The shock may have worn off by now at Indiana. But if somehow it hasn’t, the Hoosiers have a full spring ahead of them to solidify that Tom Allen is firmly in charge. And they're hopeful he takes them the next level in the Big Ten.
Kevin Wilson’s abrupt resignation after another season that seemed to reflect progress for Indiana in the rugged East Division certainly came as a surprise, and Allen’s promotion wasn’t expected despite his impressive work rebuilding a leaky defense. But that was four months ago, with a bowl game and winter conditioning in between. Allen now gears up for a stretch of practices that will leave no doubt that Indiana is embarking on a new era.
Can he keep the momentum rolling? His opportunity has arrived.
Spring schedule: The Hoosiers open their first spring practice under Allen this weekend, and they will wrap up with a primetime Cream and Crimson game on April 13 at 7 p.m. Indiana is expected to have Jon Gruden on hand as part of the festivities as camp wraps up under the lights.
What’s new: The new guy in charge is familiar to the Hoosiers, but he’s in a new role after serving as Wilson’s defensive coordinator last season. And while that’s obviously the most notable change, the staff as a whole has undergone a fairly significant overhaul as part of the transition from the previous era. The Hoosiers will have a completely new group leading the offense, with former Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord now in charge and bringing in a few of his old proteges from his time at Michigan. He will attempt to put his stamp on what has been a high-scoring attack over the past few seasons. After Allen helped bring noticeable improvement on the other side of the ball last season, the offense will be squarely under the microscope during spring camp.
Three things we want to see:
1. Another step forward defensively: The defense was better across the board a year ago, as Allen providing a long-awaited boost. There’s still a talent discrepancy between Indiana and the powerhouses on its half of the conference, but at least defensively, it doesn’t appear to be quite as wide as it used to be. Allen appears to have brought a system that works with him to Bloomington. With a handful of veterans and one of the nation’s best undervalued defenders in Tegray Scales returning, the Hoosiers should be in position to build and grow yet again.
2. How the offense develops: DeBord didn’t always receive the most glowing praise for his work at Tennessee, and with Wilson building one of the best offenses in the Big Ten over the past few seasons, the bar is going to be high for him as he gets rolling. But he did engineer an attack that averaged more than 36 points per game, and if DeBord can manage that with the Hoosiers as the defense continues to improve, there shouldn’t be any reason to complain. Doing that with a completely new coaching staff, new playbook and terminology isn’t going to be easy, but that’s what makes spring practice so crucial for a team trying to make up ground in the East.
3. Fewer turnovers from Richard Lagow: There’s not much doubt that Lagow can be a productive passer for the Hoosiers after finishing second in the league in yards per game and throwing for more than 3,300 yards during his first campaign as a starter. But Lagow simply has to be more careful with the football after tossing 17 interceptions, which he can address in a number of ways during these key spring workouts. Familiarity with the playbook, improved decision-making and an uptick in accuracy after completing less than 58 percent of his attempts last season could all go a long way for Lagow and help the Hoosiers remain a threat offensively in the new era.