When the news broke on Oct. 22 that freshman safety Antonio Allen had sustained a torn ACL and was out for the season, it was devastating to a young Indiana football team trying to fight for a bowl bid.
Allen was having a solid freshman season, and he had just earned his first career start against Michigan. Allen, a Ben Davis product who flipped his verbal pledge from Ole Miss to Indiana before his senior year, was one of the most talented safeties Indiana had put on the field and years.
And then, just like that, his season was over, his development put on hold just seven games into the season.
"It was hard," Allen said at Monday's Media Day in Bloomington. "I was starting to get a good feel for things and that happened."
Allen said the recovery took all of six month, but now he's fully healthy and ready again to contribute to a defense trying desperately to make improvements and gain some respect in the Big Ten.
"I had to regain my back pedal and braking, just learn to put trust in my leg again," Allen said. "But now I've got it all back.
"I gotta go out there and show I can do better than I did last year."
So far, Allen's return is going just as he planned. When the team met for the first time, Allen took the field with the first-team defense despite the serious injury he was recovering from.
"Rarely do you have a guy step in, when he's not in the spring, and run with the ones," said new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr. "I haven't seen it very often, but I think what he showed us, his commitment to getting back, his commitment to learning the system, has given us confidence that we can run him out there with the ones."
Indiana will be using a new 3-4 look when the season opens, a system brought in by Knorr, who coached previously at Wake Forest.
The Indiana players -- Allen included -- sound excited to play in the new scheme.
“I feel like we should have fun out there this year," Allen said. "Last year we were thinking too much. This scheme is a little easier and the blitzes are coming from everywhere.”