IU Coach Tom Allen relied on his Indiana high school connections, as well as his past college ties, to make one of his first coaching hires of the football offseason.
The arrival of director of athletic performance David Ballou, which came after Keith Caton was relieved of his duties in late December, was in large part due to the relationship between Ballou, Allen and the IU program.
It’s also an opportunity for Ballou to return to the place he said he considers home.
“It’s good to be back home,” Ballou said. “Grew up in Indianapolis, but was fortunate enough to get a chance to come to school here and play here. Met my wife here. We consider Bloomington our home.”
Ballou was a fullback at IU from 1997 to 1999. After graduating from IU, from 2002 to 2014, he was the head strength and conditioning coach at Avon High School in Avon, Indiana.
During this time, he became familiar with Allen, who was the defensive coordinator and head coach at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis from 1998 to 2006.
The pair continued their relationship when Allen spent the 2012 to 2014 seasons at the University of Mississippi, as Allen tried to recruit players from Avon to go play for the Rebels. Then, the two coaches both worked in Florida at the same time.
Allen was the defensive coordinator at South Florida for the 2015 season, while Ballou worked at the IMG Academy, a preparatory boarding school, in 2015 and 2016.
Most recently, Ballou was the co-director of football strength and conditioning at the University of Notre Dame during the 2017 season.
“The best way to describe IMG is a Disneyland for athletes,” Ballou said. “In return, you’re able to come up with strategies and techniques to go dig in and find, from an analytical standpoint, a data standpoint, to measure the things you’re trying to get done.”
Ballou said he will use a science-based program to rank and track the weight room performance of IU’s players.
“We’re going to use a lot of data to help paint a picture for our guys,” Ballou said.
Ballou will be joined at IU by the person Allen described as Ballou’s “right-hand man,” Dr. Matt Rhea. Rhea was the head of sport science at IMG since summer 2016.
Rhea will be working in speed development within the strength and conditioning program.
Speed was a particular area Allen said he sought to address at skill positions during the 2018 recruiting cycle. The Hoosiers signed five defensive backs, two wide receivers and athletes, as well as a running back as part of its latest recruiting class.
“If you want them fast, recruit them fast,” Allen said.
The Hoosiers will still be looking to improve the speed of its current players though, which is where Ballou and Rhea come in.
“When I look at this roster, we need to get stronger and we have to get faster,” Ballou said.
Attrition will be another focus for Ballou in his new job. The Hoosiers lost a number of significant players as the 2017 season progressed, from sophomore husky Marcelino Ball to junior wide receiver Donavan Hale.
Allen said Ball and Hale, along with junior wide receiver Nick Westbrook and freshman defensive lineman Juan Harris, are all likely candidates to receive a medical redshirt from last season.
Ballou said the first week of weight room testing has already been completed for IU after he was hired Jan. 4.
“We’re going to find weakness and flaws in our guys,” Ballou said. ‘That’s the first thing we’re going after. We’re going to find weakness and flaws and we’re going to fix them.”
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