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  • Associated Press Indiana All-American linebacker Tegray Scales brings down Ohio State's Mike Weber during a game last fall. Scales led the Big Ten in tackles.

  • Scales

Tuesday, August 01, 2017 1:00 am

IU's Scales embracing his role

New coach Allen challenged senior to be vocal leader

JADE WASHBURN | For The Journal-Gazette

CHICAGO – Until now, Indiana senior linebacker Tegray Scales has preferred to lead by example.

Tackle first, speak only when necessary.

But thanks in large part to former defensive coordinator and now head coach Tom Allen, the Big Ten's returning leading tackler is becoming the complete leadership package. The Hoosiers begin fall practice today.

When Allen arrived in Bloomington in the spring of 2016, he knew he had a talented athlete in Scales. Scales' leadership, however, was still lacking.

Over the course of the 2016 season, that began to change.

“He was a great kid, a guy everybody loved and all that, but he wasn't a leader on our defense,” Allen said of Scales. “I challenged him to be a leader. ... So he embraced it. He bought into everything that I was telling him. He believed in it, and he lived it out.”

Scales “lived it out” by becoming Indiana's first All-American linebacker since Van Waiters in 1987. The 6-foot, 230-pounder led the Big Ten in tackles with 126, including seven sacks, and led the nation in tackles for a loss with 23.5.

“He started making plays the way I thought he could,” Allen said. “And as you saw that growing, his leadership elevated. By the time we got to the bowl game, he was the one doing the things I had been doing during fall camp, things that I was doing during spring ball, on the sideline. When we were doing, whether it was the gassers or in between series or whatever we were doing, so now, I would tell people (Scales) runs our team and has embraced that.”

Scales explained his transition from leading by example to leading on and off the field.

“It was just one of those deals where, I wasn't a very vocal person,” Scales recalled. “I just showed up and did the work, and that was contagious from me to other people. But now, I have to be that vocal leader for the team. (Allen) kind of took me in and said, 'You have to do this.' I took it on, and I think I'm doing pretty good at it.”

Scales has been touted as a promising NFL prospect for his combination of speed and hit power, but he announced in January that he would return to Bloomington for his final season.

It would already appear to be paying off for Scales, who has been named to several preseason award watch lists, including the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Butkus Award.

While he acknowledges his natural talents, Scales attributes his recent success to a combination of scheme and preparation.

“This defense allows us to play fast, first of all,” Scales said. “It allowed our linebackers to play fast over the top and downhill, and then you've got a defensive scheme where your defensive line is taking up people also, so, without them, that wouldn't be possible.

“Just being around the game 24/7,” Scales continued. “(Coach Allen) is big on preparing for games and extra film and stuff, so my athletic ability will take care of itself. The way I prepare, and just being in the film room with my coaches put me to a little bit higher dimension.”

Allen has several goals for his first season at the helm of the Hoosiers, which he believes the team can accomplish under Scales' leadership. He expressed these goals by writing the numbers 50, 26, 10 on a chalkboard during spring camp.

Those numbers represent the number of years since Indiana has achieved a certain milestone – 50 since it won the conference, 26 since its last bowl victory, and 10 years since the Hoosiers had a winning season.

Scales said the message resonated with the team.

“It was just random,” Scales said. “He came in and put it on the board, and nobody knew what it meant. ... It was just crazy to see it in that form.”

Allen has another goal specific to his forte – be a Top 25 defensive team.

“We're going to accomplish all three of those,” Allen said. “I told our team, 'If you don't believe that, you need to leave.' I said the same thing to our staff. I love them. I appreciate them, but I want a coaching staff, I want a football team that believes.”

The Hoosiers defense ranked 46th nationally in 2016, allowing just over 380 yards of total offense per game.

Scales said the team has embraced Allen's philosophies and believes 2017 will be a breakthrough because of it.

“I think he's just doing the small things,” Scales said of Allen. “I think (a breakthrough) is going to happen, and coach Allen will tell you it's going to happen when we want it to. It's based on the players.”