As the 2020 college football season teeters on the brink of collapse, IU head coach Tom Allen met with the media on Monday to discuss the current state of the game and more.
The transcript from Allen’s media availability follows. (Transcript via iuhoosiers.com)
Q. On players talking to coaches about wanting to play…
ALLEN: I have not had anyone come to me, personally, and say ‘hey coach, I would like to meet and talk about that.’ I am very active on social media in regards to watching our guys and what they put out. I think it reveals a lot about what is going on in their heads. For me, a lot of our guys have put out that they want to play. I know they want to play and our coaches want to play. We support them on that, as always, but I have not had a bunch of guys reach out to me. I think they have showed how much they want to play by how focused they are every day and how hard they have worked. Amidst very difficult circumstances, they have done what we have asked them to do.
We have been very, very specific about what you do to mitigate the risks involved when you have a situation like this with the masks and all of the different things that we are doing in practice, out of practice, in meetings and in the weight room. None of those things have changed. I think you have just seen, across the country, that a lot of guys have a strong desire. They have worked really hard to get to this point. We just want to create a great environment, a safe environment for them to be able to do what they love to do.
Q. On putting the pressure on coaches, administrators and conferences to figure this out…
ALLEN: It does. They want to play and I get it. I am sure they want to play. That is why you balance that with the advice of the medical experts. That is really what it is going to come down to. Those in leadership rolls making these decisions, which has not been any different from the beginning. We are going to follow that lead. We do what we are told to do.
We started last Thursday, with the Friday night kickoff on Sept. 4 we were able to start a day earlier than everyone else that does not play until the 5th, so we were in day four yesterday. We got in pads in day three like we were supposed to, and then we were told to go back to helmets only, so that is what we did. It looks like we will be in helmets only tomorrow. We will do whatever the parameters are laid out for us.
At the end of the day, and I have said this from the beginning, as long as the doctors say that we can do this, we are going to do it. If they tell us that we cannot, then we will not, no matter how bad we want to play, no matter how bad I want to play, no matter how bad the kids want to play. To me, it has to be data driven. As long as that is the case and we follow that, then we will feel good about it.
Q. On newcomers or young players standing out…
ALLEN: When you go through, especially when you think about the true freshmen that just got here, a few came midyear so they had a little bit of a jump on things and they had a chance to get four spring practices, but the crew that came in over the summer really has not been here very long.
Javon Swinton is a guy that really has been a pleasant surprise to me. He played both sides of the ball in high school. We recruited him as either a corner or a wide receiver and listed him as an athlete. We can just tell he has a tremendous amount of talent. He has not played a ton of pure receiver, so learning how to play the position will be a big part of his growth. The natural ball skills, some guys just have that ability, and getting in and out of his breaks. He still does not know exactly what he is doing, but he has impressed.
Bryson Bonds at safety has tremendous habits. If you come from the state of Texas, sometimes that is expected because they play so much football. They do so many things that has a collegiate structure to it from a high school perspective. He has brought all of that with him. He is extremely sharp in the meeting rooms and understands the system already in a very good way. He does not have the big picture view yet, but nobody does at this point. But, his practice habits, his effort, he is a very good athlete and I have been really impressed with him. I think
Da’Shaun Brown as a redshirt is a guy that really flashed. I have been very encouraged by him and his growth from last year to this year. He is a guy that I have high expectations for.
I think Tim Baldwin Jr. is another one. I know he came midyear, but he has really grown from coming in January until now. He almost looks like a different player then he did in those first four days of spring.
Ty Wise is another one that came early. When you come in January, that is such a unique situation. I think people do not really realize how challenging that truly is. I think I have said this before, but when my own son [Thomas Allen] did it, he was like ‘man, this is really hard.’ He is a kid from a good high school program and being a coach’s kid and it was still a little overwhelming. Sometimes we forget that.
Both Ty [Wise] and Tim [Baldwin Jr.] came here and are completely different players now. I have really been encouraged and impressed by Ty’s growth from being here in January, leaving, training and coming back. I have just really been encouraged by him and feel that he is a guy.
AJ Barner is another one, and I have mentioned him already before, but he is a very, very talented player that has not played a ton of tight end. He was a linebacker in high school and played a little bit of tight end. He is just big and he grew over the summer. We had to change some of his sizes for his gear because he got bigger, and he is still trim. He is long, athletic and just a very well-rounded tight end that can run, block and catch the ball. He picks things up quickly. Those guys to me, and I could probably talk about others, have really, truly grown since they got here.
Dexter Williams II is another one that I could say that has come back a more confident player even though he was here in January. We need guys to step up and those young guys have popped out to me right now.
Q. On the plan to play if you could…
ALLEN: You really do not know until you go through something. We had our challenges over the summer with some situations regarding this, which some would expect and you have to learn and grow and learn from other people. Now we have been able to practice, have our guys here and we went through the five days of OTAs leading up to fall camp, which I thought was excellent and one of the best things I have seen us do. I have spoken with many, many head coaches across the country about it and how good it was to do something like that in a very controlled setting right before we started fall camp. It felt like a tremendously valuable time. We were all together lifting and running, going through meetings and doing the walk-throughs.
Then we had the first four days of camp. Everything has gone really, really well. The guys have gotten into a flow and a rhythm. We have not had guys showing up with any issues with their health. We are still around each other. We had the one shoulder pad practice in which we did thud tempo, which means you do not take guys to the ground but you are having contact with blocking and tackling with everyone staying on their feet. We have done those specific drills along with some O versus D work. Like I said, you do not know until you physically start doing it. I feel like the things we are seeing right now, everything that I know, what I have seen these last four days has been very positive.
Q. On the #WeWantToPlay movement…
ALLEN: I saw it last night, like I said, I am pretty active on social media. I kind of live on Twitter for recruiting purposes and so you just see things. It was an upswell of guys just saying … I think you have just seen guys that have been around their teams the last couple of weeks, probably more so than they have before. You get into the practice flow and you have all these protocols in place, you learn to trust those protocols.
It is hard to believe I am doing this, but during practice I am talking about making sure your mouth is covered, make sure you have your gaiter up or your mask is on. We really have three different ways for guys to protect this part of their face [the mouth] and to keep the droplets from being spread. We have the built-in splash guard that is clear or the cloth one. Those are both on the face masks. Some of them might choose to use a gaiter or a mask but you have to put that on and put your chinstrap over it. I am going around and making sure guys have all of that on, which is crazy, but that is just what we have to do. It is how you mitigate the risk.
I think guys have realized that we can do this. Once again, I am not in a position to make these decisions. I have ‘coach’ in front of my name, not ‘doctor’ in front of my name. From the world we live in, and what we are seeing every day from our players, there are definitely concerns and I get that. The players, now getting in the flow and seeing how it is working of actually playing real football with all of this, they realize that there has been a lot of positives over these last few days. I think that has probably even caused more of that to be stated. I do not know everybody’s motives but I know that our guys feel really good about it and are looking forward to moving forward.
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