Tom Allen pulled a name seemingly out of nowhere when he picked Georgia defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to be his next defensive coordinator.
When former DC Kane Wommack announced in December he was leaving to become the head coach at South Alabama, Allen emphasized that Wommack’s replacement would be expected to adopt the established IU defensive system rather than come in and make wholesale changes.
The list of requirements set out by Allen seemed to significantly narrow the field of candidates. First and foremost would be character in a program defined by its culture, likely meaning someone Allen already knows and trusts. Second would be someone well-versed in IU’s 4-2-5 base defense, preferably with play-calling experience. And third would ostensibly be someone with experience coaching linebackers to fill the void left by Wommack.
With Allen understandably not wanting to fix what wasn’t broken, most believed the hire would come from within.
But hiding in plain sight was Warren, who doesn’t check every box perfectly, but does fit in remarkably well when measured against what IU already has in place — and what it needs more of going forward.
What Indiana already has an abundance of is returning brain power from its 2020 defense, and that includes the contributions from the head coach.
Allen sees the addition of Warren to the staff functioning similarly to the adjustment after the 2018 season when he gave up the reins to the defensive coordinator job to Wommack, who had arrived a year earlier to be Indiana’s linebackers coach, despite, and like Warren, having no prior experience coaching that position group.
“It is going to be no different than when Kane came here in the beginning,” Allen said of the addition of Warren to the staff. “He also came as a linebackers coach (with no experience). I will say, and our players would attest to this, I am in every linebackers position meeting. I was all this past year and will be again this coming season. It is the area I focus on the most obviously and the position that I have coached the most in my career, so that will not change.”
When it comes to the overall defensive scheme, Allen reiterated that IU would be sticking with what has worked well since he arrived to take over the role under Kevin Wilson in 2016.
Warren of course doesn’t know all the ins-and-outs of the Allen way. But the concept of playing with five defensive backs is not at all foreign to him.
“Every place I’ve been we’ve based out of a five DB personnel group, so whether its 4-2-5 or nickel package, whatever the case may be,” Warren said. “Conceptually a lot of the same concepts, a lot of the same families of pressures, it’s just a tweak here, a technique here or a fundamental there.”
With a month to go before spring practice and seven months before the 2021 season, Allen has plenty of time to bridge the gap.
“Right now, we are going through the process of teaching him what we do and how we call things because everybody calls things a little differently,” Allen said. “We all do pretty much the same things, just some different terms we use, and he will adapt to the way we call things because that is the way the players know. We have so many guys back on this team overall and back on our defense. Definitely going to be keeping those things consistent. I will be hands on, but that is how I am with the defensive side of the football. It will be more like when Kane first got here for sure.”
There was never going to be a candidate for the job that allowed Allen to seamlessly cross off every item on his defensive coordinator wish list. The fact that the areas where Warren will need to develop align perfectly with Allen’s greatest schematic strengths highlights why this hire makes a lot of sense.
Scheme details and positional fit were areas where Allen was willing to budge a bit. But he wasn’t going to gamble when it came to culture. Allen’s program is known for that as much as anything else, and especially at the coordinator level, finding someone that would embrace the program intangibles was non-negotiable.
“Fit to me is guys that are aligned philosophically, how you motivate, how you lead, how you build a family, how you build a program, how you build belief, confidence and trust in each other,” Allen said. “We really found those values in Charlton. First it starts with his character as a man, his leadership, his home and the people he has worked with before.”
The team-first culture at IU is a natural fit for Warren, an Air Force graduate, who was stationed at Warner Robins AFB from 2000-03, where he was a C-130 avionics program manager, and later at Eglin AFB, Fla., as an air-to-ground weapons program manager for the Air Armament Center.
“The whole culture here, the bond that the players have, the way that the team competes resonates with me and my background of discipline, accountability and toughness,” Warren said. “Those are all things that for me, being in the military, that really resonate. I thought this would be a good fit.”
Warren admitted that he not only noticed what Allen was doing from afar culturally, but he also adopted some of what he saw as Indiana’s rise went national.
“I’ll be brutally honest with you,” Warren said. “I saw that (culture) from afar with videos, and the places I’ve been we actually used some of those as motivation for my previous team (Georgia), because it is so inspiring and gets contagious when you see a group of guys working their tails off for a common goal.”
Of course fitting in with the culture and coaching the defense are only part of Warren’s job description. That is his day job, if you will.
What might ultimately set this hire apart as a game-changer for Indiana is Warren’s ability and connections as a recruiter.
Warren was the 247Sports No. 11 recruiter in the nation after spending the previous four seasons in the SEC. Indiana’s recruiting has been on the rise during the Allen era, as IU has raised the talent level and depth on its roster while landing a few top-500 level players.
The hope with Warren is that those next-level type of players become the the new standard.
“We will get in the ring, we will throw our punches, and we are going to try to get the best young men for Indiana University to help us develop our team culture and help us win games in the future,” Warren said.
Warren’s connections run the deepest in the South, but coming from national brand programs, he knows he can go anywhere to bring in the best talent.
“For me, I can go recruit in Alaska if you need me to,” Warren said. “If the player is good enough, I will go there.”
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