Some teams begin spring practice in February. Indiana wasn’t quite that ambitious, but it did start last Saturday, a week before its spring break began.
The Hoosiers still have 15 practices, but can spread them out more as they begin learning a new offense, and tweaking its dramatically improved defense.
Could that lead to the first winning record since 2007?
That’s the goal.
“I love it,” veteran cornerback Rashard Fant said about the early start. “We did it like this my freshman year. You get four to five practices done before spring break, then come back for the rest.
“You can keep your body fresher. It just doesn’t seem as long as it does when it’s all after spring break. Then we had a lot of back-to-back practice days. That’s a lot on your body.
“Freshmen are not here yet, so we don’t have the numbers. We only have four to five corners. In the fall we’ll have seven, eight or nine. We’ll have a lot more rotation. Having a week to get everything under our belts before spring break really helps you.”
That was a big selling point for coach Tom Allen, who has begun his first spring as a head coach.
“Spring practice can drag a little bit,” he said. “The advantage of having spring practice now, it’s early enough that if someone does have an injury, they can have surgery and get back sooner.
“I like splitting it around spring break. What it allows you to do is not have that long lull of practice, practice, practice.
“When the regular season gets rolling, you play every weekend. In the spring, you just play at the end (with the spring game). This keeps them fresh.”
It also gave Allen a jump on his revamped offensive staff. The newest addition is running backs coach Mike Hart, the former Michigan standout and Indianapolis Colts running back.
Also new are offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, receivers coach Grant Heard, offensive line coach Darren Hiller and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan.
“It’s a whole new crew,” Allen said. “It’s definitely different. They’re meshing well. We’ve got a lot of good people in that room. Guys who know a lot of football and who don’t have big egos. They just work together for a common goal, which is for us to be a top-5 offense in the Big Ten and a top-25 defense in the country. They’re on a mission to make that happen.”
DeBord is introducing a new system that, like former head coach Kevin Wilson, will emphasize an uptempo approach. Allen is emphatic that the defense can get better.
“We’re re-establishing our expectations for the defense, for how we practice and create takeways and playing with fanatical effort. Offensively it’s putting in new concepts, and a whole new system. The heads are spinning a little bit. That’s OK.”
DeBord wants to challenge defenses by pushing a fierce offensive pace.
How fast will the offense go?
“We’re talking about snapping it every 15 to 20 seconds,” Allen said. “It’s a matter of just wanting to be as fast as we can go and still be able to execute. It’s about controlling that that tempo.
“As a defensive coach, that gives us trouble. When you can’t get your feet set and your eyes right, it causes trouble.
“We want to get us to where we’re executing offensively at the highest possible speed we can function with.”