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Indiana Football: Key notes and quotes from Tom Allen ahead of Ohio State



After a long and tumultuous offseason for the Indiana football program, fall camp has ended and game week for the week one slate is here.

Indiana head coach Tom Allen spoke with reporters on Monday and discussed numerous topics as it pertains to the game one matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Hoosiers have lost the last 27 matchups with the Buckeyes, with four of the last five coming by at least four touchdowns.

Here is a breakdown of the key topics Allen spoke on.

Tom Allen singles out four players who boosted stock the most in fall camp

There have been numerous position battles throughout fall camp and weekly standouts from the coaching staff. But on Monday, Allen named four guys who significantly improved their stock through the entirety of fall camp.

Amare Ferrell: “A guy that sticks out to me. Been here since January, true freshman, really good football player. Really he’s a guy that we’ve said, you know what, we’ve got to get him involved on special teams, and he’s risen on the depth chart.”

Jordan Grier: “Another one that has elevated his status on our team and I think really improved a lot as a player. Then in the course of the spring, I expected that and wanted that from these guys, especially a guy like Jordan who’s been here. Like Amare, you really don’t know. It’s his first fall camp he’s ever been in, and he had spring football as a high school athlete from the state of Florida. But being here and being here all summer, just changing his body through the off-season coming through the summer and just being a guy that, when you put the pads on, just shows up. I think that’s a really good thing. That’s what you want.”

Lanell Carr: “A guy that is playing with a lot of confidence right now with regards to what he sees in practice. It needs to translate to the game without question, but he’s a guy that’s been playing at a higher level maybe than we even expected in the beginning. So I’m really excited about that.

Donaven McCulley: “Continues to elevate his game, and to me that’s something I really challenge him about. He’s worked extremely hard this off-season and just being able to be a guy that can make game changing plays, which is what we need on that side of the ball and need to create explosive plays on offense to be able to allow us to move the football and do good things in that regard.”

Out of the four, Carr and McCulley are two critically important players for the Indiana football program this season. Carr comes in from West Virginia and will be a key player coming off of the edge as a pass rusher at the bull linebacker position. For McCulley, his impact at the wideout spot needs to be felt with the ‘game changing plays’. Indiana lacked that explosiveness at the wide receiver position last year and need that entire room to step up in 2023.

A starting kicker has been named — with no public announcement

As Indiana did with the quarterback position, a starting kicker has been named … but no public announcement will be made.

A bit head scratching, but Tom Allen has always been secretive with position battles and this is no different.

“We do (have a starter picked), yeah. Those guys know all that. We’re not going to post anything, but I feel good about that,” Allen said. “I do feel like we have options, which is good. We’ve got guys that have different skill sets and different strengths and things that they do in the kicking game.”

Freshman Nicolas Radicic, redshirt junior Chris Freeman and redshirt sophomore Alejandro Quintero have been battling it out in fall camp. All three bring something different to the table. The expectation is Freeman, who handled kickoff duties in 2022, will do the same again this season.

Radicic came to Indiana looking to fill the shoes left after the transfer of Charles Campbell. While he’s just a true freshman, he was labeled as a five-star kicker from Kohl’s Kicking and has the talent to be a valuable asset to the Hoosiers this season.

In total, Indiana ranked 11th in field goal kicking in the Big Ten, finishing 14-of-20 for the season a year ago. It’s a critical position for the Hoosiers this season.

“Obviously both of our kickers are inexperienced in regards to field goals and on college Saturdays, but in regards to the reps, I feel really good about where we’re at with that. I think they’re ready to roll,” Allen added. “I would say Chris Freeman is going to be our kickoff specialist. He was our specialist all last year. He’s done a great job with that. He’s done really, really well all fall camp. The field goals themselves is where we’re still kind of working through. I think it could be a situation where it’s distance driven based on certain parts of the field, different areas where guys are better at, even locations, hashes, and maybe more probably distance than anything.

“But at the same time, we’ve got some new opportunities here, and I feel good about the multiple options we have. Both Chris and Nico have really done well. I feel like those guys have put themselves in position to be ready when called upon. We’ll probably let the situation dictate that.”

Read: Indiana Football Quick Hitters: Early breakdown and initial thoughts on Ohio State

Young Indiana defensive backs going to be tested against talented Ohio State wideouts: ‘Got to be able to do a great job of preventing the explosive plays’

Marvin Harrison Jr headlines the wide receiver room for Ohio State that also includes Emeka Egbuka — both 1,100 yard + receivers in 2022. Julian Fleming had over 500 yards and six touchdowns as well. Toss in freshman five-star Carnell Tate and the Buckeyes once again have numerous playmakers all over the field.

Indiana, however, has a young group headlined by many redshirt freshmen and sophomores. In addition, there are a few additional transfers that are looking to play significant roles that have also had to deal with the adjustments of a new school and program.

“I think it’s like anything else. We have to play extremely well within our system. We have to do what we do well, and they’re going to have some catches and get some yards. You’ve got to be able to do a great job of preventing the explosive plays. I think we all know that. But saying that and doing that is not as simple as it might sound,” Allen said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to play your system, and we’ve got to do a great job of — like we always do within our scheme of disguising things. If they know what you’re in, it’s not usually good for the defense. They’ve got such talented players.

“It’s preparation. It’s confidence. It’s playing at a high level of, you know what, they make a play, we’ve got to flush it and play the next play. We make a play ourselves, we’ve got to flush it and play the next play. So having some maturity. Some of these guys have played football quite a bit. They may be new to us, but not new to the game and not new to college football. But we do have some young guys who are going to play more than they have played in the past in the secondary. Yeah, they’ll be tested without question. They’ll be put in a situation where they’re going to have to play really, really well, and they’re going to have to have a really bad memory. If something happens, you’ve got to flush, and you’ve got to go.”

Jamier Johnson, Jamari Sharpe, Nic Toomer, Kobee Minor and Noah Pierre headline that group and will likely be the starting unit in the back.

Tom Allen likes the improved offensive line but it will be tested against Ohio State

Much has been discusses about the offensive line for the Indiana football program and with Bob Bostad heading into his first season, there is optimism things may be on the rise.

“We have (improved). I think it is hard to tell, though. You mentioned it, we haven’t played against anybody else except ourselves for spring and fall camp. But I do feel like our defensive line has some different players than we’ve had in terms of just the mass and the talent level. So that helps give us a true picture of who they’re going against,” Allen said. “But I feel like we’ve made progress. I guess we’ll know for sure on Saturday. Obviously it’s a tremendous test. I’ve been here, this is going on my eighth season overall. Running the football against these guys has never been easy, whatever year it’s been … That’s been a challenge consistently every year we’ve played them.

“I do feel like our O-line has improved, but at the same time, they’ve got to show it on game day. It’s got to be a consistent thing we see each and every week. But I know the work they put in. I know the work our coaching staff has put in. As we know, it’s a huge part of the game just being able to run the football, protect the quarterback, and do a great job of playing great defensive football up front.”

Between the expected starting offensive line, there will be nearly 80 collegiate starts combined. Adding Matthew Bedford back into the fold is critical after missing all of last season with an ACL injury. He is not only the leader on the field, but the most talented lineman as well.

Indiana will face a defensive line for Ohio State that has three potential first-round selections in next year’s NFL Draft.

More: HoosierIllustrated Roundtable: Official game-by-game predictions for Indiana football in 2023

Where position groups stand heading into week one

As mentioned, there were numerous position battles throughout fall camp. Now, with camp turning into week one of the regular season, who made the most improvement throughout the last month?

There were two groups specifically named by Tom Allen; defensive line and wide receiver.

“I think an area that kind of sticks out numerically is our defensive line and just having some new guys there and the way those guys have performed during camp,” Allen said. “So just excited to see those guys play. I think that’s going to be one of the strengths of our defense.

Then our receiver room has a lot of depth to it. I like that room a lot. I feel the same way about it and getting those guys through camp and working through injuries. Nothing serious there, but just everybody has pulled things along the way that you work through. Feel good about where we’re at with those guys and those positions.”

The defensive line will be headlined by transfers Andre Carter, Philip Blidi and Marcus Burris. Also LeDarrius Cox returns looking to have big year in the middle of the line as well.

Like the defensive line, transfers EJ Williams and DeQuece Carter will play large roles for Indiana at wideout. Returning off of injury is Cam Camper (ACL) who is going to be a ‘game-one starter’. Add in Donaven McCulley and there is a good core group. Other standouts include Kamryn Perry and Andison Coby.

Position groups still in question are the secondary. And, as mentioned earlier, this is a week that it needs to play above its potential going up against the lethal wide receiver room of the Buckeyes.

“I think the biggest question mark is just a lot of new faces in the secondary, and they’ll be tested at a very, very high level right from the get go,” Allen said. “Definitely excited about that.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana Football vs Ohio State: Key players, notes and opening spread

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.