INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 1, 2017
COACH ALLEN: Welcome to fall camp 2017. Pretty exciting time. Thrilled to be here with you. Excited to get our players back. Got them in last night. Had an introductory team meeting to get them squared away. Ready to go today. Just got done taking pictures, doing all that fun stuff.
Great getting everybody back on campus. Had a super summer. Kids really worked extremely hard. Very, very proud of the effort of our strength staff, Coach Caton and his guys. Did a great job of getting our young men physically and mentally ready for the start of fall camp.
Had some things we wanted to focus on. In particular, want to recognize some guys that I feel have done a great job in their preparation. It's all about how you prepare. Been selling that ever since I got here. That's not going to change.
Greg Gooch and Wes Martin, we give out the Iron Hoosier Award, which is really the MVPs of the summer in terms of work ethic and mindset, leadership, all those things.
It's not real surprising that those guys, when you go out and observe the training, they stick out. Their verbal leadership, their physical leadership, the way they come to work every day. Just really, really proud of those guys.
By position, as well. Offensive line, Simon Stepaniak won that award for the summer training. Ian Thomas for tight ends. Alex Rodriquez for runningbacks. Rich Lagow for quarterbacks. J-Shun Harris for wide receivers. Jacob Robinson for defensive line.
Chris Covington linebackers. Recognize Chris and his leadership at linebacker. That position demands leadership verbally and physically. Stepped up and responded well to my challenge to him this off-season.
Chase Dutra as the safety group. Then Ben Bach, individual that got injured last year, missed most of the season, was recognized as our cornerback award winner in the weight room and really pleased with his progress. He's back to 100%. He'll be a valuable part of our football team.
Real excited about the work ethic and the preparation our young men have brought.
Got a couple guys that will be limited a little bit. Give you guys access to part of our practice tomorrow, then on Friday give you guys full access to be able to be there with us, watch what we're doing.
One of those things where we got Brandon Knight and Whop Philyor will be limited here in the beginning of fall camp. Other than that, disappointed that Nile Sykes is a young man that we've lost for the season due to an injury that occurred late in the summer. Just unfortunate part of the workout. Already had surgery. He will miss the entire season. I hurt for him. He's worked extremely hard.
But as we just talked yesterday, he's excited about getting himself back and working hard and getting ready for his next season. That's our mindset here. We don't blink. We understand that sometimes life's not fair. You just got to respond.
Just be transparent with some of those things. That's where we're at. Excited about our football team, excited about our leadership, anxious to get going today. Have some neat things planned for our guys, building this team, the mindset of our guys, the way that we approach every single day.
That's all I have for you. What questions do you have?
Q. Brandon Knight is the only guy that is really limited?
COACH ALLEN: Brandon Knight and Whop Philyor. That's what everybody knows him as. I think his technical name is 'Mister'.
Q. Will you approach this fall camp any differently than before in terms of a unique way of doing this now that you get the chance to do this?
COACH ALLEN: You go through and you kind of pull from the different coaches you've worked with. Everybody has different strengths and things that you like about how we did things, then maybe things you didn't. I think you culminate all those, bring them together, try to come up with the best structure in terms of the day.
One thing I'm real big on is our guys taking care of their bodies throughout fall camp. I'm trying to structure a schedule where we can maximize their rest in terms of our sleep time. There's a lot of studies that show the ability to increase recovery time from injuries and just your ability to compete at a high level, as long as you take advantage of it.
That's about being a pro. I say that all the time to our guys. We educate them extremely detailed about what that means. We want to create a calendar both in the way that our days are structured and the way that our time is structured where we can maximize recovery time. When we're going, we're going full bore. It's very intense and very demanding. We got to get our bodies back. That's a little different maybe, starting things a little bit later.
At the same time we're going to have more team meetings at the end. I just like to have everybody together and get into their heads and shape their mindset. We did that last year defensively with our side of the ball. I'm a big believer in that. We won't do it every single night. The first one starts tonight to start to be able to build team, mindset and culture, the way we want our guys to think, be able to come together. That's a little bit different.
Other than that, the schedule. We just kind of go through, do a lot of situational work, try to create game-like situations for us to be able to create those breakthrough opportunities we've talked about. Did a study on that all last off-season here, all those opportunities we had in games that were close, be able to recreate those in practice as best we can so we can be able to change the outcome.
Q. Any second-year guys that impressed you?
COACH ALLEN: I think there's a good group of those guys. They'll have their opportunity. Allen Stallings is a young man that worked extremely hard, gotten bigger and stronger. I think he'll be a guy that we look to count on.
Taysir Mack, another one that we expect to elevate his game, to be able to play at a high level.
Peyton Ramsey is another guy, a redshirt freshman. Saw him this spring. Feel he's got a lot of special qualities about him, not even just on the field, but the way he carries himself, all the things he does off the field.
Those are the guys that come to mind right now. They'll have their opportunity here in the next several weeks to prove what they've learned and how far they've come.
Q. Brandon Knight being limited, does it give you a chance to look at some young guys without as many game reps?
COACH ALLEN: It does. We have the charge to be able to develop depth. That's one thing that happens. Like it or not, it happens wherever somebody is sidelined for whatever period of time that may be, that the guys behind him are forced to respond.
Grayson Stover is a guy that as a redshirt from last fall will be able to have a chance to come in now and do a great job. We expect that to happen. There will be several guys in that position.
Q. Do you expect guys that are limited to be a long-term thing or they'll be back sometime during camp?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, the hope is to get them back, yeah. That's the hope. That's the plan.
Q. What other guys on the offensive line do you need to step up to have this unit really play to its abilities, help that run game?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I mean, Delroy Baker to me is a guy that has gotten a chance to play. I know a guy like Simon, who played a lot later in the year but wasn't a full-time guy starting, has to elevate. Coy has got to elevate, take that next step. Those are guys that to me are going to have to be huge for us. Hunter Littlejohn, another guy. Came out of spring, but to elevate their game, to continue to develop and to grow and to be able to play at a high level.
The whole group. It's just a challenge. I could talk about our groups, as well. But to be able to really focus and to create a sense of urgency to where you have to prepare at a high level every single day. Those guys are excited about the opportunity, the challenge.
I think DaVondre Love is another one I want to see, coming back from an injury. It's his time, time to step up, time to be counted for. That's why you come here. So those opportunities are presenting themselves. I expect that to happen.
Q. (Question regarding Chris Covington.)
COACH ALLEN: Right now in my mind, he's our Mike linebacker. I think he and Tegray are two guys that can play side-by-side and be a very strong linebacker corps. I think he's had opportunities in the past, played well this past season in those opportunities. Needs to be more consistent. That was the challenge, leadership-wise, on the field, off the field, staying healthy.
Athletically, he's as talented as any we've had. 35 inch vertical guy. That's unusual. Explosive for a guy at that position, for sure. I want it so bad for him because he wants it so bad, has made some real positive changes.
Dameon Willis is another one that really needs to step up. I expect him to. He's had a good off-season physically. Had a chance to get himself healthy from spring, the surgery. He's a guy that really needs to rise up and be a really good linebacker for us.
It's going to take several. That's one thing I challenged last year with our guys, was Tegray did a tremendous job for us, but he played too many snaps. It just made it challenging in the end when we needed him, you know, to step up, and it was hard.
Those are guys that have to really rise to the occasion. Raekwon Jones is another one that I really have challenged to be able to, Hey, this is your time to step up and help this football team.
We'll see how they respond.
Q. How much of a security blanket is it that you get all five of those guys back in the secondary, plus Chase and other guys?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, when you look at our team and the depth that we have at different positions, the secondary in regards to the number of guys returning, the depth that we have there, even compared to a year ago coming into fall camp, it feels a lot different at both corner and safety. So that's exciting to us. You need that.
As we always say, it's a spread game. The ball is out in space so much, you got to get guys, multiple guys, in those positions to be able to give you depth and play snaps and be on special teams.
We went through and did a production chart for special teams for last season. Chase Dutra was all over it. I mean, he was the leading guy by a lot. He missed a couple games. That's something he's really embraced. Got to get him on the field. It's a great challenge to have, to be able to have guys where you say, Hey, that's a young man that we know needs to get out there as much as possible.
We'll keep them all fresh. He has enough knowledge of our system, as well as the other safeties, to be interchangeable, be able to let guys play different spots. We'll even do that throughout fall camp to be able to get those guys squared away and have some depth at corner, which is a huge difference than we had a year ago.
Q. Where do you set the bar next for Marcelino?
COACH ALLEN: To me, it's consistency. We would basically in our mind know because he was young, he's going to be good for a bust or two, you know, in the game. Kind of almost said, All right, he's a true freshman, they're going to pick on him, they're going to do this, do that.
To me, eliminating those is really the next step. Obviously he did a lot of great things. He just needs to continue. My office overlooks the stadium. I don't know if there was ever a day that went by where he wasn't out there doing something extra on his own, whether it was back pedaling, change-of-direction drills, different cone drills, whatever. Just consistently by himself many times, on the weekends. He's just a very driven individual. He expects to elevate, he expects more from himself, and I expect the same.
Q. Who do you expect behind him to keep him from playing too many snaps?
COACH ALLEN: Obviously you have guys that have done it in the past. Jayme Thompson is a guy that had injuries. Came here with a lot of expectations. He and I talked about this very openly. He just wasn't been able to stay healthy. So getting him healthy is a first step. He's one.
Bryant Fitzgerald is another one that I think he's pretty special. I do. Have always felt that way. So he's obviously young coming here. I thought just in terms of offense, defense, special teams, I thought he was the best player in Indiana last year, in this state. You talk to high school coaches. There's many guys that would have said they agreed with that. Just a little undersized maybe in some ways, for people's evaluation. But a special kid. He needs to really just take that next step and embrace what it means to be a Big Ten football player. Anxious to see how he responds. He's the guy that can give us depth, special teams, hit and tackle.
I'm a guy that would love to be able to redshirt a lot of our freshmen. I think that's the best policy for maturity, for development, for just across the board in the classroom to on the practice field, game field. If they're ready to play, we're going to play them. I believe in that. But I know big picture-wise, program development, where I see our program being year after year after year, that's what I'd like to be able to do, have that luxury to get those guys that extra year if we can.
Q. Are you going to make any position changes or are you going to experiment with any position changes with any players?
COACH ALLEN: You know, not anything different from spring to fall at this point. Obviously we got some freshmen we brought in that we would have said, you get the best players you can find and you figure out where they're going to play later.
I got some guys in my head right now. I don't want to give specific names at this point because they just got here. We'll see how it all plays out. There's three or four guys in that class, We'll start you here, but we'll see how you develop. There may be some changes there.
Obviously, as camp rolls along, things happen, you may have to make some adjustments. But I feel like, you know, Kiante Walton is one we moved in the spring from safety to linebacker. He'll stay at linebacker. He's a guy that I want and am challenging to step up, to help us. A guy that's extremely athletic, very strong. From a weight room and testing perspective, he's one of our best guys. Need him to stay healthy and contribute. So that's one that we switched. Other than that, I see it being pretty consistent from spring to fall.
Q. Your secondary, do you see enough talent and depth to go single coverage?
COACH ALLEN: I'm still a big believer in multiplicity. I think you keep people off balance. Everything looks the same presnap, and it all goes from there. That's one of our strengths, the way we can create different windows in the back end. I think it allows you to be able to do certain things more than maybe we have in the past, which is great. But I still think, you know, we got to keep people off balance.
Q. What have you seen in the off-season from Richard and what do you look for him to do heading into camp?
COACH ALLEN: Number one, he was the award winner for the strength and conditioning for his position. I would say it's leadership. I think even when we went to Big Ten Media Day, I had several guys that hadn't seen him for a long time, thought his body changed, the way he looked. He trimmed down, got himself in great shape. He's always worked hard. This is it. Your senior year, this is your opportunity. You don't get two of these.
He has embraced that. I've challenged him. We've met. We read books together. He's really done a great job of embracing the process of becoming a leader. As I've challenged him and said even last weekend about, you know, obviously taking the team over and putting this team on your back, having that mindset, which is what a senior quarterback needs to do.
I've seen him really assert himself in those areas. That's what you want a senior to do. As I challenged our guys last night, the focus isn't on yesterday or tomorrow, it's all about today. What are you doing today to help us break through? That's going to be the challenge every single day.
Q. What are you looking for from your runningbacks throughout training camp?
COACH ALLEN: You know, a lot of potential, for sure. When I look at that group, I get a lot of questions about who is going to be the guy. That's a great question. I think that's an exciting thing to wait and see. You never know who's going to rise up.
In today's game, the way we play, you're always going to rotate a lot of guys. That's a good thing. Mike Majette jumps out to me as a complete guy. He's got to stay healthy. But that's a guy that can do all the different things that we need him to do, has had glimpses of showing that last season. Cole Gest is another guy that has something special to him. Devonte Williams has his skill set that's special, does things well, has worked extremely hard. Great young man. Really excited for him.
Ty Natee brings his skills. He's really responded to our challenge to get him to get his body in a position where he can be a really good player. I sat down with him and challenged him because as a defensive guy last year watching him, I know how our guys felt about going against him. He's different. Just seeing how he responds, you know, to the challenge.
Then you have Ricky and A-Rod, two guys that are just constantly doing everything right in terms of their work ethic and their toughness.
I just listed a whole bunch of guys, not even counting the two new freshmen. It's just a group of guys that I'm excited to see who rises up, who elevates, who takes over.
Q. Will the receiver corps be another area of the team that will be pretty deep?
COACH ALLEN: They will be the ones on offense that you will say that that's a group of guys, we've got several that can make plays. We have length. We have some quickness. Got a good, broad group of guys that I really like, and have responded well to Coach Heard.
I still thought we dropped the ball too much in spring ball. That's something to me that we're going to really focus on and hold them accountable to.
Once again, whether you go through, I'm not trying to overemphasize certain things, but as we evaluated where we did not take advantage of opportunities we had been given this past season, several of those were not making competitive catches in third-down situations.
Yeah, you're going to have a great defender making his play. That's how we approach it defensively on our side. But then offensively, we have to approach it from, Hey, we have to make those tough catches, we have to make those plays. You're going against a great defensive back, he is on scholarship, too, but we have to come up with those.
That to me is the challenge of that group, the way we're going to have to play. We'll have to roll guys in, play a bunch of guys.
Luke Timian is a guy that sticks out to me because he does everything you ask. He's dependable. Had a nagging hamstring last year, throughout spring. Just getting him back, getting Simmie back, and having Nick elevate. Got to get Donovan Hale to play to the level consistently we haven't seen yet. We have Taysir Mack, a guy we mentioned throughout spring. Ian Thomas can be a little bit grouped in that the way we plan to utilize him at times.
So it just gives you some issues as a defensive perspective to be able to match up with. I think that's a group that we're all excited about and expect a lot from. To whom much is given, much is required. They've been given a lot of talent, and they have to use it.
Q. (Question regarding J-Shun.)
COACH ALLEN: Seems to be. Unfortunately I've never seen him healthy since I got around him. He got hurt quickly once I got here for the second time. In the return game, that's where I think he can really, really shine. Then getting him the ball in space as a slot receiver. Whop is another guy that has proven himself. We know he's got tremendous upside.
J-Shun is just another guy you just root for because he's such a quality person, always has a smile. I remember right after he got injured, it's tough to go through two of those. His mindset and his attitude has been tremendous all the way through. You just want to see him get healthy and play well. He deserves that.
Q. (Question regarding the pass-rush.)
COACH ALLEN: I think a year ago we sat here and I was extremely concerned about it then. Still concerned. I mean, you got to pressure. You go through and you look at the way we played defensively a year ago, you start thinking, Okay, why did things change?
If you look at the raw numbers, we improved dramatically on third downs. A big part of that is getting pressure on the quarterback. But if you notice, we're still not to the point yet where we can effectively just rush four guys. That hasn't been our strength. Eventually I believe it will be as we continue to address that in recruiting.
But we'll continue to, as a staff. We got a great staff of guys who do a great job of scheming those third downs, get the ability to put our guys in position, to maximize the pressure packages that we have. But that's where your secondary comes in. They got to do their part.
Up front to me, you still got to win those one-on-ones, to be able to get those. Having a guy like McCray and Gooch. McCray to me, if you remember last fall, he was injured, different things. Was really kind of limited. Couldn't play early on because of an injury. Missed most of fall camp with that because he got hurt early. Really set him back. Just Gooch's development. Other guys got to step up and get pressure. The blitzing of both our husky position, our linebackers, those guys all play a huge role in this.
We're aggressive. That's how we play. But the pressure part of what we do up front is a huge part of our scheme. The thing I love about it is looks different every week. We don't have a lot of set things. It's modified to adapt to what we're seeing. We'll continue to do that.
But at the end of the day, it's not about the scheme, it's about players making plays. The blitz is good because the blitzers are good players. They make it special.
Q. What is the big key going from a top 50 defense to a top 25 defense?
COACH ALLEN: We've challenged our guys in this area. It's red zones and third downs. We have to continue to be great in third downs. We've got to improve dramatically in the red zone.
The way the NCAA creates the statistic, if the offense scores anything, if they even get a field goal, that counts against you defensively. Well, in my mind that's a win. In today's game, the way that points are being scored, the tempo that's being played, you hold them to a field goal...
What we have to do more of now is block more field goals and cause them to miss field goals with the pressure up front. We forced a lot of them. If you look at the number, they made almost every one of them that they kicked, but one. I think we gave up too many touchdowns in the red zone. We're emphasizing that. I think that's going to be huge.
At the end of it, end-of-the-game execution. If you looked at our production, how things played out defensively, we were top 25 in two categories, in the 40s, 50s kind of range pretty much for everything else. To get into that top 25 is depth, to be able to end-of-fourth-quarter situations to be able to get those stops. That's conditioning. It's why we did things differently this summer because of that. It's depth. All those things you're trying to get with your team.
It's the 'Good to Great' model. We've studied the book as a staff. It's all those things you focus on, how you go from being a good defense to a great defense. That's the challenge.
Q. With Nile out, who needs to step up?
COACH ALLEN: It was a tough blow to us. To me, Allen Stallings is a guy that needs to rise up. McCray needs to rise up in my mind from a production perspective. He needs to be able to play to an extremely high level that I believe he can. Gooch has to elevate. The guys you have here have to do a great job of being more productive in that area.
Even last year it was dispersed pretty heavily. It wasn't like one guy that was able to create all those. Jacob Robinson has to be more productive. As a collective group... Hoff did a great job. He was injured most of the whole year. We didn't make a big deal about it. I think he's going to be a lot different player.
As a collective group, once again, it's just a guy goes down, boy, that group has to step up, across the board. I've seen it. That's what happens. You just got to embrace adversity. It's what makes you strong.
Q. You talked about developing culture throughout training camp. How would you define the culture you're trying to build here?
COACH ALLEN: It's LEO. It's all centered around the fact that it's not all about me. It's centered around the fact that I'm going to do things that allow the guys around me to have success. When we do well together, the individuals get recognized. I want that mindset. It's not normal. It's not what is often maybe advertised, but I believe that's the key.
Having an environment where when you truly care about the people around you, you understand that my decisions affect everybody else, that's the highest level of accountability, is to be able to make decisions that affect you, understand it affects you, and I'm also man enough to stand up and hold you accountable as a teammate. That's what I want.
That's hard to do with your peers. It's hard to be able to say to one of my friends, You shouldn't do this, get on a guy for whatever, even on the practice field, when we're running, while we're conditioning, when you're off socially, whatever. That's what I want.
To me, that's a powerful thing that doesn't just happen. Everybody talks about family. Every program in America talks about that. A lot of times it's just that, it's talk. I want it lived out. I want it to be able to be felt.
When you're playing for the people around you, that's when it's special. It's very shallow when it's just about you. That's the culture I want. We're going to just keep creating it, keep working at it.
When you get it, you got to work hard to keep it. We're not where we want to be yet, but that's what we want to continue to work on.
Thank you. LEO.
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