For years the story of Indiana football has been good offense and bad defense, but for the players on the defensive side of the ball things are about to change. With the arrival of defensive coordinator Tom Allen and a new scheme there is a great deal of confidence that the days of the Hoosiers being one of the worst defensive units in the Big Ten are over.
Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson realized after the 2015 season the defense needed a new culture that could mirror the one they have on offense.
“We've created a standard on one side of the ball (offense) that we've never created on the other (defense),” Wilson said at the Big Ten Media Days. “It's not cover two. It's not zone blitz. It's not man free. It's not zero pressure. It's not four man. It's not three man. It's a standard of playing hard. It's a standard of holding each other accountable and loving each other, and pulling for each other and playing together.”
At the Big Ten Media Days linebacker Marcus Oliver said the culture for the Indiana defense changed when Coach Allen arrived, but he knows the players are responsible for making sure it stays at a high level.
“I think Coach Allen has already started it, and I think it’s up to me and other leaders and everyone on the team to hold people to the standard,” Oliver said. “And not just defense, but offense not allowing us to be bad, special teams not allowing us to be bad, and then us not allowing them to slack either.”
Oliver said that he knows what people think about the Indiana defense and he understands there are doubters, but for him that is just motivation to prove everyone wrong.
“It’s definitely a chip to play with,” he said about the criticism of the IU defense. “It’s been brought up so much and that’s all I keep hearing and it just excites me more for this year. I know Coach Allen is excited and we’re going to get it done this year, there is no ifs, ands or buts, it’s going to happen.”
Indiana safety Chase Dutra has no doubt things are going to change for the Hoosiers on defense and he pointed to Coach Allen as the reason why.
“You hear it every year, is the defense going to step-up, the offense is always consistent and they’ve always been good, is the defense going to finally come,” Dutra said. “I think it is with our new defense and with Coach Allen. He is really enthusiastic and he has great passion for the game and he brings his juice every day. I think this defense that we’re coming with is going to be a great defense and we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Cornerback Rashard Fant said it is important to him that the defense improves because he doesn’t want the offense to feel like they have to outscore everyone for IU to be successful.
“You always hear it and it is a big motivation because we don’t want the offense to feel like they have to carry us,” Fant said. “We want them to feel like even if they score 50 points we will keep the other team under 20 or under 15 or whatever. We know they got our backs and they know we’re working on it and we’re getting better and they see how bad we want it. We’re going against the best offense every day so we’re only going to get better.”
For linebacker Tegray Scales the skepticism is motivation but it will only work if the defensive players do their jobs on every play.
“It fuels us a lot,” he said about the criticism of the defense. “On our defense we have a lot of talent so it is just about putting people in the right places and making sure people are making those plays when it’s time to make them. We just have to take it one day at a time and we’ll get better.”
Playing with an edge is important to Coach Allen and so he has used the past to motivate his players to get them to play with a chip on their shoulder.
“There are three key things we want to have as our mentality, and one of them is having an edge,” Coach Allen said. “We have three sub-points below that and underneath that is to have a chip on your shoulder and something to prove. And so day one I have challenged them about that. I haven’t been afraid to call out the past. I told them that I have to own the past because I’m here. The bottom-line is that should motivate us, and we should have a chip on our shoulder, and we do have something to prove. We want to be the reason in the fourth quarter why we win the game, and we know that hasn’t always been the case. So it’s a big motivation for our guys and we’re going to talk about it all the time, and I’m going to make they know how critical it is in our mentality and how we’re going to approach the game.”