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IU football and the art of making a difference

Tom Allen talks with the media after first joining the Indiana football coaching staff in the winter of 2016. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)
Tom Allen talks with the media after first joining the Indiana football coaching staff in the winter of 2016. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

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ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

What’s next for Tom Allen and the Hoosiers?

Thursday, December 29, 2016 06:39 pm

BLOOMINGTON — At some point, if Indiana is ever to rise above football mediocrity, it has to win.

Einstein might have said that.

Or was it Lombardi?

Anyway, IU has to make the tough play, which so often is the easy play, like making a 40-yard field goal, or catching a pass that hits your hands, or connecting with an open receiver, or tackling a runner before a four-yard run becomes 44.

The Hoosiers are forever the team that almost made it, grabbing for success and then bobbling it away when it comes.

Maybe Tom Allen can make a difference, once he assembles his own staff and players and delivers a program built in his passionate image. 

Some assistant coaches will stay, others will not. Some standout players will return, others will head to the NFL. New players will commit and sign, and a new coaching era will begin.

And maybe, just maybe, consecutive 6-7 seasons evolve into so much more.

The aftermath of Wednesday night’s Foster Farms Bowl loss to Utah finds the program burdened by what-could-have-been yearning.

The offense needs to regain its 30-plus-points-a-game mojo. The vastly improved defense must improve even more. Kicker Griffin Oakes needs to return to his sophomore self, the one that won Big Ten kicker of the year honors rather than the impostor whose fourth-quarter bowl miss ignited the dark side of Hoosier Nation passion.

And for any program seeking success, it ultimately comes down to the quarterback. Richard Lagow must blossom in Allen’s system, which will maintain the spread element coach Kevin Wilson used so effectively during his six-year Hoosier run. 

Allen defensive roots run deep. What kind of offense will he run has been the biggest question on the recruiting road.

“We want to run the ball,” he said. “I don’t care what kind of system you have, you want to run the ball. At some point you also have to have the tempo piece. From the defensive side of the ball, I know that’s what gives us trouble.

“It’s not that you go fast all the time, but you have the ability to go fast and change that tempo. That phrase is something that I’ll use quite a bit because I believe in that offensively.”

Do not expect a pass-happy attack.

“The word balance,” Allen said. “Our offense has been extremely effective in throwing the ball, but they’ve always run the ball. We have to do a better job of finishing those runs, protecting the ball, and being great in the red zone. That will be our emphasis.

“I tell that to our recruits, as well. I’m a tempo-spread guy. I believe in that system. I believe in what we do here. I’ve been with those type of head coaches in my last several stops. I’ve been a defensive coach to complement that. I don’t see a lot of change in how you see us play.

“Ultimately, it’s about what you can do to win games, not have the most yards. It’s how you win as a team. That’s our goal.”

That leads to what kind of quarterback Allen will recruit.

“I always look at it from a defensive perspective, and how we’re going to attack the opponent. That is, I want a guy who can extend the play. That is the key. He has to be able to extend the play and if you can force the defensive line to account for you, that’s all you need.

“If you can be dual-threat guy, and get yourself beat up, that can be a problem. Teams that are straight dual-threat guys, they have to have two to three of them to last for a season. That’s especially true in this league that has such a physical game. It’s a challenge to keep that guy healthy.

“You have to have balance, and you have to extend the play. That’s what we’re looking for.”

As for where IU will look, Allen said the Midwest, Georgia and Florida, and “maybe going into Texas a little more.”

“Right now, we have relationships built there. That’s the key. But the foundation has to be the Midwest.”

As far as what kind of coach he will be, Allen borrows heavily from one of his mentors, former Ben Davis coach Dick Dullaghan, whose approach boiled down to a coach has to be “a great teacher.”

“The essence of coaching is correcting errors,” Allen said. “It’s how you correct them. The style you use. The drills you do. The way you handle the players to get them motivated. You do it in a good way, but the standards are high.”

That's fine, but in the end, you'd better win.

Lombardi definitely said that.

This column is the commentary of the writer and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio


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