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New Hoosiers coach Allen tinkering with offense

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- One year after going to work on Indiana's perennially poor defense, coach Tom Allen is tinkering with the Hoosiers' high-scoring offense.

Yes, he still wants to run the ball hard and, yes, he still wants to play with the break-neck pace his predecessor, Kevin Wilson, favored. Allen just hopes a more quarterback-friendly system will lead to better reads, better decisions and fewer turnovers.

Whether fans detect differences in Thursday night's annual spring game may depend on how close they watch -- and how much Allen chooses to use.

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"I think the passing game will be different, and I think you'll notice that," Allen told The Associated Press last week. "But I feel like we're learning a new offense, and that takes time."

For Allen, there hasn't been a lot of time to fine-tune things yet.

Just days after Indiana became bowl-eligible for the second straight season, athletic director Fred Glass asked Wilson for his resignation. Allen was then promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach.

Suddenly, Allen had to find ways to heal a hurting locker room, keep players focused and recruits committed and take advantage of the bowl practices to start laying the groundwork for coming changes. It started with a hard dose of honesty.

"There were a lot of emotions that first day, there was definitely a level of shock and strong emotions about someone you care about and respect," he said. "Then I said, 'I'm really no different than you guys. He (Wilson) brought me here, he brought you here.'"

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Half the team, the defensive players who had worked with Allen all season, knew every word he uttered meant something. The other half was ready to buy into Allen's philosophy.

By the time Allen finished, there were no key transfers and no significant recruiting losses.

And though the Hoosiers gave away the lead with 1:24 left in the Foster Farms Bowl, losing 26-24 to Utah, the three-turnover performance cemented in Allen's mind that more could be done to help the Hoosiers win their first bowl game since 1991.

He spent the next few weeks revising ideas before finally putting them into action during spring practice. He hired Mike DeBord as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan.

"He (Sheridan) does a great job of teaching and communicating with us," incumbent starting quarterback Richard Lagow said. "He has been extremely patient with us, but he has held us to a high standard."

After almost a month of work, Allen likes what he's seen, too.

"There's an adjustment period and I think they've adjusted well," he said. "They've picked it up quickly and executed it well."

Now comes the hard part. Over the next three months, players will be working mostly on their own.

Off the field, Allen will use his own unique touch to help the Hoosiers progress in other ways.

After Wilson hired him, Allen met individually with each defensive player in hopes of learning what they thought was wrong with Indiana's defense. Their conclusion was that the trust factor was lacking. This time, he plans to get input from the offensive players on similar matters over the next two months.

"It's going to be a similar conversation, but it's going to be different because it will be at the very end of everything," Allen said.

When asked whether he expects to hear certain things, Allen responded: "I do, but I want to hear it from them. You want ownership from the team."

Note: Last week, the Hoosiers held a draft to choose teams for the spring game. Allen also split up athletic department staff members and has made Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden and his brother, Jim, a former Indiana assistant, the honorary coaches. Gates open at 4:45 p.m., and the game begins at 7 p.m.