One of the more endearing things about Indiana head football coach Tom Allen is that he is genuine.
We aren’t going to sit here and tell you he is perfect. Like everyone, there are exceptions.
But by and large, Allen is a straight shooter that wants to answer every question as thoughtfully and thoroughly as he can.
A routine question that every coach gets asked each year involves naming which players need to show substantial improvement.
Many might give the most predictable coach speak answer. Something along the lines of “everyone needs to step up their game.”
Others might share the most predictable answers, such as the quarterback that is expected to step in and replace the All-American.
Allen was asked the question on Thursday, but it wasn’t the first time he had thought about it.
“I actually made a list,” Allen said on a Zoom meeting with the media. “And when I met with them, I said okay you’re on this list of guys that you need to step up for us to have the kind of season that I believe we can have at Indiana.”
And then it was as if Allen pulled the list out of his pocket.
You want answers?
Allen started rattling off the names, with no less than ten guys that he is looking for more from in 2020.
“One guy that comes to mind is (wide receiver) Miles Marshall,” Allen said. “I want to see him take his game to another level. We went through and watched the Purdue game again recently, and he made three really, really big, timely catches. I want to see him elevate his game to another level.
“A guy like (offensive tackle) Caleb Jones. Even though he started last year, (he needs to) continue to progress and develop and build and take more of a leadership role with that offensive line.
“(Center) Harry Crider being more of a leader. He’s a quiet guy. He’s been a really consistent player for us. Very solid, now he moves to center. Played that position back and forth guard/center. But just to be an anchor. You always think about being strong from the inside out (on the offensive line).
“A guy like (quarterback) Michael Penix from a leadership perspective. That to me is a huge part of your football team.
“John King on the defensive line. I challenged him. We need you to step up.
“(Defensive lineman) Lance Bryant has played a lot of football, now I need him to really elevate his game. Even (defensive lineman) James Head, to be difference makers on this field, and guys that create those negative plays, whether its a pressure on the quarterback, sack, tipped ball, tackle for loss that totally changes things.
“(Linebacker) Cam Jones. Ton of athleticism, hasn’t played the position very long. Let’s take that next step. Let’s go from being a guy that we talk about having this huge ceiling. Let’s now go realize that and just blow this thing up and just keep getting better and better and better.
“(Cornerbacks) Reese Taylor and Jaylin Williams, those two guys. You guys have tremendous athleticism and have played tremendous football. Let’s now take it to another level and have that consistency of every single play, and every single game just elevating your play.”
So who did Allen leave out that we might have added?
We might humbly submit the following names to his list.
How about running back Sampson James? He was relatively quiet throughout much of his freshman 2019 season until he broke out against Purdue. Indiana could use a strong running back tandem.
David Ellis’ name is mentioned a lot because of his potential. With guys like Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook now gone IU needs more playmakers.
Matthew Bedford surprised everyone as a true freshman tackle when he stepped in for Coy Cronk. Now he needs to become a dominant force on the offensive line.
Devon Matthews, Marcelino Ball and Bryant Fitzgerald are all uber-talented but Indiana needs more splash plays out of them.
Finally, kicker Charles Campbell had a huge step-up moment against Purdue, but now he’ll need to do it on an everyday basis.
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