Tom Allen Believes Recruiting Success Will be the Foundation of IU Football Turnaround

On the individual level, rating high school football players is an inexact science, with countless players buried deep in the rankings going on to great college and pro careers.

But in the aggregate, team recruiting rankings are pretty reliable, if still not scientific.

The top ten teams with the best 247Sports Composite recruiting class rankings over the last five years is a whose-who of college football, including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Auburn, Florida State and LSU.

This probably doesn’t come as too much of a shock.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you have to have talent to win at the highest levels of college football.

IU head football coach Tom Allen is no dummy of course.  And playing year after year in the Big Ten East, his Hoosiers most certainly must do battle at the highest levels of the game.

So it should come as no surprise that when Allen was asked what it will take to get over the 5-7 hump, recruiting was the first thing that the now third year head coach pointed to in an interview with our media partner Indiana Sports Beat.

What you might not have realized is that Allen’s decision to give up his defensive coordinator duties was in large part driven by his desire to hit the recruiting trail even harder — and show his coaching staff what it takes to move up those team class rankings.

“I have to be the strongest recruiter on our staff, and I have to lead by example,” Allen said.

One thing that Allen has in abundance is energy, and recruiting, and being the “strongest recruiter” can test even a guy like Allen.

“It takes a tremendous amount of energy,” Allen said.  “It’s about building relationships, and that takes time.  There’s no shortcuts to it.”

With the defensive coordinator duties handed off to Kane Wommack, Allen is now going all-in on improving Indiana’s roster.  While IU Director of Athletics Fred Glass appears to be taking the long view with Allen, the Hoosier head coach knows that he can deliver only so many 5-7 seasons before even the most patient fans and administrators alike grow restless.

But for now it’s Allen who is restless.  And no one is more disappointed about those back-to-back 5-7 seasons.

“It’s very disappointing to finish the second year with another 5-7 record that saw us be in so many close games again that could have changed everything with one play here one play there,” Allen said.

What does a restless coach with a seemingly unending supply of energy do?  He hits the road.  Allen, who indicated that it is not uncommon for him to be recruiting in three states in one day, pointed to the roster when pressed on what it was going to take to finally deliver the breakthrough that he championed more than two years ago.

“I think the number one thing is depth,” Allen said.   “To me, that’s what it comes down to.  Depth on both sides of the football and special teams.  That to me, is what we have to keep building.  That’s why recruiting is so huge.”

While the win totals don’t yet support the results — there is no arguing that Allen is achieving success on the recruiting trail.  Unparalleled success.

After a 2018 recruiting class that was in the top 50 nationally and one of IU’s best ever, Allen pulled off a No. 37 ranking in the 247Sports Composite with his 2019 group.  That was Indiana’s best ranking ever in the recruiting service ranking era.

Source: Corey Perrine/Getty Images North America)

To be clear, Indiana may have brought in more talent in the Mallory and McMillin eras at times, but as far as recent history goes — the talent coming in the door at Memorial Stadium is as good as it gets.

But now Allen needs to get that talent on the field.  The 2018 class is made up of still young sophomores and redshirt freshmen.  That record-setting 2019 class will mostly just be arriving on campus for the first time over the next couple weeks.

This is still a young football team — and that’s where a patient AD proves to be valuable.

While recognizing the youthful reality, Allen isn’t looking for excuses.  He’s looking for progress.

“Even though we’re still going to be young — we’re only going to have 12 seniors this year and 10 juniors,” Allen said.  That’s a very, very young football team but we have some experienced youth that will pay dividends I believe.  We played a bunch of those guys last year and we have some freshmen coming in that will have a chance to contribute.”

The dividends come in the form of staying fresh late in games by having the kind of depth that maintains a certain level of continuity.  Indiana was still close in the fourth quarter against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in 2018.

And of course they lost each of those games.  It was a similar story in 2017.

Allen knows that if that breakthrough is ever going to come, it will arrive on the backs of the second and third level guys on the depth chart.

“That depth that those guys create and developing our players to be able create an environment where we can roll guys in  late in the game where we’ve found ourselves in these games and have an opportunity to win these games,” Allen said.

“We have to be able to execute at a high level and having fresher guys that can execute, and bringing in a number two that’s not a big drop-off from the number one is a big part of that, and making those competitive plays and just allowing us to finish.”

Will Indiana’s recent recruiting success finally be enough to knock down that Big Ten East wall?

There is a tipping point in there somewhere — where just enough talent turns “close but not quite” in the fourth quarter into wins.

That kind of transformation requires relentless energy and a powerful message on the recruiting trail.

No one is questioning Allen’s energy, but there are still of course lingering concerns about the results on the field after those two 5-7 seasons.

By the same token, it has been established that successful recruiting translates into wins, and there are now far fewer questions about Allen’s ability to recruit.

Recruiting success meets Big Ten East wall.

This is going to be interesting.

You can listen to the full interview with Coach Allen below:

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