June 19, 2024

Why 2019 will be a crucial year for Tom Allen and Indiana

Indiana head coach Tom Allen on the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Bloomington, Ind. Iowa won 42-16. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

His team returns a quarterback with 29 touchdown passes over the last two seasons, a 1,000-yard rusher, one of the best place kickers in the Big Ten and eight starters on defense.

However, Indiana hasn’t made it to the post season since 2016 and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007. Still, with the amount of play-makers on both sides of the ball, Tom Allen will be looking to accomplish both feats in year three on the job.

Indiana fell just short of bowl eligibility the past two seasons with back-to-back 5-7 campaigns. Not to mention the team has gone undefeated in non-conference play under Allen. Which means the time has come for the Hoosiers to take care of business once the team approaches the meat grinder of their Big Ten schedule.

It’s asking a lot for a team that hasn’t finished with a winning conference record since 1993, but Allen seems up for the challenge this season. The 49-year old coach is trying to crack the surface in one of the toughest divisions in the Power Five, which contains Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

Despite those odds, the 2019 season will be the perfect opportunity for the Hoosiers to get over the hump and Allen’s players are hungry. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey is primed for a break-out junior year and threw for more touchdowns than Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez, Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson and Penn State’s Trace McSorley last season.

The signal-caller also has surprising mobility with 580 yards on the ground to go along with seven rushing scores over the past two seasons. Ramsey will also have the luxury of handing the ball off to Stevie Scott, who’s the leading returning rusher in the Big Ten East.

The six-foot-two, 233-pounder burst onto the scene last season in game two, with a 200-yard rushing performance in Indiana’s win over Virginia. He followed that up with a 100-yard game against Ball State and hit the century mark in rushing against Maryland, Michigan and Purdue, which was the Hoosiers’ last three games of the year.

Senior receivers Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale combined for 84 receptions, 1,098 yards and 10 touchdown catches last year. The duo’s production will increase this fall and they should be able to put up better numbers for Allen’s offense.

Protecting Ramsey and keeping him upright will be key if the Hoosiers want to improve on their 26 points per game. Indiana allowed 27 sacks last year, which tied for seventh-best in the league and return just two starters along the offensive line.

On defense Indiana has plenty of experience, with eight starters returning. However, the unit must make drastic improvements after finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. It all starts with leaders emerging and that task will likely fall on the shoulders of linebacker Marcelino Ball. He was a key defender for the Hoosiers’ last season and will need to set the tone every game for the front seven.

On the plus side Allen has one of the most reliable kickers in the league in Logan Justus, who’ll make a difference in close games. He made 15 of 18 field goal attempts last season and earned second team All-Big Ten honors.

Allen’s predecessor Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers bowl eligible in his last two seasons with the team. No doubt there’s pressure on the Indiana native to deliver the same results. Despite Indiana’s challenging schedule, Allen’s team has enough experience, leadership and production to get to the promised land. However, another five-win season will clearly put Allen’s job security in jeopardy, so making it to the post season is a must this fall.