By the time he started his pre-spring practice Zoom press conference at 1 p.m. Monday, Tom Allen had already had a pretty lucrative day.
About three hours earlier, Indiana announced that he had restructured his contract to add another $1 million per year to his seven-year deal, increasing his annual average compensation to $4.9 million from 3.9 million and moving him up the ladder in the Big Ten above Minnesota’s P.J Fleck and Wisconsin’s Paul Christ and in line with Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.
And just a few moments before he sat down in front of a camera in Indiana’s team room in Memorial Stadium’s north end one facility, Kaiden Turner, a three-star inside linebacker from Fayetteville, Ark., became the first player to commit to Indiana for the Class of 2022, picking the Hoosiers over Arkansas, California, Kansas State and Louisville among others.
The events were not necessarily directly connected, but certainly are symbolically so as they they add to the continued narrative of Indiana gaining momentum behind Allen’s stewardship as the Hoosiers head into spring practice for perhaps the most anticipated Indiana football season in over 50 years.
Even though it doesn’t add any years to his deal, the contract extension sends the message that Allen intends to stay and Indiana intends to do what it takes to keep him, which in turn makes players who consider Indiana more certain that Allen will be there as long as they would.
“When you talk to recruits and their families, they want to know, are you going to be coaching my son?” Allen said. “If he’s a sophomore or a junior or a senior. That’s a big deal. Things like this send a strong message in that direction. Commitment from the university and commitment of myself and my family to being here. That means a lot to me, and it obviously puts a lot of power behind your words. It’s not just something that I’m saying. It’s the action of people here that are in charge of these responsibilities and this is the decision they chose to make for this.”
It certainly adds more credence to the idea that Allen doesn’t view the job as a stepping stone and that Indiana doesn’t view it that way either. The Hoosiers will likely be a top 15 team in preseason polls for the first time since 1968, the season after they reached their only Rose Bowl, and Allen said he intends to see to it that such heights become the norm for Indiana while he’s still in his position.
“I’ve said all along it’s about wanting to be at a place that values our football program, that’s going to invest in our football program and allow us to be able to have the infrastructure and the support to do great things here,” Allen said. “That’s what I want us to be able to do. I appreciate their support in that area and all that they’ve chosen to invest in football at Indiana University. … The whole point is I want to continue to build off the foundation that we’ve laid here at Indiana. I want this to be able to be what I envisioned it to be when I first got here and be able to compete at the highest level in this conference and across this country. To be able to have that, it’s kinda the next step for us as a program.”
And now the next step on the field is spring practice, a luxury Allen didn’t even have much of last season before the Hoosiers’ historic 6-2 season and Outback Bowl berth. Spring practice started not long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and had to quickly be shut down. The Hoosiers will still be getting tested for COVID daily and wearing masks indoors throughout the spring period, but they will have a full spring.
“I love spring ball, because you get in the season, you’re always getting ready for a game,” Allen said. “So you have that deadline that drives things and makes you have to go through things at a certain tempo. Here, you’ve got a lot of time to teach, a lot of time to go through very, very thoroughly your fundamentals and your technique. The things that we believe separate and allow us to have an edge about ourselves here and being able to spend time reinforcing those things.”
The Hoosiers lost just three starters on offense — wide receiver Whop Philyor, running back Stevie Scott and center Harry Crider — and three on defense — defensive tackle Jerome Johnson, defensive tackle Jovan Swann and safety Jamar Johnson. Thanks to COVID rules that didn’t cost anyone a year of eligibility, the Hoosiers return most of the rest of the roster including players taking advantage of fifth and sixth years. For that reason, there isn’t a ton of drama involved in this spring in terms of position battles, but there was still a fair bit of news the day before camp. Notes from Allen’s first press conference of the spring follow.
— As expected, junior quarterback Michael Penix will likely not get any on-field work during the spring after tearing his ACL at the end of last year. However, Allen said he still expects him to be ready to play for the season opener against Iowa on Sept. 4.
“He will definitely not be taking any reps with anybody around him,” Allen said. “Definitely going to throw some footballs around and things like that, but pretty limited in that regard. But at the same time, still feel really good about the future and the way he’s been able to progress so far and the prognosis we’ve been given from the doctors. Very optimistic about his availability. We’re expecting him to be full bore when the season starts.”
His spring absence means redshirt sophomore Jack Tuttle and freshman Dexter Williams will get a lot more work, especially with the first team. Tuttle took over when Penix was injured against Maryland and led the Hoosiers to a win over Wisconsin in his first game but struggled in the Outback Bowl against Ole Miss.
“I think it’s a big spring for him,” Allen said. “Dexter Williams as well. Those two quarterbacks are going to take a lot of reps. Jack proved his worth last year on the field. … Just really looking forward to him being able to get all those reps.”
— All-Big Ten cornerback Jaylin Williams will continue to practice with the team despite being charged in early February with OWI.
“He’ll still be with us and doing things with the team,” Allen said. “That’s not changed. But we still don’t have a final verdict on the things will court systems will bring back to us.”
— Cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby, who has been with Indiana since late 2010 when Kevin Wilson was hired, was granted the title of assistant head coach which Allen said will expand his responsibilities in terms of leadership of the program. Allen already has an associate head coach in newly hired running backs coach Deland McCullough. This most likely means a raise for Shelby, but Allen was quick to point out that there are real responsibilities that come with the role.
“I really chose to do it in a way that’s very purposeful and helps our staff get better,” Allen said. “He and I have talked about his desire to be a head coach one day. Same with Deland McCullough. I think Brandon has a strong personality to be able to address our players and as has a good connection with our players.”
— Special teams coach Kasey Teegardin will work with the Bull and Husky positions, which are the weakside/outside linebacker hybrid positions and the linebacker/safety hybrid position, both of which entail edge rush duties. He will carry the title of outside linebackers coach.
— Freshman Caleb Murphy and sophomore Gavin McCabe have both been moved back to defensive line. Neither saw game action last season, but Murphy was working at tight end in practice and McCabe at offensive line.
— Edge rushers D.K. Bonhomme, Alfred Bryant and Michael Ziemba are formally listed as playing the Bull position on the roster.
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