven't, they've never been through spring football before of any type, high school or college. Just that whole new concept for them.
But continue to be impressed with Damarjhe Lewis, a guy that I just think, even through all the team runs and the drills, I really, really like the way he moves around. I just think he's got so much upside and talent and such a great kid, works so hard. Dylan Powell has really impressed me. Already voted to our leadership council, and that's not normal. The guys just -- has a presence with him and a confidence to him, but he's a college graduate, so it's not like he's a high school kid. But at the same time, just handles himself the right way and has earned the respect of his teammates, so just he sticks out to me, as well. Dexter Williams continues to just do a great job. I'm anxious to see him in the spring because I can't watch him throw prior to practices, so really haven't seen him do that, but as far as the leadership he's displayed during our workouts and just the physical traits, I just want to see him get out there and throw it around a little bit, so that's a positive thing for one of the new guys.
Caleb Murphy is another one that continues to impress. The work ethic, man, he just goes so hard all the time, big ol' guy, he's gaining good weight all the time, and just really think he's going to be just one of those -- I think he's going to be exactly what I thought he was going to be, a guy that it meant the world to him to get this offer to come to play at Indiana. It's his lifetime dream to be a Hoosier, and he's a big guy that can do a lot of things and gives you special teams value, and we already talked about him in special teams meetings and being able to do different things. When you're 6'3", 6'4" and 260 pounds, that's a good way to start. So those are -- those guys kind of stick out to me, and other guys are all working their tails off and excited to see what they can do.
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