We are embarking on a critical year three for Indiana head coach Tom Allen, and the conditions are right for this program to take a step forward.
Improving recruiting classes are being stacked. Impressive new coordinators are in place. Facilities are being upgraded yet again.
It’s time to accelerate things.
So how does Indiana next level this program from consecutive 5-7 seasons?
In 2018, the buzz word around the strength and conditioning program for Indiana football was speed.
For 2019, just being fast won’t be good enough. Everybody is fast in the Big Ten. Just clocking in at 20 miles per hour won’t cut it.
This year, the Hoosiers will once again need to be fast. That is just the baseline expectation in the Big Ten East.
But Director of Athletic Performance David Ballou believes he has found the missing link from last year’s program.
“The number one thing that we saw holistically is in terms of acceleration. We have an acceleration need. Acceleration really is football,” Ballou said at a media availability last week.
While the Hoosiers were cranking out impressive top speed numbers last spring, the thing is, you rarely reach those speeds in high level college football.
With that realization in mind, Ballou and Athletic Performance Coach Matt Rhea began to shift their focus away from top end speed and have placed a greater emphasis on acceleration.
Driving at 120 miles per hour is fun. But a lot of cars can do that. How fast you can get to 120 is where the real action is — and the same holds true for football.
“Anywhere from 70-75% of the game is played in a 20 yard box,” Ballou said. “When you talk about some of these top speeds and how fast some of these guys are, that’s great, but if they spend 75% of the game and never even get to that top speed, then acceleration is a big deal.”
The program is measuring and tracking acceleration in increments, and what they are finding is that the new players are emerging.
“I want to know in five yards how much power they are putting out per leg, and how many meters per second they are moving from a speed perspective,” Ballou said. “And then 10 yards, and 15 yards, and 20 yards.”
“You have guys that take longer to get up to top speed but they can get up to top speed if you let them and they’ll throw and nice number up there. But in reality, on the football field, it takes too long to get up there, so you have got to fix that, there are specific things you can do to fix that, and we’re doing them.”
Will acceleration be the missing ingredient to help this program get beyond five wins? We will get our first look at the revved up Hoosiers soon.
Spring practice begins on March 2, with the annual Cream and Crimson game scheduled for April 12.
PENIX RECOVERING WELL
It looked like a new starting quarterback was emerging when freshman Michael Penix entered the game against Penn State last October.
It ended no sooner than it had started.
Penix saw extensive action against the Nittany Lions before tearing his ACL in that game and ending his first season in Bloomington.
Right after the injury, IU head coach Tom Allen indicated that the goal was to have Penix back for certain aspects of spring practice, and then back to “100 percent full bore” by June 1.
Earlier this month Allen provided an updated, indicating that Penix is “right on schedule, if not a little bit ahead.”
Allen went on to say that Penix should be throwing this spring.
More from Memorial Stadium:@themikepenix was not wearing any kind of knee brace while working out. From a short period of being in the weight room, it looks like his recovery is going well.
— Matt Cohen (@Matt_Cohen_) February 20, 2019
Ballou indicated last week that Penix has already progressed beyond having any visible signs of a major injury.
“Mike if you watch him in the weight room, you would never know he went through anything,” Ballou said.
More than just a physical recovery, the Tampa native has also had to work through the mental side of things.
“This is the first time Mike’s ever been hurt. so it was tough emotionally for him,” Ballou said. “But he was able to be mentally tough and push through it. Mike’s in a really good place.”
Perhaps indicating his potential to lead this team, Penix appears to have turned the injury into an opportunity to grow in other ways — namely his voice in the locker room.
“He’s ahead of where I thought he’d be right now,” Ballou said. “He’s grown a lot through this process. It’s made him tougher. It’s made him mentally tougher. I think it’s made him a better leader too. He’s been a lot more vocal.”
Under the NCAA’s new redshirt rules, Penix will return for the 2019 season as a redshirt freshman.
For the 2018 season Penix completed 21 of 34 passing attempts for 219 yards and a touchdown.
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