IU football’s word for the 2020 season is relentless.
The Hoosiers returned to practice Thursday for their first day of fall camp, one day after the Big Ten Conference released a revised schedule for the upcoming season. Despite the uncertainty surrounding college football as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, head coach Tom Allen said the team is going to focus on each day individually.
“I know that it’s not always comforting to not know where you’re going to be, what you’re going to be doing on certain days, but it’s reality,” Allen said. “And I think we’ve all been through this long enough to know that’s what we’ve gotten used to.”
The program previously resumed voluntary workouts on July 31 after IU Athletics suspended team activities for two weeks due to six players, coaches or staff members testing positive for the coronavirus July 17.
“We’ve experienced that firsthand in a very widespread way during the six weeks we were here in the summertime,” Allen said. “What’s that going to look like during the season? That’s the million-dollar question."
Following the two-week quarantine protocol, athletes and coaches returned to voluntary practice and are now beginning to transition to full contact with the start of fall camp. Today, players only wore helmets but will be in full pads on the third day of camp.
In addition to trying to prevent the spread of the virus between the members in the program, the general student body will soon return to campus which Allen said will create an emphasis on individual responsibility.
For playing the entire college football season to become a possibility, Allen said players cannot subject themselves to environments that may compromise their health.
“The first word in our core values is accountability,” he said. “It’s going to take tremendous discipline to not go to certain activities and events that maybe we’ve done in the past. You’re going to have to sacrifice that to be a part of this football team.”
Aside from the effects of COVID-19, one of the challenges the IU staff will face in the coming weeks is maximizing repetitions for players on the field while paying attention to their physical condition. Allen credited the presence of Aaron Wellman as a key component in that effort.
Wellman, who joined the team as the senior assistant athletic director for football performance, spent the last four years as the strength and conditioning coach for the New York Giants. Allen said he will rely on Wellman heavily throughout the season because of his expertise studying injury prevention at NFL training camps.
“We're really trying to do everything we can to protect our guys,” Allen said. “The way we practice, the structure, the organization, the field use. Keeping everybody spread out and doing a lot more with smaller groups and more isolated, individual things as much as we can.”
Pending future postponements, IU is scheduled to open its season Sept. 4 at Wisconsin.