BLOOMINGTON – Indiana football coach Tom Allen is tackling his team being off campus due to the coronavirus pandemic the way he confronts most challenges.
“You can’t dwell on the things you can’t control,” Allen said. “So we don’t really talk about what we can’t do. We’re just going to find out what we can do, how we can best adapt, and I think those who best adapt and take the most advantage of this opportunity in this window of time are going to come back in May, June or July, whenever that may be, and be ahead of the game, so that’s our objective.”
Allen held a virtual team meeting via online streaming video with his entire team Sunday. With IU players back from an extended spring break, Allen said the first concern was the health and welfare of his team.
“We’ve obviously had contact with every one of our players, and we’ve had a couple position meetings already,” Allen said. “As far as we know right now, everyone is healthy. No one has contracted the virus that we know of. We’ve not done specific testing on our guys. Like I said, the majority of them are all at home right now and so haven’t been with them face-to-face in regards to physically but have interacted with them on social media and through virtual means with technology.”
Allen felt fortunate IU was able to get in four of 15 spring practices, including one in full pads, before the remaining practices were canceled.
“A lot of good film to use to teach off of and build off of that,” Allen said. “But right now you’re really approaching it from a mental perspective. We’re going through and having position meetings right now within the rules that we follow for NCAA this time of year and allow us to be able to do the installations with our guys and watch film with them via the technology that we have.”
With the additional 15 practices IU received for qualifying for the Gator Bowl last December, Allen believes the Hoosiers will still be sharp if and when practices resume.
“It just didn’t seem like we had been gone that long because of all those bowl practices and the fact that we had all that preparation,” Allen said.
As far as IU players staying in shape, new strength coach Aaron Wellman is formulating workout plans for players through an app on their iPhones.
“A lot of players have two sets of dumbbells, and so we’re writing up a workout specific to what they have, and we’ll write them up a dumbbell-only workout,” Wellman said. “The equipment availability throughout our roster is vast and varied, and so the work begins now right where we have to meet these guys where they are, do our absolute best for these players and be on call 24 hours a day to meet their needs.”
Allen has had conversations with other Big Ten coaches and coaches throughout the country to come up with creative ideas to deal with the indefinite absence of players from campus and campus facilities.
“We can only deal with what we know, and right now we know that our players are not with us, so we have a great plan to be able to get through this time period and maximize player development and player safety,” Allen said.
Allen said there’s been some NCAA discussions about the possibility of getting remaining spring practices back in the form of summer organized team activities, similar to NFL OTAs, if players can return to IU campus by June or July. But as of now, there are still plenty of unknowns as to a timetable of players being able to return to campus. There have been no discussions of the college football season being altered yet, Allen said.
“As long as we can have June and July to get our players ready, I think that’s enough time,” Allen said. “I’m not trying to pigeonhole us, but just based on what we’ve done in the past and the calendar we have created for that — now, if there’s changes to that we’ve got to make adjustments, and we will if that is called for, but that to me in my mind is the time needed to get ready to play a full season.”
Until then, IU players are finding their own ways to stay sharp. Last week, IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. posted a video on his Twitter account, throwing to receivers at a park in his native Tampa, Fla.
“Guys are just trying to find a way to stay in the best possible shape they can, and yeah, it’s important to stay in communication with him, and I’ll be doing that myself,” Allen said. “Obviously, position coaches and Coach (Nick) Sheridan is not only the offensive coordinator but also the quarterbacks coach so he has a strong relationship already with Michael, and that will grow during this time as with all of our quarterbacks and all of our position groups.
“Yeah, it’s a critical time. We’re going full bore. Our sleeves are rolled up. We’re going to work, and we’re getting ready.”