Coming out of a bye week, Indiana football will face one of its toughest tests of the season.
The Hoosiers take on No. 2 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and they have a lot of things to work through internally by then. IU head coach Tom Allen and selected players met with the media on Monday to talk about both the bye week and the Wolverines game.
Here are a few key things that came out of the availability.
Weekly schedule adjustments
Allen spent time after the Maryland game and throughout the bye week doing self-evaluation within the program — that, obviously, is what led to Walt Bell’s dismissal as offensive coordinator. But the evaluation went beyond execution.
He made some adjustments to the team’s practice schedule to try and get things back on track. Running back Jaylin Lucas said that change has mainly been adding walkthroughs before practice begins. Defensive lineman Philip Blidi mentioned additional time in game situations and making practices more competitive.
But regardless of the exact changes, it’s clear Allen saw parts of IU’s weekly routine leading into games that wasn’t working as well as it could be.
“We’re going to do try to do some other things as well. I’m not going to sit here and say just going to come off a bye week and it’s just naturally going to improve,” Allen said. “We’re going to have structural changes in our schedule and the way we do things, how we practice, the way we do what we do, when we do, what we do to get our guys off to a faster early start and get that urgency going right away. Because we can’t afford (slow starts) in any of these games, these last several are going to be critical that we play well for four quarters.”
Allen’s trust in new OC Carey led to permanent move
Rod Carey spoke to the local media last week, a few days after he took over as offensive coordinator. So he didn’t talk on Monday.
But Monday was the first time Allen was pressed about the coaching change. He made initial comments in the press release announcing the move, and he introduced Carey on Wednesday without taking questions.
Allen essentially echoed a lot of what Carey said about the offense — IU can’t completely change the structure of the system at this point in the season, but Carey can make smaller tweaks and adjustments. And the heavy emphasis is on prioritizing what the offense does well.
Allen also addressed the decision to make Carey the full-time offensive coordinator rather than using an interim label. When Carey stepped in as offensive line coach around this time last year, it was clear that move was only for the remainder of the season.
But now, Allen referenced a high amount of trust he’s built with Carey over the last few years working together. Carey was a defensive analyst for IU last year before stepping in as offensive line coach, so he worked with Allen — who called plays on defense last year — in creating game plans.
That experience, along with seeing Carey in action working with players as offensive line coach, gave Allen the confidence to make the hire permanent instead of interim.
“There’s continuity,” Allen said. “There’s an understanding of the philosophy of what you want to do with that area and the trust factors. And just feel like that those are things that we’re looking for, and obviously with the flexibility and the ability to move forward and make some good, positive changes to our offense. So I just feel like we’re aligned in the things we want to align in.”
Meanwhile, Indiana’s defense has plenty of its own kinks to work out.
The Hoosiers are allowing too many big plays to opposing offenses, and it became a much bigger issue in the last few weeks before the bye. And after reviewing film from the Maryland game and going back through what happened in other games, Allen spotted multiple problems leading to the breakdowns.
Against Louisville and Akron, he saw IU’s defense struggling to contain the opposing quarterback in the pocket. That allowed those offenses to extend plays and make things happen. Allen said he and the defensive staff may have overcompensated for that problem in the Maryland game against an agile quarterback in Taulia Tagovailoa, and the adjustments led to breakdowns in the secondary.
“Just trying to prevent some of those things from happening. We made a couple of calls that we agreed as a staff may not have been the best position to put our guys in in that spot,” Allen said. “But I do feel good about the time we’ve had together as a staff to discuss the things we do well, because I do think we feel a good group on defense that can play at a high level and I expect them to. And we have just got to learn from and flush what happened there and move forward.”
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