Takeaways from Tom Allen’s media day press conference

By Dylan Wallace

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Kickoff for Indiana football is less than a month away.

The Hoosiers open their season with a challenge as they head to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes on Sept. 4.

Indiana is coming off back-to-back bowl games from 2019 and 2020, and with perhaps the most momentum the program has had since the 90’s, the cream and crimson look to continue that this season.

Indiana held its media day at Memorial Stadium on Thursday, and head coach Tom Allen spoke on a number of different topics.

Here are a couple of takeaways from Allen’s media day press conference.

Penix progressing

The biggest question on whether Indiana will be successful or not this season depends on whether or not quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will be healthy.

Penix tore his ACL against Maryland last November, and the word on the street in Bloomington is that he’ll be healthy for the season-opener at Iowa.

Of course, Allen was posed with a question about his starting quarterback on Thursday.

“Any time it’s a lower-leg injury, lower-body injury, you’re talking about can they accelerate, can they slow down, can they move the way they need to move. Those are all cyclical. You have a progression you’re looking for,” Allen said.

“We feel really good about where he is. Does he need to continue? Yes, it’s a process to be able to go through and say, Okay, this is the goal date, September 4th, is to get him to be 100% for that date.”

Allen said they have a plan for Penix as the team enters fall camp. He is going to participate in all activities this fall but won’t sustain any hits, just like the other QB’s on the team.

“I think he’s right where I kind of expected him to be coming into fall camp, where I hoped he would be coming into fall camp,” Allen said. “Expecting him to be our starter on September 4th. To me that’s really the most accurate part I can say in regards to that. I feel good about where he is mentally and physically. I know it’s been a long haul for him. He’s once again responded and stepped up to the challenge.”

Run game looking to expand

With a short offseason heading into 2020 due to COVID-19, there wasn’t much time for Indiana to implement new things with new offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan.

But with a full offseason heading into 2021, the Hoosiers hope to have a more advance, more involved running game this season.

“You can get stronger, tougher, faster along the way for sure,” Allen said. “That’s part of it. Schematically, being able to do some things. We made a big emphasis on that this summer, this offseason, to be able to make that a priority for us. So we have.”

Allen also said it starts up front with the offensive line, and he’s happy about where the O-line is at this moment.

The Hoosiers also brought in running backs coach Deland McCullough this summer, and he has been a huge addition to the development of Indiana’s backs after previously working with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.

“To me running the football is a critical part of this. There’s no certain number you have to get in my opinion, it’s about you got to be effective. You have to be able to run the football when you need to run the football,” Allen said. “Whether it is starting a game, closing out a game, being able to keep them off of your throw game, all different things, it’s about that balance that you want as an offense where you feel like you can do the things that you want to do, based on the scheme, what they’re giving you.

“That to me is a huge priority for us, absolutely. I expect us to be better in that area.”

Indiana football? High expectations?

Indiana football has never had the most success in its history. There have been some good years, but most of the time, it has been a struggle to maintain any type of national relevancy.

It seems like Allen and this group of Hoosiers are starting to change that. Indiana pushed Ohio State to the limit last season, defeated Wisconsin on the road and took out the likes of Penn State and Michigan as well, all while being ranked inside the top-25 after week one.

With a majority of its starters returning, and a plethora of talented transfers, Indiana has high expectations for itself for the 2021 season.

“We’ve been pretty clear on our goals. Haven’t shied away from it,” Allen said. “We finished second in the Big Ten East last year. Our goal is to play in the Big Ten championship and win the game. There’s a lot of things that have to happen before that occurs.”

The idea of Indiana even competing for a Big Ten Championship four years ago was a laughable statement, but now, as good as Ohio State is in the Big Ten East, the Hoosiers have a belief they can get there.

Indiana football is being talked about differently now. The mentality of the coaches and players was evident on Thursday that this team believes it can accomplish something special this season.

“Do we have talent? Yes, we have a lot of talent. Do we have a lot of good players? Yes, I believe we have a lot of good football players. And I love our coaching staff,” Allen said. “But how well this 2021 team meshes together, the chemistry we create, how hard we play for each other, with each other, how well we perform each and every day.

“The thing is to me you got to get better every week. If those things all happen as they are, I’m excited about what this team can become.”