After a disappointing 5-7 finish last season, there are plenty of questions to be asked of IU Coach Tom Allen heading into his second season at the helm. Here are five big takeaways from Allen during his time at the podium during Big Ten Media Day on Tuesday morning in Chicago.
1. The quarterback competition is still wide open
Allen had plenty of good things to say about graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins. He said the former Arizona quarterback had impressed the staff with his personality, but Dawkins would still have to win the job.
"It's an open competition at quarterback so he has not been named the starter," Allen said. "He'll have to compete for that position. What I've been impressed with is his personality. It's kind of tough coming into that situation, coming in as a graduate at that key spot. It takes a special guy to come in and have the right personality. He's had humility about it and he has a great way of carrying himself."
Dawkins’ main competition will come from sophomore Peyton Ramsey, who threw for 1,252 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in nine appearances last season. Incoming freshman Michael Penix Jr. has an outside shot at the starting job, but expect the meat of the competition to be between Dawkins and Ramsey.
2. Georgia Tech transfer linebacker T.D. Roof will be eligible for the 2018 season
Roof will be a valuable addition to the linebacking corps, as Allen looks to replace Tegray Scales and Chris Covington at the position. Roof played in all 11 games as a freshman for the Yellow Jackets last season, and recorded 17 tackles and two sacks. Roof joins Dameon Willis Jr., who announced he would return as a fifth-year senior in 2018, as the most experienced linebackers on the roster. Those two will look to carry most of the load in the heart of IU’s defense this season.
"Dameon is our most experienced linebacker coming back from 2017, so getting him back was huge," Allen said. "Now having T.D., he played all season last year on special teams and since he was already here practicing in the spring, we know what he can do. He's an extremely talented young man."
3. David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea will have a big mark on this year’s team
Allen noted fatigue was a big factor in IU’s inability to win close games last season. He noted the additions of David Ballou as Director of Athletic Performance and Dr. Matt Rhea as an Athletic Performance Coach will help the Hoosiers improve their conditioning.
"That has been the big focus of my offseason evaluations was to be able to finish all those games we were so competitive in and fighting in late in the game," Allen said. "To me, it came down to depth. That was a thing that kept resurfacing as we were evaluating. Fatigue would set in late in games. Players were playing too many snaps. As I believe, the game comes down to the last five minutes and if you can make those competitive plays in that situation. Fatigue, to me, becomes a variable."
Ballou is a former IU fullback and trained 26 players that were drafted into the NFL during his time at IMG Academy in 2016 and 2017.
4. Improving the running game will be a point of emphasis
It’s no secret IU struggled to run the ball last season. Along with fatigue, Allen cited IU’s inability to move the ball on the ground as a big reason the Hoosiers struggled in close games.
"I think running the football was a thing that came out to me in my evaluation," Allen said. "Our inability to do that effectively enough is an area we have really focused on this past spring and will be in fall camp."
Sophomore running back Morgan Ellison returns for his second season, and the addition of graduate transfer Nick Linder at the center position should provide a big boost for the offensive line. Junior Coy Cronk is back for his third full season and he, along with seniors Wes Martin and Brandon Knight, will be looking to improve.
5. Allen and his staff will use the new redshirt rule to their advantage
This season, players will be allowed to appear in four games before deciding whether or not to take a redshirt for the season. Allen said the new rule will give IU an opportunity to maximize the roster for the upcoming season.
"It's great for our program to be able to allow us to maximize our rosters," Allen said. "We have to do a great job of evaluating guys at fall camp and decide who is going to fit in that window to be able to maximize their skill set on special teams and offense and defense throughout the season."
IU has plenty of talented freshmen coming in this season, and it will be interesting to see if they use this new rule when it comes to players like defensive lineman Madison Norris, running back Ronnie Walker Jr., quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and defensive back Reese Taylor.
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