Kane Wommack has full command.
Tom Allen was Indiana’s defensive coordinator in 2016 and he held onto that role during his first two years of being the team’s head coach.
He’s now passed the role down to Wommack, and Allen wants to make Wommack in control of the defense — that he, not Allen, is the one who defensive coaches come to.
“When we got into spring football, I did not sit in on any of the defensive staff meetings as they were planning and organizing,” Allen said. “When you go through and you get ready for spring ball, you’re always hashing through things and sometimes you’ve got to work through it, and I didn’t want them to look to me. They needed to look to him and let him solve the technique discussions and all the things that happen behind closed doors.”
Allen is now back to sitting in on meetings, but he needed to give Wommack the confidence to run the defense, and he needed the assistants to know who was in charge. By staying away in the spring, he allowed that to happen.
Wommack is now in charge of the play calling duties, but while Allen is leaving Wommack to run the defense, they both have the same goals. They both want to be a top 25 defense. Not just a top 25 total defense, but a top 25 scoring defense, top 25 red zone defense. Top 25 in as many categories as possible.
“That’s what our goal and our ability is,” Wommack said. “Rushing defense and red zone defense, those are things that have not been accomplished in a number of years here, and that is the goal for us.”
Wommack called it a swarm defense. A defense predicated on speed.
The secondary is where that speed is most prevalent. Andre Brown and Reese Taylor certainly bring speed on the outside as IU’s cornerbacks. Bryant Fitzgerald and Devon Matthews will be the speedy safeties swarming on the back end, part of the swarm defense.
Marcelino Ball and Cam Jones will be part of the swam as well, playing all over the field with the speed to get to the outside, to get to the ball.
Marcelino Ball showed great instincts in rallying to the football last season. pic.twitter.com/V34KjXkIYB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 24, 2019
“I think part of it is confidence because they’re a year older,” Allen said during spring practices. “We played some young guys [last year], but there’s some really fast guys there that understand their role better. We’re not necessarily making a lot of major changes, so they have a pretty good foundation.”
That still stands true a few months later.
But even with the experience Wommack has as Indiana’s linebackers coach, and even with the aspects both he and Allen took from Wommack’s father and former Ole Miss defensive coordinator, Dave Wommack, some changes still will be made.
“There’s some things that we do that he really liked that we had changed and adjusted and adapted over the last few years before I got here,” Allen said. “He brought some things that are a little bit unique and different that we hadn’t been doing, and I gave him the authority to be able to make some of those adjustments.”
Wommack will be installing some of his own concepts to make the defense unique in his own way, like Allen suggested. Wommack’s defense is young; of the 22 defensive lineman, 18 are redshirt sophomores or younger. But many of those young players saw the field last season, something that has helped Wommack have an easy transition.
“We do have experience, but it is a youthful group,” Wommack said. “I think that’s a good thing because we’re going to have those guys for the next few years. That’s a very exciting piece, as Tom has built this place for the long haul. I think it puts us ahead for where we want to go in terms of our fall camp installation.”
With Wommack’s install, there will be changes made. But it won’t be too different. It might not be very different at all. It will still have the trademarks of Allen’s defense, like the husky linebacker position. It will still be built on the aggressive model Allen built the group on, by blitzing and creating turnovers. Wommack knows it has to.
“I work for Tom Allen so I better have a pretty aggressive defense or I’m going to lose my job,” he said.
The defense doesn’t have the same competitions that loom large over the offense, notably at quarterback. But the depth is there, and the youth is there. The speed and swarm that Wommack wants is there. The players that know the goals and the ideals of an Indiana defense.
Wommack is going to put his own flair on the defense. Allen is ready to let him take the wheel.
“I trust him, and I believe in him,” Allen said. “I think that he’s going to do a great job.”