Before the IU spring football game, IU Coach Kevin Wilson made sure to hug Tom Allen and Mark Hagen.
“Glad you’re here,” he said he told them.
They responded they are glad to be here. Allen, the new IU defensive coordinator, and Hagen, the new defensive line coach, were brought in this winter to help turn around the consistently struggling IU defense.
Despite no official stats being held, some progress was seen by that defense in the spring game Friday. The defense forced three turnovers and the offense didn’t score a touchdown before the format switched to red-zone scenarios from the 6-yard line.
And when coaches and players talk about the progress of the defense, it tends to be attributed to the cultural changes Allen has provided.
“He’s a different type of dude,” senior receiver Ricky Jones said. “You’d think he was 20 years old, the way he acts. He’s jumping all on top of the guys, getting them crunk. He’s added a lot of swag to us this year.”
Wilson has often spoken about how he cares more about the culture of the defense rather than specific things like scheme. He said he listens to Allen and spent upwards of three hours talking with him one day about how to get players to believe and play hard and have passion.
The defense allowed a few big plays, but prevented the offense from finding the offense on a drive. Jones said he thinks the offense was stepping up a lot Friday, mixing up blitzes and coverages.
The three takeaways were spread out across the field. The first came when sophomore quarterback Danny Cameron fumbled a snap. The second was senior Dawson Fletcher intercepting a pass from Cameron as the quarterback took a hit mid-throw.
The last was junior linebacker Marcus Oliver snagging the ball directly from the hands of sophomore running back Alex Rodriguez and taking it to the end zone.
The play had some extra motivation behind it, as the staff has been keeping track of IU takeaways by players over the course of the spring. Oliver’s five takeaways were trailing sophomore safety Jonathan Crawford’s six until Friday’s strip.
Jones was encouraged by the defense and is excited to see what it can bring in the fall.
“That could be a few more wins for us this year,” he said. “So that’s big time.”
Lagow impresses in spring debut
In the first pass of the spring game, junior transfer quarterback Richard Lagow launched a 46-yard pass down the right sideline and hit junior receiver Simmie Cobbs right on the money for a completion.
It was a display of the strong arm strength Lagow brings to the table. He completed the majority of his passes and many of his incomplete passes were catchable balls.
“Richard started very well and I was very pleased with his poise,” Wilson said.
Lagow started the game with the first team offense. While he didn’t take a drive for a touchdown in normal game play, he did throw three touchdown passes in the red zone situation simulations from the 6-yard line.
There was mixing and matching between groups, but Cameron worked in with the second team offense. Those two took the majority of the reps. Freshman quarterback Austin King was the next one in.
Wilson said Cameron has an edge over King thanks to his experience, but King has physical talent that is equal if not greater than Cameron.
Jones said he has seen the quarterbacks improve drastically since the beginning of spring ball, in particular in terms of reading the defenses.
“They’ve been able to read the defenses now,” Jones said. “If you’ve seen them from day one, it was bad. Day one was horrible.”
And while Lagow, Cameron and King have been the big names of spring, there is another name that is expected to return this summer. Junior quarterback Zander Diamont, who started seven games over the past two seasons due to injuries, missed the spring due to an injury of his own.
“It’s going to be excited to get Zander back in the mix,” Wilson said. “He’s the guy that’s made the most plays.”