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Indiana football: How will Tom Allen handle Big Ten Media Days?

Here’s what we think Allen will be asked and how he may answer.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana football head coach Tom Allen will kick off day two of Big Ten Media Days in downtown Indianapolis on Thursday, speaking with national media and local reporters ahead of the 2023 season.

Obviously there’s a ton of questions he’ll face. National questions will probably be different from the local angle.

Nationally, he’ll probably face broader questions about the program and national landscape of the sport. This’ll include Indiana’s record since 2020, how he’s seen NIL affect his program (which could be compared to bigger brands like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State), conference realignment and the transfer portal, particularly his use of it over the past two offseasons.

Locally, he’ll probably be asked more about the quarterback battle between Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby, specific injuries such as Cam Camper’s ACL tear recovery, his decision to hand off defensive playcalling duties to Matt Guerrieri.

Here’s how he could answer.

On Indiana’s record since 2020...

Indiana has won just six games since the program’s historic 2020 season. That includes just two conference games, against Illinois and Michigan State this past season.

There’s not much of an excuse for that number. The program has been plagued with injuries, leading to a walk-on quarterback starting against Purdue in 2021 and each offseason being full of updates on returning players.

It’ll probably be mentioned that Indiana just hasn’t gone out and won a game in the fourth quarter when things are still a bit close. Allen might just bring that up himself as an emphasis for the program in the offseason.

On NIL at Indiana...

It’s not the first time Allen has addressed the subject and he’s been blunt when the question is asked.

Last year, Ryan Day gave out a figure just to keep his roster intact at Ohio State: $13 million. Allen knows what he’s competing against and had a few things to say.

“We’re playing against teams with a really big budget right now,” Allen said during a late-season radio show in 2022. “I mean $13 million is a lot, and we’re like one percent of that. You talk about certain positions, and Coach Day talked about it takes $2 million to get an elite quarterback, and a million dollars to get an elite tackle and an elite pass rusher. You know what? That’s proven to be true as this thing has played itself out. We’re not even close to that, not even in the conversation of that right now.”

The reality is that Indiana’s NIL apparatus, specifically for the football program, isn’t on the same level as a number of other teams in the league. They’re aware, but there also isn’t much that can be done about that.

He’s mentioned how it comes into play during recruitments, but I’d be curious to hear what he has to say now, months later.

Again, he’ll probably be asked to compare his NIL situation to that of his contemporaries at Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin.

On conference realignment...

This is the type of question that’ll probably come up for every coach in attendance at every conference’s media day.

Allen has been in favor of the Big Ten scrapping its divisions. He’s had to play the conference champion literally every year because the team that wins the title is always from the East. The new schedule format should be good for Indiana, a sentiment Allen agrees with.

If he’s asked about the concept as a whole I wouldn’t expect him to have much to say. He’s not one to make broad, pointed statements on anything outside of Indiana’s focus.

On the transfer portal...

It’s no secret that Allen has made liberal use of the transfer portal these past two offseasons.

The Hoosiers added 25 players from the portal this past offseason, the sixth most in the entire country. Of those top-six, half went through a coaching change. Only Indiana, Ole Miss, and SMU didn’t, and the Mustangs’ coach is entering his second season. That class is rated 17th in the country by 247Sports.

In 2022, Indiana added 15 players, the 10th most in the country. It’s worth noting that the 2023 transfer class is larger than the largest class overall in 2022, when Buffalo brought in 22 commits.

Allen was already asked about his transfer haul during an event at Huber’s Winery, per The Daily Hoosier.

“All positions were affected,” Allen said. “There’s not a position outside of specialists that we didn’t address, and so it was kind of a broad use of (the transfer portal). So I’m excited. I like the guys. I think the majority of them have already been with us for a whole spring. These next two months are going to be big.”

For the past few years, Allen has mostly said that the portal is just part of the new reality of the sport and Indiana has to learn to use it to be successful. He’s not the type of guy to give some big, headline-grabbing opinion on it a la Lane Kiffin.

If (when) he is asked, he’ll probably say something to that effect.

Allen won’t be the one to bring this up in all likelihood, but there’s a portal storyline worth mentioning. When defensive line transfer Philip Blidi arrived in Bloomington, his wife was pregnant. She went into labor when Blidi was out of town, and the first person to arrive at the hospital in support was Allen.

On his starting quarterback...

Allen will not name a starter at media days. He’s said before that he wants the summer to serve as a time for growth for those competing for the job, opportunities to show leadership outside of structure in spring.

He’ll likely have things to say about the contenders, with Brendan Sorsby having a year of experience working with Walt Bell and Tayven Jackson being a big-name addition in the transfer portal, but it’ll be about what you’d expect.

In all likelihood, he’ll mention assessing how the summer went for the group and further evaluation at Fall camp. He probably won’t commit to naming a starter during camp either, he has a track record of being tight-lipped. It took until the first snap to know Connor Bazelak was starting against Illinois last year.

On injuries...

Allen’s usually up-front about injuries when asked. It’s worth saying because some coaches refuse to touch the subject, but Allen has displayed a willingness to discuss things when the question comes up.

When you hear about an injury update during his usual weekly press conferences, it’s almost always because he was asked rather than bringing it up in an opening statement.

Notable injuries include Cam Camper’s aforementioned torn ACL, perhaps the ACL tear suffered by Matthew Bedford against Illinois last year as well.

On defensive play calling...

We previously wrote that Allen would need to hand off defensive play calling duties at the end of last season. Months later, he ended up doing so upon hiring Matt Guerrieri as co-defensive coordinator.

Guerrieri is young, just 33 years old, but has experience as a co-DC at Duke before spending a year in Columbus on the Ohio State staff as an analyst. Funny enough, he was already set to call plays for former Indiana football head coach Kevin Wilson in his new job at Tulsa before Allen came calling.

Allen previously gave up this role to Kane Wommack (I’m sure you know how that went, he’s a head coach now, a good one, for a reason) and then to Charlton Warren (he lasted a year in Bloomington, 2021).

It’ll be interesting to see how the two handle all the new talent and Allen’s scheme, but I’d imagine Allen will (obviously, duh) express faith in Guerrieri and detail the move.