Indiana head coach Tom Allen as well as players Coy Cronk, Reakwon Jones and Nick Westbrook spoke to the media in Chicago on Thursday as part of the Big Ten’s annual Media Day.
During his 16 minutes at the podium, Allen talked about his team’s quarterbacks, changing coordinators, and the offensive line, among other topics. Though we still wait over a month to see Indiana take the field for the first time in 2019, Allen’s remarks Thursday gave us a glimpse at what we can expect this fall. Here’s what stood out among the rest:
Indiana’s quarterback room is exactly the same as it was a year ago
At this time last year, IU had a quarterback competition between Peyton Ramsey, Brandon Dawkins and Michael Penix. Ramsey was the incumbent starter and the man to beat during camp, though Allen believed all of his quarterbacks were capable of starting.
It’s exactly the same this year, and two of the three quarterbacks are back again.
“As we approach the 2019 season, we have three quarterbacks that I believe are all capable of leading our football team,” Allen said. “Peyton is a young man, the returning starter who has done a tremendous job for us. Obviously as the returning starter, he’s the guy they’ve got to beat out.”
All three quarterbacks will be at full strength during camp, something that wasn’t the case during the spring as Penix continued to recover from his ACL injury.
“I believe in Michael Penix, who’s worked extremely hard this off-season and is fully healthy and ready to go,” Allen said.
Allen said he doesn’t plan to use a two-quarterback system. While he knows any one of the three could end up being the guy, he wants to pick one guy and roll with that one guy.
That doesn’t mean the two quarterbacks not named the starter won’t get a chance. Michael Penix played in the second half of IU’s 2018 season opener against FIU. Against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium, all three quarterbacks may see the field at some point. Allen won’t run a two-quarterback system, but seeing game action will help him make his decision.
Check out more about the quarterbacks in The Hoosier Network’s positional breakdown here.
Lack of depth caused late game struggles for IU last year; Allen doesn’t believe that will happen again
Indiana lost three games by a touchdown or less last season. Allen attributed that to young depth, playing 16 freshman last season.
“We played a lot of guys that may not have been totally physically ready to play because of being freshmen or being really young,” he said.
But in 2019, that is expected to change. Much of that young depth from last year is back. But it isn’t young anymore. Those 16 freshmen are sophomores now. They’ve gotten a year of experience under their belt. They’ve gotten an offseason with strength coach David Ballou.
Allen said he wants to see his players be more explosive as they work to have stronger finishes to quarters and halves.
Still, the youth will still be a key component on both sides of the ball.
Allen just brought in the highest rated recruiting class in the history of the program. Those players are going to be expected to make an impact as freshmen. Allen knows they may make the mistakes freshman have before them, but he wants them to have experience the same way their older teammates did as the program continues to build.
“This year I see us as a football team that is starting to build the depth you need to compete in this conference,” Allen said. “I would consider us a young, experienced team.”
Allen called his team young and experienced, two traits that don’t often go together. But that’s what Allen has with his Hoosiers. He has upperclassmen leaders, but he has a large group of younger players that already have a year or two of experience. It is the young, experienced players that will help Allen build the depth he believes he needs to finish games.
Despite personnel changes, drastic changes aren’t coming overnight
Kalen DeBoer is taking over as the new offensive coordinator in the wake of Mike DeBord’s retirement. Kane Wommack will be the new defensive coordinator after Allen gave up the position to focus on being the head coach of his team.
With Wommack having worked as Indiana’s linebackers coach during the 2018 season, his transition to defensive coordinator will be without much, if any, change. He will be running the same system Allen ran with many of the same players.
“He and I learned this system from his father, who I coached for at Ole Miss, and we’re on the same page philosophically, and so I had a great spring with out young defense,” Allen said.
The bigger change will come on offense.
DeBoer will be bringing his own system to Bloomington, but it won’t be a drastic difference.
“You’ll have some core principles that will be the same,” Allen said. “It obviously will be different, and every coach has their own twist on things and the way that they present the offense. But to me, it’s more about formational things and personnel groupings and the way that we get into different looks and how we disguise looks.”
Allen let DeBoer implement everything about his system with the offense and said the offense took to it well. That was something evident during open spring practices, and according to Allen that has continued into the summer. DeBoer’s title is the Associate Head Coach — he is the head coach for the offense. Allen has given him the reigns to tailor that side of the football to the way he wants.
DeBoer will bring a new eye as a play caller as well, something that may bring one of the biggest changes with the offense.
“I think play calling is an art,” Allen said. “I think that Kalen DeBoer is a gifted play caller.”