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'We don't blink': IU football challenged with preparing players away from campus



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IU head coach Tom Allen talks with his team during a timeout Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. Aaron Wellman, IU football's strength and conditioning coach, is training the team from across the country. Alexis Oser

When Aaron Wellman was hired as IU football’s strength and condition coach, he wasn’t expecting to be training the team from afar.

After the departures of David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea, who both took jobs at the University of Alabama on March 3, IU showcased its commitment to the football program by hiring Wellman from the New York Giants and making him the third-highest paid strength coach in the country.

Wellman was hired on March 16 ready to bring his NFL training mentality to the Hoosiers as spring football began. Instead, he found himself designing workouts for a team scattered throughout the country.

“We’re on a case-by-case basis,” Wellman said during a Tuesday teleconference. “The equipment available throughout our roster is vast and varied, and so the work begins now right where we have to meet these guys where they are, do our absolute best for these players and be on call 24 hours a day to meet their needs.”

While IU scrambles to figure out how to prepare for the upcoming season without spring practices or team workouts, head coach Tom Allen said he believes Wellman is the perfect person to be training the team while away from school.

“This guy will do whatever it takes to help you develop as a person,” Allen said. “Whether it’s just training your body and just the holistic approach to helping him become the best possible, and there was no time limit put on that.”

This spring was poised to be a launchpad for the Hoosiers while they tried to build off the momentum of an 8-6 season, their best since 1993. After nearly knocking off then-ranked No. 10 Penn State on November 16 and making it to the Gator Bowl, IU appeared to be on the brink of breaking into the next tier of the Big Ten.

IU was the third-youngest team in the Big Ten last season yet relied heavily on production from its underclassmen. Teams rely on the spring practices to focus the younger players with individualized workouts and an increased emphasis on positional technique.

With those valuable reps being taken away, Allen has had to preach focus and mental toughness to his team as they prepare for the season on their own.

While Allen can’t work on drills and technique remotely, dealing with the mental aspect of the game through virtual meetings has become a point of emphasis.

“We don’t blink,” Allen said. “Hey, the bottom line is this: They just canceled spring ball; we don't blink. They just canceled classes in person for the rest of the year; we don't blink. We just recently shut down weight rooms; we can't be in our facility here; we aren't going to blink.”

The Hoosiers have had to deal with a lot of changes this offseason, while the program has replaced a large portion of its coaching staff and lost players to the transfer portal. With the NCAA suspending sports, this is just another obstacle they most get over while football season inches closer.

“We're going full bore,” Allen said. “Our sleeves are rolled up, we're going to work and we're getting ready.”

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