BLOOMINGTON – If you’re a fantasy football fan and look forward to your draft every season, you will appreciate the way first-year Indiana football coach Tom Allen is approaching Thursday night’s IU Cream & Crimson Spring Game.
In essence, the IU squad was divided in half with offensive coordinator Mike DeBord and defensive coordinator Mark Hagan serving as coaches of the two squads. Last weekend, Allen served as commissioner of what replicated a fantasy draft and the two squads were divided up.
The winning team gets a steak dinner, while the losers get hot dogs. And the losers have to serve the winners dinner.
“It’s a way for us to have a lot of fun with it,’’ Allen said. “But we are going to have two complete teams, and they’re going to play a game Thursday night, and I’m excited to see our guys compete.’’
The spring game will kick off Thursday night at 7:06 p.m. at Memorial Stadium and will be broadcast live by BTN2Go. The Big Ten Network will carry the game on tape delay at 9:30 p.m.
Each team was able to sign an unrestricted free agent on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball prior to the draft. Then there was a four-round draft with 12 players selected in each round. Anyone that wasn’t drafted became a free agent and had to wait for a call from one of the coaches to be added to the team.
When he discussed the process prior to the draft last Saturday, Allen explained how the free agent process would work following the draft itself.
“Once that process concludes, we’ll have some guys who are not drafted, which is how it happens it real life so some guys will get their feelings hurt,’’ Allen said. “But that’s how it works, and from there the coaches will have to make free agent phone calls to those guys remaining and then they have to respond via text to be able to prove that they are going to be on either the cream or the crimson team.’’
DeBord will coach the cream team, and Hagen will guide the crimson. The other IU assistant coaches were split up amongst the two teams.
The unrestricted free agents signed by the cream squad were fifth-year senior quarterback Richard Lagow and senior defensive lineman Robert McCray III. The crimson team signed senior tight end Ian Thomas and sophomore Marcelino Ball.
As for the draft, the cream team selected first, and Simmie Cobbs Jr. was the top player selected overall. Tegray Scales and Taysir Mack went No. 2 and 3 to the crimson, and Hunter Littlejohn was selected by the cream in the fourth position overall. Other first-round picks included Wes Martin, Kiante Walton, Greg Gooch, Simon Stepaniak, Brandon Knight, Ja’Merez Bowen Jacob Robinson and Isaac James.
Allen said he got the idea for the draft while working with Oregon coach Willie Taggart. He said he saw it work effectively and thought it was a fun way to put a spin on the annual spring game.
As for the game itself, Allen said it will basically be live action with four 12-minute quarters and no special teams.
“We will punt but we’re not going to have live returns,’’ Allen said. “And we’re not going to kick off, we’ll just place the ball and go from there. We will kick field goals, and it will be played like a normal game.’’
Allen said he has pleased offensively in the spring with how the team has taken to the new system.
“It’s a new system, and so the guys have had to learn new terminology and a new coaching staff, but I’ve been encouraged with the way they’ve picked it up and with the leadership from our older guys,’’ Allen said. “I feel like our guys are playing with a lot of confidence. And in the spring game they’ll be split up evenly so it won’t be the first unit working together but at the same time I think you’ll see that they have a lot of continuity.’’
There will be two honorary coaches at the spring game – Jon Gruden and his father Jim Gruden. The elder Gruden coached at IU on Lee Corso’s staff from 1973-76.
“We took our staff down there to meet with (Jon Gruden) in Tampa several months ago and talk football so that had something to do with it,’’ Allen said. “Jim Gruden coached here for Lee Corso, and Jon was a young boy then and went to elementary school in Bloomington. And they’re bringing their families up so it’s kind of a great time for them both to come back.’’
Allen described the younger Gruden as having “a dynamic personality and one that isn’t bashful about speaking up” and said he’ll be on the field for the game.
Will he speak to the Hoosiers before they take the field?
“Yeah. Absolutely,’’ Allen said. “There’s no question. He’s pretty special.’’