Indiana University coach Tom Allen: ‘We utilize the analytics component’

Tom Allen has led the Indiana Hoosiers to a record of 10-15 in his two seasons as head coach. Prior to becoming the head coach in Dec. of 2016, he served as Indiana’s defensive coordinator for one season (2016), when he oversaw the largest single-season improvement in defensive ranking in the country. Between 1992 and 2006, Allen also served as a high school head coach at Temple Heights High (Fla.) and Ben Davis (Ind.).

Allen recently sat down for an interview with FNF Coaches.

How much has your strength and conditioning program changed since you were coaching high school football?

“I go around and visit places as a college coach now. The amount of strength coaches at the high school level has increased dramatically. I coached high school football in an area of Indiana that had strength coaches for years. We had Kevin Vanderbush at Ben Davis, and other strength coaches have copied what he’s done there. Now, kids are lifting during the school day. It’s become unusual when teams don’t. It’s really increased at the high school level, and it’s such a big part of the development of players.”

Have you encountered any new technology that helps your strength and conditioning program?

“From a technology perspective, we utilize EliteForm, which allows us to monitor reps with video and laser technology. It gauges bar speed to see how explosive the lifts are. That’s been instrumental here. It addresses and creates power numbers to quantify functional strength for players. It’s not just about developing a bigger, stronger athlete. The game has changed, and they have to make plays in space. With the spread and tempo, defensive players have to adapt. There’s more emphasis on speed and explosive power with a change of direction rather than having guys lay on their backs and bench press or squat.”

What made you decide to go with EliteForm?

“I know a lot of high schools in the area that have it. The technology allows video monitors at each station. It’s really been something that’s helped. It’s a new technology that we utilize.”

What is the primary objective for your staff in February?

“From a strength perspective, we’re trying to get as strong as possible this time of year. So, it’s heavier weights and heavier lifting. We’re running some, but not as much as the summer. We want guys to get their strength numbers up. That’s the objective.”

What is the best piece of advice you would give to a player who wants to get bigger in the offseason?

“Some guys get obsessed about gaining weight. To me, you don’t have to do anything special. Just eat healthy. Don’t gain it just to gain it. You don’t want your waist line to change. Gain good weight by staying healthy. I wouldn’t endorse one thing. Eat healthy. Get good rest. That’s one players don’t understand enough. Get rest, don’t play video games at night. You have to be consistent. There’s no magic potion to getting stronger. I highly encourage multi-sport participation. You have to find a way to strength the body so that you’re stronger late in the season.”

Have you found a training regimen that helps players play faster?

“There’s no question the 40 is a big deal because the NFL makes a big deal out of it. It trickles down. The start is important, but that doesn’t translate in a huge way. Fast is fast when you’re watching film. Do guys catch your running back from behind? Does your wide receiver run away from people? The GPS systems we use now will replace the 40 when it comes to tracking speed and running at game speed. That’s way more practical. NFL guys come in and ask about mph – not 40 times. That’s measured with GPS systems. We can even get times off of HUDL film. That’s the way we’ve transitioned here and the way we talk and think.”

What’s new in the college game that high school coaches should be aware of?

“The continued emphasis on being faster is everybody’s goal. The best way to run faster is to run track. They’re forced to compete coming out of the blocks. They’re racing other guys and training their bodies to react. That simulates finding ways to accelerate out of breaks. We use bungee cords to train muscles to fire faster. It’s about turnover rate and transitioning faster by accelerating. Do it over and over again. We’ll have guys run down a decline, or do over-speed training on a treadmill. I believe in that. We find ways to increase a player’s ability to put his foot in the ground, change direction and accelerate.”

What do you recommend for coaches who are hoping to foster team chemistry this spring?

“More than anything, get guys from other position groups together. They’re drawn together by position. We have accountability teams with a mix of offense, defense and special teams. Have competitions together, do community service. Hold each other accountable for doing things right. Eliminate cliques and separate groups. Have them spend time together away from football.”

Embracing Analytics

Allen made his head coaching debut with Indiana at the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl after the team’s previous head coach, Kevin Wilson, resigned unexpectedly. Allen immediately demonstrated his desire to embrace analytics by refusing to punt – and instead opting to go for it – when faced with several fourth-down situations.

“We utilized the analytics component, and it made me more aggressive,” Allen said. “It’s all based on field position and time on the clock. The guys in the press box give me that information.”

Allen has streamlined the process over his two seasons as head coach, so it now runs like a well-oiled machine.

“On second down, the guys in the press box will start to communicate with the offensive staff on the headsets,” Allen said. “They might say, ‘If it’s 3 or less, it’s a go.’ Then, I know what we have to pick up on third down. They compare your stats to the opponent’s stats, and the program spits out the probability.”

Allen has also switched from a 4-3 defense to a 4-2-5 to counter the added speed on offense due to more spread attacked.

“We went to the 4-2-5 by taking out the SAM and replacing him with a hybrid safety,” Allen said. “He gives us more flexibility to play other coverages. We try to be a back-end driven team.”