Written by Nathan Comp
When Coach Tom Allen called off the remainder of the spring game after 57 minutes of offense versus defense scrimmage action, the offensive unit came out on top by a score of 48-33. (Don’t jump to the conclusion that the defense had an off night because 21 of the 48 points the offense scored came in between quarters when the kickers were hitting uncontested field goals). The defense scored their points by way of takeaways (worth 5 points), three & outs (worth 3 points), and missed FGs (also worth 3 points). Despite leaving without the victory (and steak dinner), there was much to be happy about regarding new defensive coordinator Kane Wommack’s defensive unit.
Wommack will likely leave happiest about his defense’s ability to force takeaways. By way of two forced and recovered fumbles, from the duos Micah McFadden/Noah Pierre and Robert Tolbert/Jamar Johnson, and an interception added by A’Shon Riggins, the defense was able to force three total takeaways.
“The energy out there was amazing, I thought we were flying around, creating takeaways and stuff like that,” said safety Bryant Fitzgerald.
“Our defense is a takeaway-driven team. That's what we emphasized and we attacked that football and that's what our guys did tonight,” added Coach Allen.
And the most promising part, is there is more complexity that can be added to this young defensive unit, that is building depth on both rotations.
“We didn't bring a lot of pressures and a lot of movements up front, just let the guys get their eyes right, get their feet set and play football,” said Allen postgame. “And the speed we have as a team, the depth we have to run -- a lot of times your 1s and 2s come in there on defense and not really any change at all in the level of execution and the speed of the football.”
A lot of this improvement can be credited to the defense’s improved speed, a focus point of Coach Allen in his recruiting and the strength and conditioning of David Ballou and Matt Rhea.
“It was night and day. Last year I was bigger, thicker lower body and upper body. Coach Ballou and Dr. Rhea really developed my body and made me slim down but still had muscle. It definitely translated and I feel great about it,” mentioned Fitzgerald.
Now, the focus turns to continuously improving for the next three months. Just 140 days stand between today and Indiana’s opener in Lucas Oil Stadium against Ball State.
“In the next three months, I challenged them after the scrimmage, how important these next three months are and how it's got to be really in the interests of speed development, the physicality, strength, gotta get stronger up front on both sides of the football -- we've got a lot of young guys need that weight room. Those three months are huge. So that will be a continual focus for us,” said Allen.
But for now, Allen can be happy with what he saw after 14 practices.
“I'll tell you what, it was a good spring game…With the opportunities that we were given… I think our guys maximized every one of them. It was a good conclusion to a great spring.”