Indiana strength and conditioning coach Mark Hill talked a lot about the Hoosiers making gains in the offseason under his leadership.
But the other side of that, he said, is making those weight and strength gains without losing speed. And that has been just as important to Hill and the strength and conditioning staff.
The Hoosiers are a speed-first team, and that means IU coach Kevin Wilson needs to balance Big Ten strength with the speed and conditioning to run his spread offense and keep up defensively.
"The stronger you are, the more confident," Wilson said. "If you watch our team, we don't have a bunch of heavy, what I'd call sloppy players. That's a lot of the way we train."
Hill is a big part of making sure that remains the case. Staff nutritionist Amy Freel has helped, too, and a lot of back-and-forth goes on between the strength and conditioning staff and the position coaches to make sure guys keep in step while building strength.
"It's constant monitoring, working with Amy Freel on the nutrition aspect of it, making sure their body fat and their frame, composition, all that measures up," Hill said. "We're constantly working on speed development, explosiveness and everything like that, and if we as strength coaches see something that we don't like, we'll address it."
For more on the role of the IU strength and conditioning coaches in the Hoosiers' potential success this season, check out the Friday edition of The Journal Gazette.
Mallory high on freshmen, sees overall improvement
IU defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said one freshman in particular – Ben Davis alum and safety Antonio Allen – has shown the potential to be a starter this year.
"As we've gotten into scrimmages here, I think Antonio has put himself in a position where he's going to be competing for a lot of playing time," Mallory said. "When he hits you, that ball carrier is gonna stop in his tracks. He's a tough kid."
The same goes for North Central alum and defensive lineman Darius Latham, who would be on a two-deep if it were put out today, Mallory said. Freshmen T.J. Simmons, Clyde Newton and Marcus Oliver got some reps with the first and second teams thanks to minor injuries this week, and they, too, have impressed.
Simmons is a likely starter at middle linebacker after joining the team in the spring as a midyear enrollee.
"The improvement that they made from Day One to this past week is night and day," Mallory said. "I think Darius is a guy that can help us this year. (Freshman defensive eend) David Kenney has been a little nicked up, but we finally got him back the last couple days, so the jury's still out there.
"But I think the kids we brought in, that joined the program this summer, we have a lot of guys that are in the two-deep, competing for playing time or a starting position."
The defense overall has improved quite a bit in the last couple days in particular, Mallory said, after a poor showing during the scrimmage Tuesday opened some of the players' eyes.
"A lot of things still concern us," he said, "but I think we've made some strides during this camp."