Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Indiana fall practice

Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Indiana fall practice

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The BTN bus tour made its first stop Friday, visiting Indiana practice. New coach Tom Allen inherits a team that has gone to bowls in consecutive seasons. There are some holes to fill, but this roster has enough juice to return to the postseason.

[ MORE: Dienhart: 5 things I learned at Indiana practice ]

Here are my fun takes from today’s Indiana football practice.

Most impressive player: Linebacker Chris Covington. The guy was a prep QB, was signed as a safety and eventually ended up at linebacker. He is good! IU won’t miss Marcus Oliver, who turned pro. Covington is a stud who will team with Tegray Scales to give the Hoosiers two good LBs.

Top specimen: Tight end Ian Thomas is put together well. The 6-5, 248-pound senior moves well, has good hands and is athletic. He could be primed for a big season.

Loudest coach: Gotta go with Tom Allen. I mean, the guy was using a megaphone for much of practice.

Impressive newcomer: WR Tysir Mack. The 6-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman looked good in practice. And the staff likes him. With his size and speed, he could be a red zone target.

On the rise: OT Coy Cronk is gonna be a star. He took over starting left OT duties last year as a true freshman. And he’s only gonna get better. Cronk will end up being better than Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney, recent IU blockers who were drafted.

Nagging question: Will the play in the trenches be up to par?

Under the radar: Marcelino Ball. He plays the “husky” spot, which is a hybrid linebacker/safety. And Ball had a spectacular debut in 2016, earning Freshman All-American honors. He is only going to get better. Ball told me he was barely recruited out of College Park, Georgia.

Number: 23, years since the Hoosiers finished with a winning record, as IU went 7-4 under Bill Mallory in 1994. Interestingly, they didn’t get a bowl bid. This was before the bloated bowl era.


There was a lot of energy at this practice, as Tom Allen is a quick-paced guy. Players sprinted between drills.

One of the new assistants is running back coach Mike Hart, an all-time great at Michigan. He famously called Michigan State “little brother” back in 2007.

This was IU’s third practice of the season. The closest thing to contact was one-on-one pass blocking drills.

Allen is excited to coach is son, Thomas, a linebacker. He says he talked to Kirk Ferentz and Wally Burnham about it. Great opportunity for father-son to bond.

Work is on-going with a $53-million project to enclose the south end zone of Memorial Stadium. The project will include:

  • Excellence Academy for athletes.
  • Rehabilitation and treatment facility for athletes.
  • Academic and life skills support facilities.
  • “Multi-use” outdoor terrace on the roof of the structure, with an area for children.
  • Entry plaza and green space at the south end of the stadium.
  • A 40-by-70-foot video board to be placed in the renovated south end zone area. The north end zone will get a 20-by-60-foot video board.

The project will be finished in late summer 2018.

Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.