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IU football Thursday notebook: Williams progressing; preparing for crowd, Clifford and national spotlight

IU is set to embark on a trip Happy Valley to face its third top-10 opponent in just the first five weeks of the 2021 campaign.

We caught up with head coach Tom Allen at a Thursday media availability for his final thoughts on Penn State.  Here are few notes and news items from that conversation.

Indiana (2-2) and No. 4/6 Penn State (4-0) kick off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern inside Beaver Stadium at University Park, Pa.  The game will be televised by ABC.

See also:  Q&A — what to know about PSU | Tom Allen radio show | Coordinators Sheridan and Warren preview PSU

CB JAYLIN WILLIAMS PROGRESSING

Indiana has been thin in the secondary during the early part of the season.  Starting safety Devon Matthews missed two games before returning last weekend, backup cornerback Chris Keys was lost for the season to injury, and starting cornerback Jaylin Williams was forced out of the Western Kentucky game with a concussion.

Allen gave an update on Williams, an All-Big Ten performer who has been proceeding through the concussion protocol steps this week.

“He’s progressing very well, optimistic for his opportunity to be able to play on Saturday,” Allen said.  “We’ll know for sure tomorrow (Friday), but feel good about him.”

Penn State has the No. 18 passing offense in the country, averaging 308 yards per contest.  The Lions will likely use an up-tempo approach at least at times, meaning Indiana’s depth in the secondary will be tested.

THAT’S A LOT OF PEOPLE

It goes without saying, the crowd will be a factor on Saturday night.  The official capacity at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is 106,572, more than double IU’s Memorial Stadium.

Allen hopes his team can draw from their experiences in week one to handle the environment.

“[Playing at] Iowa definitely will help. Any time you have a chance to experience something that gives you something to draw from that experience. It won’t be quite like it will be [Saturday at Penn State]. It’s going to be a night game this Saturday and more fans in the stands and be louder.”

The incremental number of fans at Penn State vs. Iowa, roughly 40,000, is a rough approximation for the average Indiana home crowd in recent years.

But on his radio show on Wednesday night, Allen said at some point the impact of additional fans is mitigated.

“You kind of get to the point where, if you can’t hear the person next to you, how much louder does it need to be,” Allen said.  “I mean it’s loud, right?  If you can’t hear the guy next to you and you have to communicate with hand signals, then it’s just loud.”

Allen said Ohio State and Penn State are probably the two loudest venues in the Big Ten.  Penn State is planning a “stripe out” with alternating blue and white sections on Saturday night.

Photo credit – Penn State Athletics

CLIFFORD OFF TO A STRONG START

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford is the reigning Big Ten co-offensive player of the week.  In his third year as the starter, Clifford is on pace for career highs in completion percentage and passing yards per game while not running as much as he has historically.

“He is a great quarterback. A tough, hard-nosed kid and a great competitor and we have a lot of respect for him. Love how he plays the game. He has a toughness to him that you want to see at that position,” Allen said. … “You have seen his growth. He continues to be effective with his legs and he has hurt us in the past with that. Obviously, he has hurt us throwing the ball, as well. You can just tell he is a great leader and a great player. He is a big reason why they are as good as they are and in the position that they are in.”

As Allen noted, Clifford remains a threat to run.  And IU knows that better than anyone.  He rushed for 119 yards and a score in 2020 against the Hoosiers, and 55 yards and two scores in 2019.

“He’s not normally a runner but he can use his legs and extend plays and scramble and get out of the pocket,” linebacker Micah McFadden said earlier this week.  “We’re going to have to do a good job of containing him upfront and then locking on to guys in the backend and making sure we’re not coming out of coverage to corral him but doing our job as linebackers and flowing with ball and tracking him down.”

HOOSIERS IN NATIONAL PRIMETIME SPOT

It isn’t often you see Indiana playing on a national network for a night game.  At least according to the individual who asked Allen about the scenario, it is the first time ever for IU to be in the primetime spot on ABC.

Allen sees the game as an opportunity to fulfill promises made to his current players and highlight to recruits what is possible at Indiana.

“You build your program and you build each and every year, and you want to be able to put your players in a position to have opportunities like this when you talk to them in recruiting to come to Indiana to compete against the best teams in the country under a national spotlight,” Allen said.

“So awesome opportunity for this program, and I’m excited for our kids to be able to be in this environment and play their very best.”


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