By Kevin Besser
First Year Defensive Coordinator Allen was promoted to head coach on December 1 following Kevin Wilson’s “resignation.” Allen is a true Hoosier. He grew up in Oxford, IN and coached Indianapolis powerhouse Ben Davis High School, Wabash College, and now just finished his first year in Bloomington. Allen has succeeded everywhere he has coached. His ties with with high school coaches in Indiana will help with in-state recruiting. He is the most enthusiastic and energetic coach in the Hoosier sideline every game and gets the most out of his players. He runs a unique 4-2-5 defense which showed great improvement from last year. There is no doubt that he will succeed here at IU and will hopefully have a long career in Bloomington.
Allen has a track record of coaching successful teams and has turned several programs around as well. He was the defensive coordinator of Ben Davis High school from 1998-2003, and head coach from 2004-2006, winning 3 Indiana 5A state Championships. Wabash College’s team improved from an 8-2 record in 2006 to 11-2 in 2007, Allen’s only season as defensive coordinator. Later in his two season at Lambuth University (Tennessee), Allen helped improve a 3-8 team in 2007, to 8-4 in 2008 and 12-1 in 2009. Arkansas State saw their 4-8 team improve to 10-3 in 2011 under Allen’s only year with the team. Arkansas state hasn’t missed a bowl game since that 2011 season. Allen then spent 3 season at Ole Miss as Linebacker coach and Special Teams Coordinator. A 2-10 team when Allen arrived, they went 9-4 in his final year with the team and were 25-12 overall in those three seasons. The defense was dead last in the SEC but became the #1 scoring defense and #4 total defense in the SEC. The stout and athletic Ole Miss defense went by the nickname the “Landsharks.” Finally Allen spent one year as the defensive coordinator at USF where his defense ranked #1 in the AAC, giving up only 19.6 point per conference game. Once joining the Hoosiers staff, Allen took over a defense that ranked #120 in the FBS in total defense and #106 in opponent points scored. The Hoosiers’ defense ranked #35 in the FBS in total defense and #53 in opponent points scored in the first season as defensive coordinator.
Any IU student who attends a home football game will clearly see Tom Allen jumping up and down on the sideline and running on to the field to celebrate with players after a big stop or a turnover. It’s easy to see how his players love to play for him and how he loves his players.
His enthusiasm for the game drives his players to play their best. For the first time in Indiana Football history, 6 defensive players made All-Big Ten honors: DT Ralph Green, CB Rashard Fant, LB Tegray Scales, LB Marcus Oliver, FS Jonathan Crawford, and “Husky” (LB/SS) Freshman Marcelino Ball. 5th year senior Green had 29 tackles, 19 solo, one sack, two pass breakups, and led the d-line with 7.5 tackles for loss. Redshirt Junior Fant led the Big Ten and was 2nd in the nation with 17 passes broken up and the first IU CB to be All-Big Ten since Chicago Bear Tracy Porter in 2007. Junior Scales led the big ten with 116 tackles, led the nation with 87 solo tackles, and was 3rd nationally with 20.5 tackles for loss. Junior Oliver was 1st in the Big Ten with 5 forced fumbles, 3rd with 69 solo tackles, and 3rd with 15.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore Crawford became the first Big Ten player and just the eighth FBS player to have 3 takeaways (2 INTs, 1 FR) in one game. He had 3 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, 7 passes broken up, and 65 tackles. Freshman Ball led all big-ten players with 73 tackles and 3 takeaways, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 7 pass break-ups. Allen had an almost identical defense in terms of personnel to the 2015 defense that ranked last in the big ten. He was able to elevate the ability of his players and it showed with these all-big ten players.
Tom Allen significantly improved Indiana’s defense in just about every major category. The success of the defense can be contributed to Allen’s 4-2-5 scheme, which is completely different than the 3-4 scheme that was run by IU in past seasons. A 4-2-5 defense consists of 4 defensive linemen, 2 linebackers, and 5 secondary. The secondary usually consists of 2 cornerbacks, 2 safeties, and a safety-linebacker hybrid called the “husky.” The greatest advantage of this defense is its flexibility. Most defenses have 7 players “in the box” (lineman and linebackers) during first and second down to stop the run and then will sub in more secondary players on 3rd down when it’s more likely a passing down. This has its disadvantages because it is susceptible to giving up passes on early downs because there are too many linebackers. With the 4-2-5 defense, you don’t need to substitute in and you are able to stop both the run and the pass more consistently. The husky is the most important position in the defense and coach Allen has stated this many times. The husky is designed to be a player who is around 6ft tall and around 200 lbs. They are big enough to play linebacker is obvious running situations but are also fast and can drop back and cover receivers like a safety in obvious passing situations. Freshman Marcelino Ball played husky and it is no mistake that he was Freshman All-American and All-Big Ten. He led all freshmen in the nation and tackles and also had 3 interceptions. This is because the husky plays all over the field and is consistently making plays.
Allen will need to adjust to knowing what is going on with the offense and special teams and not just the defense while he’s coaching. But making back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1992-1993 and a defensive unit returning a majority of its starters, Indiana’s team should be confident heading into next season. Coach Allen has had nothing but good things said about him by the Administration, offensive and defensive players, and his coaching staff. He has a track record of improving teams. He created a defense with the most All-Big Ten players in IU history and statistically had one of the most improved defenses in the country. Indiana fans should be excited for upcoming seasons with him at the helm. He will be a successful coach here in Bloomington.