Written by Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Indiana head football coach Tom Allen held a Spring Practice Preview ahead of the Hoosiers starting spring practice this weekend. Here are the notes and quotes from Thursday’s media session.
DL LeShaun Minor will NOT be active this spring
Reese Taylor will focus on defense
Whop Philyor, Cole Gest, Michael Penix, Larry Tracy, Sampson James, Allen Stallings and Devon Matthews will be limited this spring
There is no update on Jack Tuttle’s eligibility
Drew Conrad has left the program to pursue other endeavors
Tom Allen Quotes
“We're getting ready to kick off practice on Saturday. Excited about that and really pleased with the work our guys have been putting in the weight room the last eight weeks, and just going to finish up that cycle here today and tomorrow.
I'm really excited about the growth of our team physically, and Coach Ballou and his staff continue to do a great job developing our guys and with the addition of Kalen Deboer and that whole dynamic of being able to install a new offense. Those are probably the two key things we've been focusing on the last couple of months is being able to get our guys right in the weight room.
To just kind of mention a few guys, I think it's important to just recognize guys. There are the common ones that you would expect, but there are some young guys that I think have responded very, very well to coach Ballou and his staff. Jonathan King is a guy that I'm looking forward to seeing him perform this spring. He's put on a lot of good weight, and he's learning how to really train and discipline himself to be special every single day. I really love his mindset and attitude. Gavin McCabe is another young guy that we redshirted. I really feel like has a chance to grow on the field. He's really worked hard. He's our strongest defensive lineman, which is a 600-pound squatter, which is really impressive for a redshirt freshman. I love his mindset once again just kind of when you talk about his care factor and doing everything you ask. I just love the way he's worked. Matt Bjorson is another one that did play last year, but that has worked so hard and has maximized everything he has. Caleb Jones is another one... he's got the power and development we're looking for, and the expectation is for him to step up and elevate his game and be a guy we can count on and be one of our starting offensive lineman. That's my expectation for him. So just really encouraged by his response. Stevie Scott is another one that really didn't have a chance to really work a lot with us a lot last year because he came in July. So just really feel like he's a guy that's bought in to really be able to take the next step because sometimes guys have success early like he had, and then they have a tendency to kind of let up, which is unfortunate for those who choose to do that, but he has not been doing that. So really it's a tribute to him.
I could go on and on. There are a lot of guys; we had a meeting this morning about some guys. I'm really encouraged by the group. Those are just some key ones that stuck out to me, and I feel like they have really bought in.”
On the sophomore class and expectations
“I would consider them high expectations. I think that we lost eight starters a year ago and that group had to absorb that and as you saw that was done by committee. In some games we played up to 30 guys on defense. I want to continue that trend of playing a lot of guys on defense, I believe in that. I think the way the game has transformed over time, you need that in the course of the 13 game season and beyond. I just think that our guys that were in that class that played so much, a lot of them were playing too much, too soon but it was the situation we were in and they were the best players on our team, we felt like so they got those opportunities. I just think the physical growth â€“ Cam Jones is a guy who you will see this spring move around. He's played the husky position but we want him playing the free safety position and probably going to give him some cross training at the rover position. I just think he's a very versatile guy and he's one of our best athletes. Same with Monster (Devon Matthews), we're going to be able to cross train him there and I think that's critical. Those kind of guys, even (Bryant) Fitzgerald it was his freshman year last year and for him to take that next step and for Thomas (Allen) and Micah and James, those three young linebackers have to elevate their play and that's a big part of what we expect. Raekwon is the leader of the group but at the same time there's a lot of talent around them and those guys have to take that experience. The confidence that group has. We've mentioned those young defensive lineman, James Head is another one the strength staff comments about how he's becoming a leader. He's gotten even bigger and need him to be a dominate player. Bringing in Juan and he's done a really, really good job for us. I'm really encouraged by his maturity in the weight room and the mindset change. I want us to be a Top 25 defense, that's what I expect and that's our goal and that's our objective. It took us a two-year cycle to get to when I first got here and now we kind of rebuild it with new guys, new faces and add some new guys from the freshman class who will have a chance to help us as well. That's a good thing. But the guys that are here, there's a lot, the corners, Andre Brown is a guy, 205 pounds and looks, you know, really, really good and I think it's just taking that next step in terms of his preparation.
Now it's got to transfer to the field for all these guys, but the way they have approached and we've challenged them. There are some guys that thought they were working hard and they really weren't; how do you become special and so how do we change and get this defense where I want it to be. I have high expectations for them and I think they have a chance to be a good group.”
On having a more open (media friendly) spring practice session
“I think when you do things the way we do them, we have nothing to hide. You know, I want, I think the more access the better. I think it helps our guys get exposure. It helps you guys be able to get a good feel for who we are and what we do and how we do things. We do things in a way, it's kind of like recruiting.
I feel very comfortable for a parent coming out and watching us practice because everyone coach their sons hard, we are going to hold them accountable and demand them to be excellent in all they do, but it's going to be in a way that I wouldn't be embarrassed if they listen to the way we talk to them.
I tell players, you're not going to get de-recruited here because the same coach that recruited you is going to be the same coach that is going to coach you during practice. Doesn't mean we're not going to get on you, but also means we're going to do it in a way that I think brings out greatness in guys and forces them to want to be, you know, be special.
Like I said, I don't have anything that we're trying to let anybody not see. Now obviously there's some schematic things you get into, but at the same time, in this point what we do, been here for several years, so people kind of know what you do on offense and defense and offensively there will be some changes for sure. But it won't be, you know, just massive changes. We're not going to run the triple-option.
So I just think that I like to give as much access as we can, it's a positive for our program and a win/win.”
On Installing ne offense
“As far as Kalen (DeBoer) being able to get everything installed is a process, which we go through. We have three goals for spring ball and one of the goals is the schematic adjustments defensively, transitioning to Kane Wommack being the play caller on defense and just some things we've kind of tweaked with that. But then offensively, with installing a new system, to be able to get that input the proper way is a big goal. The fundamental developmental that we have to have on both sides of the ball is a huge focus for spring football. At the end of the day your number three goal is to come out with a depth chart to see where the team falls by the end of the spring campaign. Really looking forward to that and always like to have this time to talk about changes to the roster but we've had very few of those. Pretty much things have been going how we want them to go. Drew Conrad is a guy who has moved on and is really only because of his academic pursuits and the way he needed to go towards that and his future. He's got some great opportunities to be a highly-successful businessman and I really appreciate all he's done for us but he will no longer be with us. That's because of him just having to go and put all his energy into his future which is what he needs to do. We really appreciate him and all he's given to our program.
“It's a balance. You increase your individual work during the spring which is pretty typical and that will continue, so for our guys to fundamentally improve. We've gone through a progression of install that we feel comfortable with at this point and you always go through and adjust it as that process unfolds. We want to move pretty slowly, we want our guys to feel really good about what they're doing and want them to master the concepts and won't see as much movement and things out of that you may see later just kind of get your foundation laid. All your verbiage and communication. There will be some carry over, for sure, there will be somethings we may call it differently, but it will look similar to the outside eye. But for our guys, they're learning a new way of communicating, how we transition and the way we operate as an offense. That will be the main objective is to feel really good about the base things that we've identified that we want to be good at both throwing the football and running the football.”
On how Quarterback reps will be divided
“I think it is an interesting dynamic we have. First of all, Michael Penix won't be taking full team snaps. I don't expect he'll take a lot of skully reps and throw one-on-ones, any time we just keep people away -- he's done a great job, but we don't want to do anything to set him back. That will naturally kind of create some division of the reps.
So I see Jack and Peyton getting the majority of them, you know, and then I think that you'll go through and be able to -- to me, they got to compete. It's a highly competitive room right now, and we, based on what happens, we expect Michael to be back to 100 percent and Peyton to stay 100 percent, and what happens with Jack, for him to be ready to go for the fall, we'll see.
That creates what I consider a very, very competitive room; which is what I want, and in today's quarterback world, as we see every single day, that that's a very changing dynamic and it's hard to get a lot of depth at that position and across the country, it's pretty well documented about that situation.
I just think that to have three that we believe that can lead us on game day and let the competition bring out the best in each one of them, and as they encourage each other, yeah, they are competing for a position, but they are also teammates, and I want to see how they handle that because I want guys that love Indiana Football and they want Indiana Football to be very successful, and I get it.
If I was one of those three, I would be wanting to play, too, but so who is willing to do the little things right and who is willing to -- at the end of the day, who leads the team down the field and gets us in the end zone and is able to convert two-minute situations and the team believes in them and all those things, commands the offense, and moves the chains and all the things that you need to do for game day success.
So really looking forward to that dynamic and I think it's three high-character guys that I think will handle it really, really well, but I want to see, you know, as the cream rises to the top, I'm anxious to see who continues to get better and better throughout the process.”
On position changes this spring
I mentioned Cam already, he hasn't played a lot of free safety in rover. We're going to give him a shot to do that right out of the gate, so he will be in that spot with Fitz and Khalil Bryant at free safety.
And we have Juwan Burgess at rover and moving Matthews from free safety to rover, but that's more of a cross-train type mentality now that he's in his second year, learning the free safety position, now we want him to learn the rover position. That will be kind of the biggest changes, if you would call that a change.
And I think other than that, it will be guys that -- Reese Taylor will be focusing on defense and he'll be a return guy for sure but want to be able to get himself on grounded. He spent a lot of time on offense in the fall and want to get him on defense and see how that plays out. I just want him to feel comfortable and confident in a position. We bounced him around different times in the fall and I think for his future benefit, and his development, I think it will be able to get grounded there. He'll be excited. That's what he wants to do. So we're getting the best players on the field.
On the growth of Michael Penix as a leader
“There's always a concern when a young man is injured, it kind of goes one of two ways. They get disconnected from the team, and unfortunately, just because of the nature of they are doing rehab when you're doing whatever it's doing, whether it's lifting or practice or those kind of things.
So some guys don't handle that very well, and so -- and because you're not with your teammates as much in a workout setting like would have been the case for the last eight weeks.
I think Michael, what Coach is alluding to, is the fact that even during that time, he did everything he could to when he was with the players, to verbally be engaged, and I think he did a great job of growing in the mindset of, you know, well, leadership to me has to be active, and a guy that's in a position of a quarterback spot, it's the same with linebackers on defense, but those positions demand production and they -- they just demand verbal leadership. You can't just be a great example.
I mean, everybody wants to be -- well, he's a leader; he leads by example. That's awesome, but you can't lead anybody if you don't speak, you know, and so like I even told to our leadership counsel recently, I'm like, hey, you imagine a coach not saying a whole lot to the team? You know, there would be -- he may be doing everything right but if he doesn't ever speak, he's not going to influence anybody around him and leadership is influence.
Some of these guys, and Michael is one of them, he has to take that next step of verbally leading the team. That may not be what his personality is comfortable doing because he's a quiet guy and you know, Peyton Ramsey is a quiet guy, too, so those guys have to learn and Michael is young and he has to understand about how do I lead.
Well, you know what, it's encouragement. Sometimes it's confronting a teammate and that's the part where he's really starting to grow and to say, hey, when I see something that's not right, as the quarterback of this football team, that's my mindset, because all three of those guys have to have that mindset that I'm the guy, so I've got to be able to verbally challenge other guys around me to either change what they are doing, encourage doing something positive, or even off the field, being able to confront a guy when something small is not being done right. So just seeing the growth in that.
That's something that seems kind of simple but it's a major challenge to get guys to be able to confront their peers, and we talk about it a lot as a staff. I think the way, you know, young people are raised, with social media, it causes people to be less communicative and those skills are not as strong as they have been in the past.
I've talked about this with a lot of different individuals, and it's kind of universal across the board. I just think the way they are raised, it doesn't dictate to that, so we have to really be proactive I think as a staff to get these guys to verbally be able to not just communicate but to confront and to challenge and to encourage and to motivate, not by example, that's a given, also by verbal.
I just think he's grown in that area and I want to see him continue to grow and I want Peyton to continue to grow in that area. We talked about that as a team, we had some really good leaders on the team last year but they were quiet. It has to change and we have got some guys that recognize that and are responding to that.”
On the offensive line
“Aidan Rafferty, he's up to 310. He came here at 265 and has really changed his body. Nick Marozas is up to 300, another one came in in the low 270s range; and those are two guys we red-shirted and well over 300 now and he's a guy that we really challenged to physically get stronger and he has.
Kind of the big three seniors, we've got Coy and Simon and Hunter. Those guys have all gotten bigger and stronger, and you expect that from them and they have actually, you know, I would say Coy and Hunter have really risen in their leadership.
Coy has never been one to be bashful, so he's always been one of our guys that he's not afraid to confront, you know, which is a great thing. So it was always just guiding those guys when to and what to say.
Hunter is one that's also elevated his leadership, as well.
So those three guys are kind of the anchor, and then the guys that I mentioned and obviously already mentioned Caleb. I tell you, Michael Katic is another one, he's a mid-year guy. I think let's look at Matthew Bedford, another one that's got a lot, a long ways to go in terms of learning the position, but physically has a lot of qualities that really excite you.
The thing that excites me about that whole group is just the want-to. All those guys I mentioned, man, they have really, really bought into how hard it's going to take and it's a lot of work.
There's a lot of work ahead of them and we have a long ways to go, but I just think that there's growth in that room, and it's a developmental position for sure, and most guys don't rarely come out of high school ready to play right away.
You know, Coy is going to be a four-year starter which is extremely rare on the offensive line, so that's usually not what happens. I just feel like that Harry crier is another one, man, just keeps getting stronger and just got to continue to develop.
So that's a group that we are expecting big things from. They have got -- big men lead the way. We say it all the time in our program and our offensive line play is going to be huge and what we do offensively, and just McKinsey is another one that's got to keep taking those steps forward and so that's the group of guys that we're anxious to see how they have progressed. The weight room is one thing but putting it into action on the field is what's next.”
On spring injury limitations
“Yeah, Whop will be limited. He'll do all the seven-on-sevens and individual work. Same with Cole. They will be doing some modified work.
Devon Matthews has some things cleaned up. He'll be out there in the blue jersey but he's going to get a lot of reps. He just wasn't be doing a lot of tackling.
So Larry Tracy as a just-got-here freshman has had shoulder surgery, and then Sampson James had a little thing he had to get cleaned up, so he'll be limited a little bit. But he's looking really good.
So just overall, not any big surprises, I don't think. Those guys were ones that we pretty much knew. Don't have a long, long list of guys but definitely have some.
Allen Stallings is a guy that has a couple small things we've been dealing with and he's a guy that's going to be a senior and we know what he can do. He's a guy we just want to continue to get healthy, so where I want him to be, full-bore by the time we get into fall camp.”
On Reese Taylor’s Role
“Reese has a great shot to be able to give us dynamic plays there. Whop is another guy what will be returning punts, as well, several other guys, we're going to give him some opportunity for kickoff returns.
I think that can be an area where he can really give us some explosion. All of our running backs, we'll use back there, we'll use Reese back there for kickoff returns.
Yeah, there's no question you're trying to always increase production. We were one of the top punt return teams in the country, but we have to improve our kickoff return unit's production. That's a little bit, the dynamic there with the kickers and the way they kick the ball and everything that creates some of that but at the same time getting the right guys back there.
I always say, the key to great special teams play is high-quality specialists. And the return game, the key is the guy catching the ball; what he can do with the ball in his hand is what makes it special.
So we'll work really hard to set those guys up but at the end the day, those guys have to make those guys miss and be dynamic.”