BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana head football coach Tom Allen knows how tough it is to evaluate a team two weeks into preseason camp.

It’s tough for a number of reasons. Newcomers are adjusting to a new stage of life, both on and off the field. There’s a balance of physicality as well, according to Allen, where coaches have to find the sweet spot of honing tackling skills without inviting injury.

One of the hardest things about getting a feel for your team’s strengths and weaknesses in the preseason is that they drill against each other every day. How can coaches measure the success of a well-run offensive play without considering a potential misstep by the defense? And did the defense find the fit to stop a third-and-short situation, or did the offense miss a blocking assignment?

Without an objective measurement—like playing an opponent in a live game—Allen and the coaches have to look past the blurred image to see what they can evaluate, regardless of the matchup.

“I think we’re in a good spot and I feel good about our team,” Allen commented after Friday’s ninth practice. “Nobody at this stage really knows for sure until you get somebody else; but in terms of attitude and execution, I’m encouraged by the situational things we’ve worked on in practice. We’ve been able to simulate situations on special teams, offense, and defense, and we’re getting some good execution at critical times.”

To combat the uncertainty, Allen turns to his belief in the “Power of the Outside Voice”, where bringing in a third party cuts through the biases and tendencies that coaches are used to seeing. They get an honest look from an honest observer, which can be a rare occasion in the dog days of preseason practices.

“The guys who have come and watched us that I know and trust, those who have seen us in the past, they’re impressed with how hard the guys are practicing with the enthusiasm and energy they’re bringing,” Allen said, providing a sound bite of the outside voice. “It’s different guys on different days leading that energy, but it’s looked great as a collective group.”

This season, Allen added an external voice beyond the usual band of NFL scouts and college football analysts: legendary Indiana high school coach Dick Dullaghan. With over 300 career victories and eight state titles to his name, Dullaghan became the first coach in history to win IHSAA State Championships with two different schools.

More than all of those accomplishments, Dullaghan is one of Allen’s lifelong mentors. The Hoosiers had Dullaghan’s eyes, ears, and words of wisdom for three days this week.

“He’s been to a lot of different camps, both in the NFL and at the college level, as a consultant for other teams, and he knows what he’s looking at and what it’s supposed to look like,” Allen said. “He’s also not afraid to tell you the truth and what he sees, good or bad. I have so much respect for him, he’s been such a special person to me, and I appreciate him taking the time to be with us.”

The fog clears a little for Allen and his staff on Saturday morning, when this year’s edition of the Indiana Hoosiers will take Memorial Stadium for their first scrimmage of camp. And while it will still be Hoosiers against Hoosiers every snap, the full-speed game feeling will bring a breath of fresh air to the middle of the preseason.

“Our offense was getting the ball in some key situations, and our defense got some big stops to force those field goals,” Allen said regarding development in the second week. “All three phases had chances at live situational opportunities, and they’ll get more tomorrow.”