BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana defensive back Kenny Mullen knows his football future. Some of it, anyway. He will prepare as he hasn't before. He will take a summer away from on-field coaching demands and create some of his own.
Improvement has a price and it doesn't always come with sweat.
“I'm going to hit the film room and watch Indiana State and Ball State,” Mullen says, referring two of the Hoosiers' non-conference opponents. “I'll watch film of a lot of those teams we play. I'll stay in the weight room, stay with the conditioning. We'll do a lot of DB drills as a unit to be better this fall.”
That's what it's all about, isn't it? Improvement on a massive scale, individually and as a team, because that's what is necessary to prove last year's1-11 debacle was part of the learning curve, just as three straight 20-loss seasons were for IU's basketball team before success came.
Mullen, a former Bishop Luers standout, was a true freshman last year, and his baptism of college fire mirrored that of many of his teammates. Sixteen true freshmen played last season. Sixteen redshirt freshmen joined them in a youth movement that produced unprecedented mistakes and opportunity.
Now comes 3½ months of player-led workouts that will, in great measure, determine next season's success.
“We need to do a lot of working out together,” Mullen says. “We made a big step from the fall to the spring. We need to take an even bigger step this offseason. Do everything together and keep building our chemistry to be a good team.”
Improvement comes in part because players have now bought into coach Kevin Wilson and his approach, something that didn't always happen last year as the Hoosiers transitioned from former coach Bill Lynch's less-in-your-face style. Wilson says he and his staff have worked harder on relationship building.
“We didn't do as good a job of connecting with them because we were teaching plays and language – here's what you do. This year it's let's get to know each other better. Let's understand my expectations. Let's get to know you and your background and how you click.
“We're clicking more because the people who are here want to be here more. They understand us and we understand them. We're growing as players and coaches.”
More growth is needed before the Hoosiers open with Indiana State on Sept. 1. Wilson hasn't backed off his demands. He wants full-throttle effort all the time, a message he pushes almost as often as he breathes.
“We've talked to them that if you don't do this as fast as you can, it's a waste of time,” he says. “We've showed the team a dozen clips of (New England Patriots receiver) Wes Welker when he was at Texas Tech. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash on pro day, and then we showed them how fast he plays the game. We teach our guys to play as hard as they can. Sometimes our guys harness some things and we need to take some things inside of them and pull it out of them.”
If that happens, Mullen says, “There's no doubt we'll be much better than we were last fall.”