Big Ten Conference Football Media Days

Monday July 24, 2017

Tom Allen

Indiana

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Indiana head coach Tom Allen.

TOM ALLEN: Thank you. First of all, honored to be here and representing Indiana University, my home state. Born and raised in Indiana. Played high school football in Indiana. Coached high school football in Indiana for many years, and my dad was a long-time high school coach in the state of Indiana.

So strong, strong ties to my home state. Very proud and humbled to be representing Indiana University here today.

I want to thank our athletic director, Fred Glass, for the opportunity he's given me to lead our program and President McRobbie for the confidence in allowing me to be in this position.

I'd also like to thank Kevin Wilson for bringing me home and giving me the opportunity to be the defensive coordinator here a year ago and for what he did for our program the last several years and the foundation that was laid.

Excited to be a part of a program that's gone to back-to-back bowl games. It's only happened four times in our program's history. And the ability to build off of that foundation of playing tough, competitive football week in, week out.

That brings me to the point in our program where we've been challenged as players and as coaches to break through. As we know, many times we've been close. The last time we played in the Foster Farms Bowl against a very talented Utah team, final minutes of the game, opportunity to finish with a win and did not.

I challenged our team with this concept. When I met with our players after I took over, I wrote these three numbers on the board -- I did this with our staff as well -- 50, 26, 10. And I asked them if they knew what those numbers represented, and they didn't.

So I proceeded to tell them. It's been 50 years since we won the Big Ten; it's been 26 years since we won a bowl game; it's been 10 years since we had a winning season at Indiana.

We're going to accomplish all three of those, I told our team. If you don't believe that, you need to leave. Said the same thing to our staff. I love them. I appreciate them. But I want a coaching staff, I want a football team that believes.

In my first meeting with our defense over a year ago, I wrote the letters L-E-O on the board. I asked them once again if they knew what that meant. They didn't. Stands for love each other. Didn't talk about football. Didn't talk about schemes. It was about changing the mindset and the culture of that side of the football.

To me it was about getting our focus off ourselves, building trust, developing a culture that says it's not about "me," it's about "we."

I don't truly care who gets the credit. I care that this team is successful. That's the attitude that I wanted. That's what I wanted in our team.

I love the way the young men that I've brought with me today have embraced that. Tegray Scales has become the leader of our football team. Rashard Fant, unquestioned leader with our defense leading a veteran group of nine returning starters. Two young men that have bought in from day one to try and change the culture of our program on that side of the football.

Great improvement last year defensively, from 2015 to 2016. We were not satisfied with that. We want to be a top 25 defense. That's our goal.

Also brought Richard Lagow with me today, a young man that I highly respect. He's the leader of our offense. Got seven starters returning. Going to be pretty young offensively.

Excited about our staff. Brought in Mike DeBord to be our new offensive coordinator from the University of Tennessee, where he was in that same role there, a man that I trust, that I know has tremendous high character, tremendous person, and excellent football coach. Joining in with Grant Heard to coach receivers; Darren Hiller, offensive line; Mike Hart, running backs; and Nick Sheridan coaching the quarterbacks. A whole new offensive staff that I'm excited about. Tremendous character and leadership. Also great knowledge and a heart for their players, which I care a whole lot about.

Special teams, an area we have to improve, and I've recognized that and acknowledged that from the beginning. That begins with the quality of your specialists. Excited about Griffin Oakes and his return for his senior year, to be able to finish strong and be able to be the excellent specialist I know that he is.

I want to conclude by saying how excited I am to start the season. We're going to be bringing our players in August 1st to report, start practice on the 2nd, to prepare for the biggest opener in the history of Indiana football on August 31st when we play the Ohio State Buckeyes in Bloomington for an 8:00 kickoff. It's going to be a very exciting opportunity for me to be in my first home game as the head coach in my home state. Very, very blessed to be in this position.

Q. You've had some time to reflect now on the way you got the job with Kevin Wilson's departure. What are your thoughts about that, and also going against him in that opener, which you call it the biggest in Indiana history?
TOM ALLEN: It's the biggest home opener because we've not played a more highly ranked conference opponent to start a season before, and that creates a lot of excitement.

As I mentioned previously, a lot of respect for Kevin. Appreciate what he did for me. This is about the Indiana Hoosiers versus the Ohio State Buckeyes. And we haven't had a conference opening game since 1982. So that obviously makes it a very, very big game for us.

And the media is going to make a big deal about him being there and myself being here, offense versus defense. But it's really bigger than that. It's not about me or coaches; it's about players making plays.

So I'm excited about our team and how hard they're working. It's a tremendous motivation to have that kind of a game to start your season and creates a tremendous sense of urgency. And that's what it's done, and that's what makes it such a great opportunity for our program.

Q. You talked about that Rose Bowl team that happened 50 years ago. Are there any lessons from that season that you could take from that breakthrough and teach your team for this year?
TOM ALLEN: You know, I'm one of those I go back and study history and different programs, and you go back and look at the history of the seasons leading up to that year.

Obviously it's been many years ago. I wasn't born yet. Obviously our players were not around. But the bottom line is that it creates the visual picture of what you want.

When I first got here, Indiana, a year ago, we'd break down workouts and we'd break it down on Big Ten champs. That's how we would finish that workout and everything. I'm one of those, I don't want words to be just words; I want them to mean something.

So that's my challenge, is if you're going to say -- if you're going to break it down on Big Ten champs, I want to know if you believe it.

So obviously that team with Coach Pont years ago did something special. They had won three games the year before going to the Rose Bowl. And so bottom line is it all begins with belief. And I believe strongly in that word and the power that it entails; that it's not just a word, it has to be something to it. You have to earn the right to expect to be successful on game day, and we're in the process of building that mentality every single day.

Q. I know with your background you have a passion for Indiana high school football games from your time at North Castle and coaching at Ben Davis, great program. Commissioner Delany just talked about the Friday night games at the Big Ten. There's going to be three or four in Big Ten cities, one in West Lafayette, none in Bloomington this year, but do you have mixed feelings about that, or are you a little concerned with that, given what it means to Indiana high school football to have Friday nights to themselves?
TOM ALLEN: Yes, I'm very concerned about it. I'm not going to sit here and try and make a big issue in terms of what I think. My history as a high school coach for 15 years is strong. It's who I am, it's how I started, and it's been so many years.

I think that's a special night. I don't like playing games on Friday night. I think that's high school night. But it's not always my decision, but I'm one of those I'm not going to just not tell you what I believe.

I think that's a situation where I would prefer that we didn't. But I understand there may be factors outside of my control for that. But to answer your question, I would like to keep that night special for high school football. That means a lot to me.

Q. You mentioned you had a lot of respect for Richard Lagow. What has he done in the offseason to grow both on the field and off the field?
TOM ALLEN: I would say, first of all, would be leadership. I'm a strong believer that everything rises and falls on leadership. It begins with us as coaches.

But you have to create it, develop it, enhance it with your team. He's bought into that. I've sat with him. We've met. We've challenged, given him books to read, to be able to get different thoughts on how to creatively live that out.

And he's grown. And has just taken position, owning it, taking charge, realizing this is your football team, this is your offense, and holding your teammates accountable. It takes courage to do that. It's hard to stand up and tell your peers they're doing something wrong or getting them back in line or whatever, whether it's on the field or off the field.

That's something I've seen him grow in a lot, just learning our system and allowing him to be able to play with confidence, execute, throw the ball extremely well. Gotta protect it better. And he knows that.

So I've just seen him grow in that. And obviously just to be able to believe that when it's two minutes to go in the game, we've got to go score, put the team on my back, I'm going to go find a way. That's the mentality we want him to have. So he's growing in that area.

Q. A year ago at this time you were a new defensive coordinator at Indiana trying to get that defense a lot better than it was. You succeeded in that. I'm curious, as you look back on that season, if there were two or three things that were really important to nail down with your team before the season and then played itself out during the season that sort of led to such an incredible improvement in points and yards allowing?
TOM ALLEN: I would say so. First of all, we made such a huge issue of taking the ball away. We had kind of created a culture of -- we used that word, different word, we're not allowed -- as a defense we're not allowed to use the word "turnover." If I say "turnover," I have to do 25 pushups as a coach. Players have to as well. We want to be aggressively attacking the football.

So we made such a huge issue of that throughout spring football, fall camp, have a whole mechanism of reinforcing that with reward system, a penalty system, all those things involved.

So we get into our first game down at FIU, and we score on defense in the second quarter. Then we score again on defense in the fourth quarter. And we got a safety. We scored 16 points with two key takeaways on defense.

There's a video of me getting really, really excited, which is kind of normal for me, but I was extra excited because I knew how big that was. In our very first game, where we're creating takeaways and we're scoring on defense, which was emphasized for so long, since the first day I got there, it was huge.

And the second one was against Michigan State. We had a chance to go to overtime, and I challenged our defense to be the reason why. I felt like I hadn't been in that position very long to get all the negative feedback of if the defense would have just done this, we could have got a stop here or there, we would have done this or that, and I challenged our guys: Be the reason why.

When that game -- when it went to overtime, our defense had the opportunity to be the reason why. And two huge sacks to finish out that game was -- was -- I knew when that happened that things were going to change, in the confidence of our players, in the mindset of our players on defense. And that's why those were early in the season and they were both huge things that I thought changed the trajectory of our defense.

Q. Tom, you I'm sure don't mind singing the praises of Tegray Scales who was a big part of your turnaround last year, led the Big Ten in tackles. Where did you see his development last year to make him such a special player for your defense's improvement?
TOM ALLEN: I would say, first of all, it started in his preparation. He did not have -- the year before I got there, the 2015 season, he did not play to the standard that we expected him -- even though I wasn't here, just talking to the coaches and watching him play, that he was expected to play at. So we had to change the way he prepared.

And I challenged him to be a leader. He wasn't when I got here. He was a great kid, a guy everybody loved and all that, but he wasn't a leader on our defense.

So last year I really -- we had another young man that was one of our captains, Marcus Oliver, who was a really good player, but he was kind of quiet. But Tegray is not quiet. So you can lead different ways, but you have to verbalize your leadership. You can't just be: Hey, I'm going to lead by example. That's okay in a certain situation, but not to run the defense, not to be a linebacker, in my mind, to run the team on our side of the football.

So he embraced it. He bought into everything that I was telling him. He believed in it, and he lived it out.

So then he started making plays the way I thought he could. And as you saw that growing, his leadership elevated. By the time we got to the bowl game, he was the one doing the things I had been doing during fall camp, things that I was doing during spring ball, on the sideline when we were doing whether it was the gassers or in between series or whatever we were doing. So now I would tell people he runs our team and has embraced that.

So to me it's been a gradual process of him creating that confidence in himself. But he responded. And I love that young man. He's not only a special player but a special person, and I'm proud of him. As is Rashard Fant, who's an excellent student, got his degree already. So working on his master's now.

So just really quality people. And that shouldn't be surprising if those guys are our leaders and those guys are the ones we brought with us today.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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Rev #1 by #206 at 2017-07-24 18:09:00 GMT

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