Throughout the offseason, IU football head coach Tom Allen has been clear about his team’s goal of winning the Big Ten. At lU’s media day Thursday, he delved further into how the Hoosiers can get there: their defense.
“You wanna win the Big Ten? You better have the best defense in the Big Ten,” Allen said.
The team has a strong foundation to build on after a 2020 season that included 17 interceptions, 25 sacks, a starting safety being selected in the 5th round of the NFL Draft in Jamar Johnson and former defensive coordinator Kane Wommack being hired as the new head coach at the University of South Alabama.
Seventeen starters from last year’s season have returned, and the Hoosiers filled in gaps using the transfer portal this offseason. Senior Marcelino McCrary-Ball, who suffered an ACL tear prior to last season, will also be making a return.
Allen and new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren, hired in January to replace Wommack, have high expectations for the team’s defense ahead of camp.
Warren, who had multiple coaching stops in the Southeastern Conference before arriving in Bloomington, has come in to learn IU’s system rather than establish his own. For him, the transition to IU’s system has mostly been about language.
“I may call it Daffy Duck and they may call it quack, whatever it is,” Warren said. “I just had to adapt to that language.”
One of the things that Warren has appreciated about IU’s defense is the veteran experience in the group. IU lost just two starters on defense following the 2020 season, Jamar Johnson and defensive lineman Jerome Johnson.
On the defensive line, IU looked for depth through the transfer portal, adding graduate student Ryder Anderson and junior Jaren Handy.
Allen said that last year’s defensive line was different than past years with less individual production from the group, which will be the team’s challenge for the group in camp and throughout the season.
“The scheme is designed for the guys to make plays that are able to make plays,” Allen said. Everybody's got a free opportunity to be that guy.”
The line needs to be more aggressive and finish plays because if they won’t, others will have to fill in, Allen said.
“If they ain't going to make them, the linebackers and the corners are going to make them because that's kind of how we roll,” Allen said. “It's basically sic 'em, the first guy there gets rewarded.”
Allen also emphasized the importance of having great linebackers, a position he said is necessary for a great defense. Every member of last season's linebacker room is returning, and Allen is particularly excited for that group going forward.
Aggressive, fundamentally sound play is important to both Warren and Allen, with Allen saying he wants the defense to truly finish more plays this season
“I want us to be the best if not one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. That to me is clearly the standard we set for our guys,” Allen said.