Big Ten Media Days kicked off last Tuesday morning when conference commissioner Kevin Warren and seven of the 14 conference teams, including Indiana, addressed the media.
Indiana football head coach Tom Allen brought junior tight end A.J. Barner and seniors linebacker Cam Jones and cornerback Tiawan Mullen to speak at the conference’s media event at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The annual event includes preseason rankings, All-Big Ten selections and players and coaches addressing the media.
Commissioner Kevin Warren had a few notable remarks, which included supporting NIL while saying federal legislation is necessary, welcoming the 2024 additions of USC and UCLA into the Big Ten and hinting at more potential conference expansion.
It seems the gist of Warren’s statement was that he wants to keep making money, which will be accomplished through the valued Los Angeles market schools USC and UCLA, as well as a new television contract that is in the works. It will be interesting to see the future of the Big Ten develop in time, as he mentioned programs such as Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, Miami and others as potential expansion targets, but who knows when or if that time will come.
Allen covered a lot of bases in his 15 minutes on the podium. He addressed last year’s dismal 2-10 season, saying the team began a ‘thorough evaluation’ of what went wrong. He mentioned the team has a “chip on its shoulder” coming off last year and into the season opener against Illinois.
Allen also said Donovan McCulley’s recent conversion from quarterback to wide receiver was initiated by McCulley himself and that he has packages prepared for the latter.
All three players shared a similar mindset at the individual podium: work harder than ever and have a bounce-back season.
Jones and Barner spoke on filling in big roles for those who left before them. Jones has the challenge of replacing former All-American and NFL draftee Micah McFadden, both in production and in leadership. Barner has a similar challenge, stepping up after serving two years as the back-up for three-time All-Big Ten selection Peyton Hendershot.
It’s hard to show the confidence and attitude that all four individuals did coming off a terrible season where expectations were not met. Allen and the players all acknowledged it, too; they just don’t think that represents who that team was or what this team will be. Whether or not that confidence will make a difference is yet to be determined.
I was impressed with the leadership Jones seems to exemplify, as he will need it this season to lead the defense. He shared an anecdote of him and then-junior quarterback Jack Tuttle leading a players-only meeting last season to see who wasn’t buying in on the team and what was wrong. Allen gushed over it, saying a player-led team is a key point to being successful.
Both Allen and the players appeared focused. Sept. 2 — the date of Indiana’s season opener against Illinois — was mentioned several times by each Hoosier.
Allen and the players seem determined to prove something this season. As a fan, it makes you start to get excited. However, you might want to keep that excitement in check. The team still hasn’t named a starting quarterback, a new offensive scheme is expected to be implemented by Walt Bell and, still, the program went 2-10 last season. While the confidence is clearly present, Indiana needs to prove it on the field.
In my eyes, the season opener will prove how Indiana’s season unfolds. We witnessed last season’s crushing season-opener at Iowa, a 34-6 loss in which the Hoosiers looked unmatched and lacked heart. The blowout set the tone for the remainder of the season, and a similar outcome this season would likely provide the same effect.
The Hoosiers showed bark on Tuesday morning, making it clear they’re ready for a testing season-opener. It’ll be 36 days until we see if they have any bite.