Just days before IU takes the field in front of a crowd for the first time since losing the Foster Farms Bowl against Utah in December, IU Coach Tom Allen addressed the media regarding the state of his program as spring camp nears its end.
Spring game format
Allen said he learned the process of choosing players for the Cream and Crimson teams when he was the defensive coordinator under former South Florida head coach Willie Taggart.
IU started by naming the two head coaches for the spring game — offensive coordinator Mike DeBord for the Cream Team and defensive line coach Mark Hagen for the Crimson Team. The entire IU Athletic Department is split up between the two coaches so that they each have full staffs, Allen said.
DeBord and Hagen had four days to pick two free agents each, one on offense and one on defense, from the IU football team. From there, each team drafts the rest of the players Sunday at 6 p.m.
Allen said he is the commissioner and will be running the draft while also announcing each pick. Whoever is not drafted after four rounds is considered an undrafted free agent, and the drafted teams make phone calls to specific free agents they would like to acquire. The free agents will need to respond via text message to prove they are signing with the Cream or Crimson teams.
The winning team gets a steak dinner, while the losing team gets hot dogs and has to serve the winning team its steaks, Allen said.
“It’s a way for us to have a lot of fun with it,” Allen said. “We will have two full teams. It should be a whole lot of fun to see our guys compete and try to win.”
There will be no kickoffs, but there will be punts and PAT attempts, and each team’s kicker will have the opportunity to kick field goals to earn points for their teams.
When asked which newcomers have impressed him the most, Allen mentioned redshirt sophomore punter Haydon Whitehead first.
The Australian transferred to IU after spending time at Swinburne University of Technology and participating in the ProKick Australia program that assists college punters in Australia to get into American colleges.
Junior punter Joseph Gedeon struggled in the 2016 season. He finished 86th in the nation in yards per punt with 40.4.
Allen, who stressed the need to get better on special teams earlier in the offseason, said Whitehead is adjusting well to American football.
Special teams coaching
When former running backs coach Deland McCullough left Bloomington for USC in February, he didn’t just leave the running backs coaching position vacant. He also left the special teams coordinator position open.
Allen said he doesn’t expect to fill the position but rather split the responsibilities between coaches already on the roster. He said Jeff McInerney, father of IU quality control assistant Ryan McInerney and former head coach at Central Connecticut State, has been advising the coaching staff off the field while the coaches do the special teams coaching on the field.
Allen said he met Jeff McInerney through studying special teams at a camp the New Orleans Saints were host to and that McInerney offers “a vast amount” of knowledge to the coaching staff.
In 2016, IU placed 94th in the nation in average kickoff return yardage, 110th in average yards per punt and 112th in field goal percentage.
“It’s shown up already in our spring drill work,” Allen said about improvements in special teams. “I’m excited about that.”
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