Patience is for losers. At least, it is when you’re trying to turn Indiana into a football winner. New coach Kevin Wilson has no desire for a slow-and-steady approach, a message he’s delivered to his players.
And in case they thought he was kidding, winter workouts proved he and his staff meant business.
“It was like, let’s go, let’s go,” offensive lineman Justin Pagan said. “They weren’t trying to ease us into it. They said, ‘We’re trying to win games now.’ That was fine. That’s how we were in the locker room.”
New football strength coach Mark Hill sets the tone. The Hoosiers run five days a week and lift four days a week. Several of the sessions start at 5:45 a.m. Hill says he makes sure he’s there an hour early.
“I want to make sure I’m not looking sleepy as well as my staff,” Hill said. “When we hit it, we hit it rolling. I’m running everywhere. I tell them if we’re not running fast enough, we’re run it again. We do live demonstrations. We’re always on the go.”
Players said they were shaken when former coach Bill Lynch and his staff were let go, but they adapted. So when defensive line coach Mark Hagen (a former IU standout who had spent the last decade coaching at Purdue) called Adam Replogle shortly after taking the job, the defensive tackle was ready to listen.
“That’s when I was like, I’ve moved on. He’s a great coach. His resume is unbelievable.”
So is the new staff’s enthusiasm, Pagan added.
“They’re excited about us and where we can go and our ability. I can see the change. You see the change of how people are now. It’s a whole different aura.”
The difference includes diet. IU has brought in a nutritionist to educate the players on eating well. Training table has become more than just a place to load up on meat. There’s a strong emphasis on eating vegetables and fruits. Yes, it sounds like something our mother would tell you, and there’s a reason for it.
“We can control what they eat with two meals (breakfast and dinner),” Hill said. “At training table I can walk right around the corner (from the weight training facility). Guys are wrapping up work outs around the same time. We have 60 to 70 percent of the guys eating dinner or breakfast at the same time. I can see what they have on their plates. I’ll critique them. If I know you’re trying to cut your body fat down and I don’t like what you have on your plate, I’ll tell you.”
The players hear it. Do they follow it?
“They’re receptive to it,” Hill said. “Our chef said, ‘I’ve noticed guys are starting to be a little more picky about what they eat.’ That’s great. They’re listening.
“I’m always around. We weigh them every day. All we can control is what we see. We hope when they leave us they’re doing the things they need to do, nutrition-wise.”
It’s a you-are-what-you-eat philosophy. Eat like a winner, play like a winner. It is really that simple? Not exactly, but it’s a good way to start.
IU plays at Ohio State on national television today.
Are you ready? More important, are the Hoosiers?
IU, after all, is 12-16 with a five-game losing streak. Second-ranked Ohio State is 26-2, unbeaten at home, and steaming toward a Big Ten title, and a lot more. The Buckeyes can’t afford a loss or a letdown.
Every way you look at it, the Hoosiers are in big trouble.
“We will have to play mistake-free and make the most of our opportunities on offense,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “We have to move the ball, make the extra pass and take the best shot possible each time down the floor.”
It’s a blue print for success. The problem? Ohio State isn’t about to let the Hoosiers do it, especially at Value City Arena.
“When we have played with toughness and resolve,” Crean said, “we are a different team, home or on the road. We have to play with trust and belief in one another. We have to play with controlled confidence.
“Defensively, they have so many weapons that we are going to have to be active with our hands, move on the pass to disrupt what they want to do and contest every shot. We can’t allow them to be active on the offensive glass.”
In the end, one team will dictate to the other. One team will assert its will. That almost certainly will be Ohio State.