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Five things we learned from Charlton Warren’s first few days on the job

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IU’s new defensive coordinator dishes on his past, his approach and more

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 20 Georgia Spring Game Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Newly-hired defensive coordinator Charlton Warren met Indiana’s players for the first time on Sunday. On Tuesday, his hiring was officially confirmed to the college football world, and on Wednesday the 44-year-old took time to answer questions about his new job, his new program and his attraction to IU.

Here are some of the things we learned:

His given name is Charlton Warren. His nickname is Mr. Intensity.

While playing football at Air Force Academy in the late 1990s, Warren was the recipient of that program’s “Mr. Intensity Award”, an annual honor given to the Falcons’ top performer in the weight room. Twenty-three years and six coaching stops later, the name still fits.

“Do not play me in checkers,” Warren said, “because I want to win.”

Warren comes highly recommended by Gene Chizik

For the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Warren worked as the defensive backs coach at North Carolina. His defensive coordinator those two years? Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. As IU coach Tom Allen built his pool of candidates over the past month, he sought counsel from Chizik, who was quick to offer a strong reference for Warren and his ability to lead.

In Warren’s first year at UNC, the Tar Heels allowed 14.5 fewer points per game from 2014 — the most improvement of any Power Five defense during the 2015 season. North Carolina also finished with the most improved pass efficiency defense and yards per pass attempt defense. In 2016, UNC ranked 10th nationally in passing defense.

“Gene Chizik, to me, is one of the top defensive coaches that I know personally and just does such a great job,” Allen said. “He was with (Warren) for a couple years. I leaned on Coach Chizik and his understanding of Charlton and his skill set. He was huge in this process, too. ... He went through a very extensive hiring process to find the staff he put together when he went to North Carolina as defensive coordinator and really had some strong thoughts about Charlton.”

At least early this year, Allen will work closely with Warren

With the Hoosiers, Warren signed on for not just one new job, but two. In addition to overseeing the defense, he’ll also serve as IU’s linebackers coach. This will be the first time Warren has worked with a position group outside of the secondary, so there will be at least a modest learning curve to navigate over the next few months.

But Allen, himself a longtime linebackers coach, is willing to lend a hand. For the IU head coach, that won’t be anything new.

“Our players will attest to this,” Allen said. “I’m in every single linebacker position meeting, and was all this past year and will be again. It is an area that I focus on the most, obviously, and the position I coached the most in my past. That won’t change. So (I’ll definitely be) more involved in the beginning, without question. That would be natural to expect. I want to be. He wants me to be. We’re excited about that.”

As for calling the defense, Warren has previous experience as a coordinator at his alma mater. At IU, he’ll run the same 4-2-5 set that Allen has used since his arrival in 2016.

“Scheme-wise, 4-2-5 — every place I’ve been, we’ve based out of basically a five DB personnel group,” Warren said. “Whether it was 4-2-5, a nickel package; whatever the case may be. So conceptually, it will be a lot of the same concepts, a lot of the same families of pressures. It’s just a tweak here, technique here, a fundamental here. They’ve done a tremendous job here of playing to their strengths, whatever that was personnel-wise.”

Allen wanted to make an outside hire

When former defensive coordinator Kane Wommack was hired as South Alabama’s next head coach in December, Allen began his search for a replacement by looking outside of the walls of Memorial Stadium.

There’s a reason for that.

“I love the idea of having a new set of eyes,” Allen said. “We have a great staff, defensively, of coaches that I love and trust, and they do a great job. But when you bring somebody in, I just say, ‘Hey ... what do you think about this?’ You have a whole different perspective when you come from the outside in.”

And for the IU coach, one of the selling points for Warren was that his perspective includes his recent experience working in arguably the best conference in the country.

“He brings SEC eyes,” Allen said. “It’s a great league with a bunch of great coaches, and he’s from that group of really, really good defensive coaches. It’s Coach Saban’s system that’s he’s been trained in and worked in the last two years, specifically. ... Bottom line is I just think it’s gonna make us better. When you hire somebody and bring them onto your staff who’s coming from a really, really good program that does a great job defensively, that’s been around the best defensive minds in the country, that’s nothing but a great thing.”

At Georgia, Kirby Smart’s staff found inspiration in Tom Allen’s approach to program building

In terms of college football prominence, Indiana is looking up to programs such as Georgia. But in Athens, the Bulldogs’ staffers looked to IU and Tom Allen last season for leadership pointers.

Those clips of joyous Indiana locker room celebrations, of Allen’s motivational speeches, of the program’s entire “Love Each Other” mantra? They weren’t consumed merely by IU fans. They circulated throughout college football board rooms, serving as examples of what good program culture looks like.

“We actually used some of those as motivation for my previous team because it was so inspiring,” Warren said. “I think it gets contagious, right? You see a group of guys working their tails off for a common goal in the face of adversity, or the face of a bigger opponent, the national scene — it doesn’t really matter because of the genuine love they have for each other. For me, at my previous stop, we used some of that to motivate our players to see how things can be done.”

Warren shared that anecdote with Allen during the hiring process, offering further evidence of the reach Allen’s coaching philosophy has had outside of Bloomington. Not that Allen was necessarily surprised. A few of his college coaching colleagues have reached out over the past few months to share similar stories.

“I’ve had some people talk to me about it, send me texts or call and say, ‘Hey, our staff is doing this, they love what they saw from you guys,’ and try to emulate certain things from LEO,” Allen said. “He actually said it to our whole team. I introduced him to our players this past Sunday. I think that’s kind of a confirmation. I think it was neat for our players to know that and see that and realize that they’re blessed to be a part of something that’s pretty special.”