Indiana football head coach Tom Allen introduced new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman on Tuesday on a teleconference.
The Hoosiers hired Wellman away from the New York Giants earlier this month.
The transcript of the teleconference is below.
INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 24, 2020
TOM ALLEN: Just wanted to welcome all you guys here today. Appreciate you taking the time to join us. I hope you’re all safe and healthy and your families are all the same, and that’s our primary objective the last several weeks here, even several days, is to be able to make sure that everybody here is safe and in the proper place for them to be able to maximize safety and player development.
Very excited about joining you today, and on behalf of Aaron Wellman and bringing him on as our new head strength and conditioning coach and just the director of our sports performance program and football overall, just can’t be more excited about his addition to our staff and what he’s going to bring here and his expertise.
But it’s more about the passion he has for our players and their development, and wanting to be here at Indiana and being able to help us continue to build off the momentum that we have in both the weight room and strength and conditioning, as well, in our entire program.
Just want to introduce Aaron to you today so you have a chance to hear from him and ask him some questions. Here’s Aaron.
AARON WELLMAN: Thanks, Coach. One, I just want to start by saying that I’m thrilled to be back at Indiana for a few reasons. One, this is a university and a football program that’s always been special to us, and when I say us, my wife and I and our family. Earlier in my career I spent almost five years here as an assistant, and I’ve received a cup of degrees from IU, so it’s a special place.
I’m excited to work for Coach Allen, who’s a tremendous coach and leader. I’m also looking forward to locking arms with our staff, an outstanding staff of assistant coaches that we truly believe in.
And then lastly, we’ve got a group of talented players who have committed to the process of building a championship program and a group that my staff and I are anxious to begin developing as soon as we can.
Q. Aaron, I guess my first question would be obviously you were in the NFL ranks. You talk about how much IU means to you, but why was this the time to come back down to the college ranks rather than staying in the NFL where you were?
AARON WELLMAN: Yeah, it’s a good question, and I don’t know if I have a specific answer to you. I typically go by what I feel in my gut and what I feel in my heart. Talking to Coach Allen, I got excited about him, I got excited about his staff, I got excited about the direction of this program, the success he’s built here, and like I said, this has been a program that’s been near and dear to us, a program that we enjoyed our time here, a program that we’d love to come back and build, and I think for all those reasons, it’s one of those feelings that just felt right, that I was excited to get back to the college level, to truly develop young men, and that’s really what drove the decision.
Q. What are the challenges you’re currently under in terms of not being able to have the team assembled at the facilities? Do you have any means to organize any kind of workouts individually with people at home, and if so, what’s that process look like?
AARON WELLMAN: Yeah, we’re playing by the same rules as everyone else, unfortunately, as our country goes through this. Our charge from Coach Allen is just, hey, let’s do this better than every other program in the country, and that’s certainly what we’re trying to do. It’s a lot of virtual meetings. Coach Allen will address that, what they’re doing on the football side.
For me it’s trying to individualize workouts from a distance, which involves a lot of communication with the athletes. Our athletes know that I’m on call 24 hours a day for them. We’ve provided the workouts through an app on their iPhones so that they can download their workouts, we can track their progress and they can certainly FaceTime me, call me, text me, communicate via the app on any and every question they have, and we’re trying to meet their needs from afar right now.
Q. The question I had timing-wise, from when you were hired to when you got there, did you have a chance to meet with any of the players at all before things shut down?
AARON WELLMAN: Not on an individual basis. We had a team meeting and was fortunate enough to get in front of the team prior to them leaving for spring break, and I’ve had individual communication with all of our players, and I think that’s important going forward at this time. We’re just trying to get to know them. I’ve had several conversations. I’ve had several communications via text, via messaging over apps, and unfortunately that’s kind of what — that’s the situation we’re in right now, so I’m trying to get to know our players as much as I can through this situation.
Q. As far as your staff, where are you at as far as putting together your staff? Obviously they had a complete staff turnover in strength and conditioning. Have you got everybody filled or are you still looking for people?
AARON WELLMAN: We’re still working through that process. Obviously we’ve identified some guys I think that would be great for this program and this team and these individuals on the team, but we’re still working through that process.
Q. In terms of communication, and you talk about being able to track what athletes through the app, they’re probably having to figure some things out on the fly in terms of having the right equipment or facilities or whatever. Is there anything the program has been able to do in terms of maybe helping them kind of adjust if they don’t have the right machines for certain things or the right facilities for certain things? Is that something that’s almost kind of got to go guy by guy a little bit?
AARON WELLMAN: Yeah, you’re exactly right. We’re taking this on a case-by-case basis, and we’re meeting every individual where they are, and where they are in terms of not only location but what they have available to them equipment-wise. Some players — a lot of players are at home. A lot of players have two sets of dumbbells, and so we’re writing up a workout specific to what they have, and we’ll write them up a dumbbell-only workout. The equipment availability throughout our roster is vast and varied, and so the work begins now right where we have to meet these guys where they are, do our absolute best for these players and be on call 24 hours a day to meet their needs.
Q. Aaron, the question I had for you was you’ve been an Indiana guy from the start, so when you reflect back on your time growing up in the northeast part of the state, obviously going to West Noble High, what are some of the lessons and some of the things you take from your upbringing that have allowed you to be so successful in your field of strength and conditioning over the years?
AARON WELLMAN: Well, I think that, number one, I’m a Hoosier. I’m from the state. I love the state. My family is in the state, so you don’t often get a chance to come back home. I would say — and it depends how you define success in the field, right; we all have different definitions of what success is. Certainly I’ve been fortunate that a lot of people have taken interest in my career and I’ve been able to progress through some great programs, and just to come here to another great program is a dream come true for me.
I think what’s helped me in my upbringing is not necessarily my geographical location but my parents and the way that they raised me, the way that my father raised me. High character and work ethic were things he valued, and I think those are two essential qualities for success in any field.
Q. What is your mission statement as soon as everything gets back to normal? What is your mission statement for the Indiana football strength and conditioning program?
AARON WELLMAN: Well, Coach Allen has a mission statement for the program, and certainly the number one goal for our staff, myself and our staff, is to uphold the standards, the high standards we have at this program. So that’s number one. And we want to do that every day as a staff and make sure our players uphold those standards.
For us a typical question is similar to what you’ve asked, your philosophy, and for me, I think that’s hard to answer. I think you’ve got to spend time in the program. I think you’ve got to watch us train.
But if I had to be succinct with a definition, we want to maximize the speed, strength and power and the movement efficiency of our athletes and we want to minimize inappropriate orthopedic stress, which means inappropriate orthopedic stress comes from too high a volume, too high a frequency, too high an intensity or poor technique. A north star for us in our program is movement efficiency, right, and we can build strength and power and speed and work capacity on top of efficient movement, but that’s got to be the foundation. We want our players moving well. We don’t want to allow poor movement in our program. We want to coach hard every day, and that’s through hiring a staff of great coaches who subjectively can see those things and can communicate and motivate the athletes and make corrections on the fly.
Q. Obviously a lot has been talked about Dave Ballou and Matt Rhea in terms of how much they’ve increased their profile value of the strength and conditioning program. How much did you take note of them when you were over in the NFL with the Giants, and did they talk a lot about lots and miles per hour things like that? Are there any other — I guess how data-driven would you say your approach is, also?
AARON WELLMAN: Yeah, well, I’ve kept track of Dave because he played for me here, and so I’ve known Dave for 20 years. And firstly for that reason, but I know he and Dr. Rhea did a great job here. I think the whole field — the people that are forward thinking in this field have used data more so in the last five, ten years than we ever did before, and I think it’s a mistake not to. I think it’s a mistake not to use data in decision making. Will that drive every decision? Not necessarily, but it certainly plays a part in the decision-making process.
Q. Aaron, there’s been a lot of talk with strength and conditioning coaching around the country about how long it takes for organized activities in terms of getting ready for a football season. Based on your experience, is this a six- to eight-week process, or how concerned should we be as this process lingers in terms of getting players ready for a college football season?
AARON WELLMAN: That’s a really good question. I think part of your statement answered the question that as this lingers, obviously naturally people grow more concerned. I don’t think we’re there yet. I think our guys are committed to the process and doing a great job at home.
But how long it takes to get ready for the season is based upon the training status our players come back in, right, and we trust our players to do what’s right at home, we trust our players to do it better than anyone in the country, and so there’s no concerns yet, but certainly we want ample time with them when they come back to get them ready for the rigors of the season.
Q. Aaron, just wondering in terms of having been around the NFL and players in the NFL, what you’ve kind of noticed that you feel maybe at the collegiate level could be done maybe a little bit better not only preparing players to play on Saturday but as they make that transition into the NFL?
AARON WELLMAN: Yeah, well, without having an educated opinion on what every college strength and conditioning program is doing, I see the players when they came to us in the NFL, I can tell you — what I can tell you is what we want to bring to the table here, and that is optimal programming on an individual basis, which for the last four years in the NFL I had a chance to do, and I think with the sheer numbers in college, sometimes strength and conditioning coaches get overwhelmed by individual programming with this large of a number, but what we do is we start with the physical demands of the position first, so we start with the positional demands, and obviously every position has different demands, and things should be programmed differently by position, but within that, we progress to individual needs based largely on where the window of greatest adaptation is for the individual. In other words, does he have a significant window of adaptation with regard to strength or with regards to speed, and what we do is we just influence his program more so towards those barriers to performance. We identify his strengths, make sure we are still training his strengths but really we shift program to focus on what are those barriers to preventing this individual from achieving top performance, and that’s where our program tends to shift towards for each individual.
Q. Coach, I was a manager when you were a GA and assistant strength coach, so I remember what the facilities were like back then. I don’t know how much you’ve been back to Indiana, but talk about the new weight room they put in and the equipment and technology that’s been implemented the last couple years and how beneficial that is for you and your staff.
AARON WELLMAN: Well, I think you’re speaking from experience like I am that the commitment to football at Indiana is at an all-time high. I think this university and this athletic program, I know Coach Allen, the commitment level here is as great or greater than any school in the country, and our facilities are second to none from a football standpoint and really from an athletic department standpoint.
The technology we have in the room is — it’s great to walk into because we’ve been using this technology for seven to eight years ourselves, so we’re familiar with the technology. We can hit the ground running with it, and like I mentioned before, the facilities are second to none.
Q. In terms of obviously every program is in this situation right now in terms of everybody being back home and all that, but considering we’re talking about how much momentum you guys had coming out of the bowl game and how you guys were trying to build off of that, how disappointing is this for you guys to have to take a break from trying to build that momentum going into next season?
TOM ALLEN: Well, we addressed that with our guys, and I went through, we had a virtual team meeting this past Sunday night at 7:00 and got in front of everybody, which was awesome, but just that, we came out of — I thought we had four great spring practices to get off to a great start for spring and heading into spring break, and as you mentioned, the momentum from the bowl game and then the weight room work that was put in after they returned from campus after that game, and just felt like we had so much carryover and it was just kind of a seamless step into the next phase of our program development, and it kind of felt the same way we got into spring ball. It just didn’t seem like we had been gone that long because of all those bowl practices and the fact that we had all that preparation.
You know, I’m not going to — yeah, it was a little disappointing, but at the same time, as I told our guys, we don’t blink, and it’s the same thing I said when we had to address the departure of Coach Ballou and Dr. Rhea, we didn’t blink, and brought in Aaron Wellman, who you just spoke with, and a guy that I think is going to do a phenomenal job for us, and our kids are very excited about working with him.
But it’s definitely different, and not what we expected. And we went on to say, I had this whole series of things I challenged them, and I said, Hey, the bottom line is this: They just canceled spring ball; we don’t blink. They just canceled classes in person for the rest of the year; we don’t blink. We just recently shut down weight rooms; we can’t be on our facility here; we aren’t going to blink. Then we get a state order that says you can’t even go to a gym; we don’t blink. We’re going to be doing things in our garages and basements and wherever they have access to.
So that to me is just the mindset we’re going to take as a program: We don’t blink. I gave out a motivational thing with our team today that we sent out to all of our players, coaches, managers, trainers, everybody that’s part of this program. You just have to adapt and you have to adjust, and we’re all in the same boat, every team in the country is dealing with this, talking to some other head coaches here recently.
I just think that you can’t dwell on the things you can’t control, so we don’t really talk about what we can’t do, we’re just going to find out what we can do, how we can best adapt, and I think those who best adapt and take the most advantage of this opportunity in this window of time are going to come back in May, June or July, whenever that may be, and be ahead of the game, so that’s our objective.
Q. I know you’ve had a lot of players scattered for spring break and I don’t know how many went on trips, but you have 85 scholarship guys, as well as walk-ons. Have you checked on the health of everyone, and is everybody okay as far as you’re concerned? Are there plans to test everyone or how is everyone doing health-wise during the process?
TOM ALLEN: Well, we’ve obviously had contact with every one of our players, and we’ve had a couple position meetings already. As far as we know right know, everyone is healthy. No one has contracted the virus that we know of. We’ve not done specific testing on our guys. Like I said, the majority of them are all at home right now, and so haven’t been with them face-to-face in regards to physically but have interacted with them on social media and through virtual means with technology.
But at this point we’ve got a healthy football team that’s just trying to — and that was our number one objective is to make sure that they’re in the best place for them to be safe and healthy and so that their parents feel good about that and that they’re in a good spot. Some kids’ spring break plans were thwarted and they ended up not going where they were planning on going and some went different places, as well, but everybody is back home now and in a position to — we basically did an inventory on Monday with our guys to make sure they had the technology that they’re going to need to be successful academically once classes begin here again soon and also the technology with either iPad, cell phones and laptops to be able to continue to develop them physically and mentally, as well, within our program’s progress.
But the top of the list was the physical health, so to me that was — at this point we’re in good shape with that.
Q. When you were doing all your coaching, hiring earlier in the year, replacing guys, it was real important to you to sort of maintain status quo for what you were building on. Do you see a lot of that in Aaron Wellman in regards to sort of continuing what’s been working well?
TOM ALLEN: There’s no question. You know, that was a major driving force when I — the reality became that we were going to have to find a new head strength and conditioning coach. I wanted to make sure that we had somebody who, first of all, fit with us. When I talked to our team the very night that we had the meeting letting them know that there would be a change there, that I told them that these are the things I’m looking for, and we talked about it just kind of open and honestly, and I talked about what they expect me to look for, and the bottom line was just to — they wanted a guy that fits us, a guy that fits our program. A cultural fit. A philosophy fit. There’s certain things that the first thing they said was we want somebody that cares about us as young men, as a person, and that’s going to help us become a better man, and that’s kind of the cornerstone to what we do here in all of our hiring.
I want people that love the guys that they’re going to be charged to develop. I wanted them to have a heart for them and to be passionate about their development as a complete person.
And so Aaron fell into that in a huge way. That’s his passion is to be able to impact young men’s lives and help them to maximize their physical and mental talents that they have in sports.
And so those are things — and then you’ve got the philosophy and the technology use and the belief in the numbers that our guys have developed here and the platform that we use for that to do that from a technology perspective. You know, and so — and the things that we do in our speed development. There’s a philosophy alignment in both of those areas.
Yeah, I think there’s no question that that drove a lot of this decision, and his passion and love for Indiana was a big part of that, too. I wanted guys that want to be here and guys that I just think it takes that kind of mindset and that kind of love for Indiana to be able to do the things that I know have to happen here for us to reach our goals.
And so there’s definitely alignment from a philosophical perspective in how you motivate and lead your players and how you specifically do that in the weight room. I wanted some carryover because there’s some things we have established here in how we do things in strength and development, developing our power and also developing our speed.
Q. A quick recruiting question. Obviously this would be the time of year when you guys would be bringing players on campus for visits. Nobody is able to do that, obviously, across the country. How are you guys working through that because I know personal relationships and feeling the family vibe you guys have is big. How are you working through that? And secondly, is this actually kind of a blessing in disguise that your recruiting class this upcoming year is going to be smaller until the recruiting calendar gets reset, it doesn’t hurt you as much?
TOM ALLEN: Well, to answer your first question, we’ve had to adapt, and everybody has, so the virtual tours have become a very important part of this, to be able to showcase our facilities as we all know have improved dramatically in the several last years, and so being able to get the players here virtually is important. It’s not the same as a face-to-face, so it’s definitely impacted us, but it’s impacted everybody. We’re all playing by the same rules, and no one can have anybody on campus. We had some official visits that had to be canceled that were going to be coming up here soon. So that’s just part of the new adjustments we’re going to have to have.
Bottom line is I do think, as I marry into your next question, yeah, I do think there’s a definite benefit. It’s going to be a small class. It’s the smallest class since I’ve been here as head coach, or even as assistant, so that will help us. We have a very young football team. We have a small number of seniors that will be departing from us a year from now.
At the same time, though, we just have to build those relationships over the phone, and we have our coaches are doing a tremendous job of getting me on the phone with our guys. We have a full slate of calls that come in every single day. We have a different position group that we focus on, and as this whole afternoon slate is filled for me to get on the phone with players and their parents and to be able to build those relationships.
It’s just not quite the same. It’s obviously ideal to get them on campus and get a family feel that you can’t get that same feel per se over the phone, but you’ve just got to make the best of that part and really utilize technology, and more than anything, it’s just that constant interaction with our guys via text messaging and videos and things that we can send them and then getting on the phone with them and talking to them.
Q. Following up on recruiting, as much as you’re able to see the big picture, while we’re all kind of sequestered away, what do you feel like the big picture is right now for college football and the way that it’s adjusting to recruiting and the way that it’s adjusting to not having spring practice in a way that I think there’s even maybe some fear among coaches that the season may get altered or canceled? How do you see college football trying to adjust to this right now?
TOM ALLEN: It’s got a lot of — there’s a lot of unknowns. That’s probably the best word to describe how I view it. I had a conversation with another Big Ten coach yesterday, and if you think about it from a school’s perspective, right now they’re focusing on how to best get through the spring sport situations and how to handle that and how that’s going to be affecting the future of those athletes and their seasons that just got cut short or eliminated, which is really hard for them.
So I don’t know if there’s a holistic approach here that every single school is focused on football. I know as football coaches we sure are, and so we’re banding together and really kind of coming through and talking to each other, so I would say to — we can only deal with what we know, and right now we know that our players are not with us, so we have a great plan to be able to get through this time period and maximize player development and player safety. So that’s goal number one.
And then number two is, okay, how is this going to affect recruiting. Well, right now if I just had to say my — this is just my opinion. My opinion is that I don’t see them allowing us to go out and recruit anytime soon, and I don’t see them allowing just random people, random as in just being people that you’re recruiting that aren’t on your team just coming to campuses anytime soon, so I think that’s going to be the biggest adjustment. I don’t know how that’s going to play itself out.
How is our summer going to look? When are we going to be able to get back with our own players? So I think the next step is we’ve got to keep recruiting our tails off to build those relationships, and not so much worry about when they’re going to be back on campus, but I think the first group we’re trying to get back on campus is our own players.
So when that happens, that will really drive what happens next in regards to how do you get ready for your season. Nobody is talking to me anyway about changes to the season. I know that’s maybe happening behind the scenes, but bottom line is we’re expecting to get our guys back here whenever that may be, and when they come, whether it’s in May or — you’d like to get them back by June, but who knows. There’s a lot of things that — and we’re just talking about a sport here, so the safety of our communities and the people in each state in this country and in this world, their safety is way more important than us getting ready for a football game. I know there’s a lot of really, really big-time amount of money that goes into supporting the entire institution through football, so I get that, I’m not diminishing that whatsoever, but I think that those are things that hopefully won’t have to be — become a reality, but at the same time, so what I’m dealing with right now is helping our players while they’re away, come up with a good plan for that, and then executing that plan to the highest level possible and then getting our players back on campus whenever that may be, and then once that happens, we get them ready to compete at their very, very best in the fall.
Q. You listed some of the qualities that made you hire Aaron Wellman, but when you look at the other benefits in terms of adding a coach to your staff who grew up in the state, played high school football in the state and went on to coach at other universities, including Indiana in the state, what kind of additional benefit does that offer your staff, being able to kind of keep an Indiana guy through-and-through in house and continuing to work with the university and the state in that way?
TOM ALLEN: Well, I think it fits with the philosophy of just trying to find guys who fit with us. You know, and I use that word a lot. I use it in recruiting, I use it in hiring staff, and when you get a guy that is from here, his wife’s family is from here, that creates a tie, it creates a passion, it creates a personal connection that you can’t fabricate any other way. Home is home, and you can’t — we’ve got — not every member of our staff is from Indiana, and that’s not necessarily the number one prerequisite for sure, but I know that it does add an element to it that creates a different feel for a person, and when you have a chance to be able to come home and be home and be in that place, it just means something different to you, I believe, strongly.
I think that’s what he brings to us. He brings also just that — to me, I love the fact that he’s just a — he’s one of those kind of guys, and I had this described to me by many people that have worked with him, that I talked to them, and I have talked to players that are playing for him right now with the Giants that I knew from previous stops, and just the overlying theme, and this guy will do whatever it takes to help you develop as a person, as a player, whether it’s from nutrition to your sleep habits to the physical things you’re doing in your running, in your lifting and just your training your body and just the holistic approach to helping him become the best possible, and there was no time limit put on that. It’s like, okay, he’ll spend until 3:00, 4:00 in the morning if he has to. It’s a whatever-it-takes mindset, and to me that’s how we’re going to be successful here.
He’s a find-a-way kind of guy. That’s what I want on our staff. I want find-a-way guys. I want guys that don’t tell me what we can’t do, I want guys that help us find a way to do what we want to do and I believe we can do here in this program. He fits all those things for me, and just happened to be an Indiana guy, as well.
But I just love his expertise. He’s very, very sharp. I learned this a long time ago from one of the coaches I worked with and he just always challenged me, man, you find the brightest guys you can find to be a part of your program because the guys that are really smart and very — have a strong understanding of their area of expertise, they help you, and they’re good ideas guys and they think outside the box and they’re creative and they help you get better and they help everybody get better, and that’s what I want when I hire anybody on our staff.
Q. Just from a timeline perspective, how much time do you need to get the team and the coaches ready for the season before you start thinking about, well, we might not have enough time to get things started on time?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, as I said earlier, the unknowns are at a high number right now. I guess, though, in my mind, when you think about our calendar and if I had to just say what you would ideally like to have, you’d like to have June and July. The month of May has always been a discretionary month for us. It’s not mandatory lifting for our guys, so that helps in a variety of methods during that month. And then when you get into April after spring ball is over, there’s a lot of focus on academics and final exams and all that preparation as the coaches are usually out recruiting.
As long as we can have June and July to get our players ready, I think that’s enough time. I’m not trying to pigeonhole us, but just based on what we’ve done in the past and the calendar we have created for that — now, if there’s changes to that we’ve got to make adjustments and we will if that is called for, but that to me in any mind is the time needed to get ready to play a full season.
Q. Curious as far as getting in contact with Aaron Wellman, obviously he’s an Indiana guy in the NFL, but I was curious how he kind of popped up on your radar?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, he came here a year ago. His relationship with Dave Ballou is strong, and the influence that he had on Dave was a very big part of all this, and Dave and I talked, and he came — like I said, a year ago to spend time with our strength staff here and spoke to our team and just that kind of thing.
There was already a relationship there. I would say we didn’t know each other well but we definitely knew each other, and so — but I think his relationship with Dave Ballou was a big reason for the initial desire for me to be able to reach out to the New York Giants’ organization to get permission to talk to him.
Q. How does this — obviously you don’t have any contact or as much contact as usual with your players right now. How does this affect freshmen a little bit more than other players because they’re coming in, they’re trying to learn the playbook? What kind of extra steps have you taken with them to try to get them up to speed?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you’ve got two groups there of freshmen. You’ve got your freshmen that came mid-year and joined us early by graduating in December from their high schools, and they probably have had the — from the perspective of what they expected to get out of these months that we’re in right now, they’re probably getting the biggest change in what you wanted them to get because they left home early for a reason, to be able to have these extra spring practices and have the extra workouts with the strength staff and all those extra things that they are not getting to do now. So you basically try to — you group them in with our current players, but at the same time they’re not as further along as our current players. So we’ve had to kind of adapt with them to get them up to speed.
And then you’ve got the guys that have signed with us that are still in high school that we’re trying to get. So basically right now the focus has been on first levels to make sure everybody on our team here, the 103 guys that we have with us that are here this spring on our roster and then we have the additional 10 to 12 guys that we signed that aren’t here right now, and then we’ve got the walk-ons that are coming in, preferred walk-ons that will be coming in as well this summer.
It’s definitely a unique situation from their perspective, so we’re trying to keep them involved with us. They’re going to be our next area of focus once we get everybody here we feel like in a good routine and good flow, because we just came back from spring break this past week. I know the school had the extended spring break this week up until the 29th, but we are back in the mode of getting our guys fully engaged in what we’re doing outside of having class.
Yeah, these freshmen are ones we’ve got to make sure we don’t get lost in the shuffle of all this because they’re preparing to be here this summer, as well, and good Lord willing that’s going to happen.
Q. One of the big things about making a bowl game was the added practices, and now this turns into a challenge of mentally be able to take advantage of that. How can you do that?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, first of all, it really kind of became a reality to me how critical those bowl practices really are now. If you think about if a team did not have those and you miss your spring football, boy, that really, really sets you back. Those practices we had and the fact that we played in a later bowl gave us even more days to take advantage of.
Those are huge. How you take advantage of them right now, we do have four practices, so we have all that film from those four. We had two helmet-only practices, one with shells and one with full pads. A lot of good film to use to teach off of and build off of that, but right now you’re really approaching it from a mental perspective. We’re going through and having position meetings right now within the rules that we follow for NCAA this time of year, and allow us to be able to do the installations with our guys and watch film with them via the technology that we have, which has been really, really good, and we’re excited about our use of that and us being able to take full advantage of that. We’ve done that starting yesterday.
So that to me is going to be a huge part of it because we’ve got to keep the mental side of it going. We’ve got to keep them learning the system.
You’ve got these young guys, you can’t replace the reps right now. We’ll see how that plays itself out. I have no idea if they’ll get any opportunity to make up some of those days. We talked about using maybe the NFL model, some OTAs in the summer like they do, like the NFL teams do as they prepare for their season. Don’t know if that’s going to be — that’s been talked about with the coaches anyway, not necessarily officially with the administration or the NCAA, but just kind of thinking outside the box a little bit about that.
So it’s definitely — player development is important. There’s a reason why we have those spring practices. They play a critical role in the next step of your program being able to physically improve from a technical perspective as you exercise and do those things repetitiously and you don’t get those reps, so you’ve got to be able to mentally replace them. So it’s not going to be the same. You can say what you want. You can’t replace a practice if we don’t get those back, which no one knows if we will or we won’t, but if you don’t get those practices back, you can’t replace them completely, you’ve got to replace them as best way possible, which is the mental side of it and also with your physical development in the weight room.
Q. Talking about Aaron Wellman, his compensation package, I know David Ballou and Matt Rhea, it’s kind of almost putting those two together, but what kind of statement was it by the athletic department, and how much do you appreciate the support to have possibly the third highest paid strength coach in the country?
TOM ALLEN: Well, it just goes back to what I said. When I came here, I sensed that Fred Glass had a different mindset about Indiana football when I was hired as defensive coordinator in 2016, and that’s only continued to grow when he hired me as the head coach and the investment in the new facilities here and the locker room and all that we’re doing now and then going out and hiring Kalen DeBoer a year ago and the investment he put into Kalen and getting a guy of his caliber, and now what he was able to do. Fred invested in Dave Ballou and Dr. Rhea and now us be able to go out and get a sitting head strength coach in the NFL, which is really a huge statement towards our commitment to helping this program continue to grow, and they made an investment in me and our entire program by the contract they gave me and our staff.
To me it’s just a continuation of that, and also I just think about the process we went through to get that and make that happen, and Scott Dolson played a huge role in those negotiations and just his support, and now with him being named the new athletic director just continues to show that Fred Glass and our administration and now Scott Dolson in his new role understand that football is going to be performing at a high level in the Big Ten, we have to invest in this program, and I think there’s no question that the foundation was laid with Dave Ballou and Dr. Rhea and with our investment in them and then being able to put together a package that we did for Aaron Wellman is unprecedented here for this position.
But at the same time, even as I shared with our administration and they — you invest in what you believe in, and they invested in me with a seven-year contract and I wanted to be able to have a person in this role, in this position, the head strength coach is the guy that spends the most time with your players of anybody else on our staff. He’s with them the entire year and his staff. So getting that right was a very big priority for me, and I just can’t thank Fred Glass and Scott Dolson and our president and our board of trustees and all their support for allowing this to happen.
I just really think it sends a strong message about how important football is becoming here at Indiana.
Q. Mike Penix, we saw him last week, I guess he was in a park throwing around. Your quarterback, how essential is it to maintain your communication lines, certainly with all your players but with him at this point, knowing that he’s throwing?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I think it’s very important. He’s back at home, like most of our guys, and so trying to find a way. He’s one of the ones that’s got a few dumbbells in his home that he’s going to be able to take advantage of with a dumbbell workout that Coach Wellman and the staff put together for him and to maximize his time down there, and like you said, you saw him throwing with some guys down there trying to still also stay within the rules and trying to do everything we can to help this coronavirus to be eliminated.
But at the same time guys are just trying to find a way to stay in the best possible shape they can, and yeah, it’s important to stay in communication with him, and I’ll be doing that myself. Obviously position coaches and Coach Sheridan is not only the offensive coordinator but also the quarterbacks coach so he has a strong relationship already with Michael and that will grow during this time as with all of our quarterbacks and all of our position groups.
Yeah, it’s a critical time. We’re going full bore. Our sleeves are rolled up, we’re going to work, and we’re getting ready.