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Tom Allen emphasizes defense, tackling ahead of IU football’s season opener


IU football head coach Tom Allen shouts instructions into a megaphone Aug. 6 during fall camp at Memorial Stadium. Allen confirmed Monday during a Zoom call that senior safety Raheem Layne will miss a portion of the Hoosiers’ 2020 football season, with no timetable to return to the field. Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

IU football head coach Tom Allen received a text message Saturday night questioning the defensive struggles across the country in both the NCAA and the NFL. 

While Allen’s been waiting for IU’s first game of the season against No. 9 Penn State, he’s watched a lot of football games featuring high-scoring offenses and struggling defenses. 

Physicality from the defense has been a point of emphasis for IU as week one draws nearer. 

“Some of the games I watched, fatigue sets in,” Allen said during a Zoom call Monday. “And it just becomes so difficult to be able to concentrate, make your checks, communicate with the guys around you, get in a good position when your body is worn down.” 

IU finished its second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday where the offensive and defensive starters each played about 50 snaps. However, Allen said the defense didn’t tackle as well compared to the team’s first scrimmage on Oct. 3. 

He added that may be, in part, due to an increased number of plays, but those snaps still aren’t close to what the team will play on Saturdays. IU hasn’t played in a live game since its 23-22 loss to the University of Tennessee in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. 

Allen said execution and tackling in the first week of the season makes him nervous as a coach. Against the Nittany Lions, those concerns become heightened because of how long the team has been away from the football field. 

“We knew what we had coming in,” Allen said. “We’re going to nine straight Big Ten games without a bye, and all the opponents are going to be within conference. We knew that just had to be an emphasis.”

In last year’s season opener against Ball State University, IU missed as many as 25 tackles. Allen emphasized the program’s ability to focus on lifting more during this extended preparation period as a way to get each player’s body ready for game day. 

While other teams around the nation have already played in four games, that doesn’t necessarily put the Hoosiers at a disadvantage to start their season. 

“The one advantage we have is we’ve had a chance to watch some of these games being played and try to use those mistakes others have made to help prevent our guys from making the same mistakes,” Allen said.

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