Ahead of the 2022 kickoff, The Hoosier Network’s Max Parker sat down with Indiana football head coach Tom Allen to talk about topics ranging from recruiting to character, UCLA and USC to Allen’s starting five on the court. You can go here to watch the full interview, but here are some of our biggest takeaways.
Indiana’s 2021 season was tough.
It’s no secret to Allen, the players or the fans, who all shared in the 2-10 season that started with top-10 aspirations and ended with dashed hopes of just one conference win.
Change was necessary and inevitable. Both coordinators are new to the program this year and the Hoosiers will have a new starting quarterback in the first game. The quarterback who opened the season last year was just named the starter for the University of Washington, and the quarterback who played the most games in 2021 is now a wide receiver.
“You can’t ignore what happened, and we haven’t,” Allen said. “You have to own it and take responsibility for it. To me, that is, you do a thorough evaluation. You make changes, which we have. And you press on.”
Indiana is just two years removed from one of its best seasons in program history. This year, it sets out to prove which season was the outlier.
Despite the record last year, Indiana was able to hold on to most of its 2022 recruits. When Omar Cooper Jr. signed in December, the Hoosiers had the No. 4 recruiting class in the Big Ten and the highest-rated class in program history.
Although some recruits decommitted and some players transferred, it’s Allen’s one word for the season that best describes how the Hoosiers maintained their recruiting momentum: BUILD.
Allen said it’s the infrastructure in place at Indiana that attracts recruits, not the winning seasons. They’re still building up at IU, despite the valley last year brought. One down year doesn’t define them, Allen said, but the program they’re building.
To do that, you start by recruiting for character. It’s about players who care about education and growing as a person under Allen. That’s what it takes to play football at Indiana.
“You can’t recruit too much character,” Allen said. “The key is they gotta be able to play.”
But it’s not just the recruits who had to buy in. The whole roster had to struggle through the season. Although the media and the fans are expecting a season much closer to 2021 than 2020, Allen has seen the players’ drive from the inside.
“I love the mindset of our guys,” Allen said. “They got a chip on their shoulder, something to prove. I get it. We hated going through ‘21.”
So what has kept the Hoosiers together through adversity? Allen’s “Love Each Other” mantra.
“Somebody asked me… ‘Did you question it?’” Allen said. “I’m like, question it? That’s what held us together, kept us from falling apart. That’s what your core values are supposed to do. That’s what your foundation is supposed to do. It’s supposed to weather those storms and when things go completely against you, and things are really, really hard, what’s your anchor?”
A refresh of team ideals, changes in staff and buy-ins from the whole team lead Indiana back into 2022. The new quarterback has been named inside the locker room, Allen told media members Tuesday, but Allen said they’ll keep it a secret from Illinois until kickoff. The program is sitting quiet, building toward a season where the Hoosiers hope to bounce back.
“There’s an edge that this team has. You can see it and you can feel it,” Allen said. “That chip on your shoulder, that something to prove is a powerful thing.”