Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Defensive coordinator Tom Allen was brought to Bloomington to help change the culture around the Hoosiers’ maligned defensive unit. After just three spring practices the change is palpable. On Sunday, at the Hoosiers’ open practice, Allen’s voice, as well as defensive line coach Mark Hagen’s, could be heard bouncing off the limestone walls of Memorial Stadium. The defensive intensity could easily been seen as well, as nearly every time an offensive player got the ball a gang of defenders closed in and went after the ball with aggression and violence. The defensive attitude also led to tempers flaring and even a few punches being thrown during team drills.
Allen knows “learning a new system is going to take time and we are going to be patient with that. But the effort piece, the energy piece, coming out here and giving us everything you have from a coach’s perspective is non-negotiable. That’s what we expect every day and we are three-for-three on that.”
Some of that renewed energy on defense in due in part to Allen himself. Linebacker and leading tackler Marcus Oliver said, “He’s exciting. He’s fun to play for and be around. I feel like everyone feels brand new with the defense.”
As mention above, there is an increased emphasis on takeaways, not turnovers, from Allen. He stated, “We don’t call them turnovers, a matter of fact you do 25 push-ups if you say the word turnover on defense, coaches included. Basically, we are going to take the ball from you (the opponent) with an act of aggression. That is why we use that word and you’ll notice that at practice every day.”
Oliver concurs with his new coach saying, “Takeaways win games, and takeaways change the outcome of the game and as a defense that’s our mindset. It doesn’t matter what the offense does, but if they lose the ball they lose the game.”
Allen has three things he wants to see out of his defense day-in-and-day-out, “We want to take the ball away, we want to be the best tackling team in America, and play with fanatical effort. So those three things, we install every day. So, the very first thing we do was a pursuit drill for the effort and the second thing was tackling, even without pads on, our technique with that.”
While it is only practice three of the spring, but if the volume and violence at practice is any indication of defensive improvement, the 2016 Hoosier squad should be able to crawl out of the basement and into respectability.