1. When IU announced this hire, Hoosier fans were pretty surprised because we didn't have a vacancy at DC (former Indiana DC Brian Knorr has now been dismissed from his role to make room for Allen). How did USF fans react to the hire, and were they surprised that Allen left after only one year in Tampa?
The move kind of caught USF fans off guard considering that it's so late in the coaching carousel and only a few weeks out from signing day. After he flirted with and turned down the Auburn DC job last month, I thought the coast was clear for him staying in Tampa for at least one year. There really isn't too much of a surprise of him staying for only one season considering the AAC is becoming the breeding ground for future P5 head coaches/coordinators. It's a good move on his part with him being a native of the state, having the opportunity to coach in the Big Ten, and possibly being paid more than he would have at USF.
2. At 1-3 and with two previous losing seasons under his belt, USF coach Willie Taggart seemed like he was on a pretty hot seat after the first month of the season. However, the Bulls turned it around and won 7 out of their last 8 games to finish the season. How did Allen's defense contribute to this turnaround?
I would say the defense remained consistent and improved throughout the season as they got more familiar with their roles within Allen's "Bull Shark" attack. With the exception of the weird Maryland loss, they held down the fort and kept USF close in games while the offense was still figuring out their identity early on in the season. Once they got the ball rolling after the Syracuse game, both units started to elevate and complement each other.
3. What formation does Allen's defense use, and what were the strengths and weaknesses on defense for USF last season?
Allen ran a 4-2-5 base similar to what he ran as a LB coach at Ole Miss. He was able to come to USF and co-opt that Landshark identity in Oxford to the Bull Shark identity in Tampa.
The strengths of Allen's 4-2-5 was it utilized the natural speed of USF's defenders to close in space quickly and snuff out receivers and ball-carriers in the open field. The system utilizes an extra safety (Husky) play up on the line of scrimmage and offer an extra hand in clogging up the run, the ability to drop back in coverage to defend the pass, and ability to disguise blitzes. Allen was able to use the general aggressiveness of this scheme to force 25 turnovers in 2015 and be a consistent top 15 tackles for loss defense throughout the season.
The only real glaring weakness was the propensity to give up the big play at various points throughout the season. Naturally with so many players staked in or around the box, there would be times when Bulls DB's would get beat downfield in one on one situations. That cannot happen, especially getting caught in 3rd down situations when the defense is trying to get off the field.
4. While IU had some bruisers in their front seven last season, the secondary was particularly weak and prone to giving up big plays. How did USF's secondary do at containing opponents last year?
Players like safeties Jamie Byrd and Nate Godwin and youngsters like All-AAC corner Deatrick Nichols stepped up all season long in not allowing opposing passing attacks to go off. Even Paxton Lynch had a so-so game by his standards when they came down to Tampa in September.
However, like I mentioned before, if receivers were given enough time to create separation from defenders, opposing offenses could pull off big plays, especially if they manage to break a few tackles in the process.
5. To be successful at IU (whose defense ranked 105th in S&P+ last year), Allen will need to build a defense that will need to stay on the field for long stretches to account for Indiana's high-flying fast-paced offense. Do you think he's up for the task?
Similarly, USF had a defense ranked 96th in S&P+ the year before Allen took over and he boosted them to 46th in one season, so he's definitely up to the task of turning things around in Bloomington. As with everything involving new coaches and systems, personnel and recruiting will be what makes this scheme work and fortunately for Hoosier football fans, he has both the home-state kid angle and the connections to Florida in his back-pocket. He is a very high-energy, motivating coach who can quickly connect with players and get them to buy into what he's preaching. I think it's an outstanding fit and a great shot in the arm for IU's program.
Thanks again to Nick for answering our questions!