BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Around Memorial Stadium, they call it “the T-word,” because to pronounce the word itself sends you to the deck for 25 pushups. At least one player at Indiana Football Media Day on Tuesday was seen going up and down after a slip.

The word is “turnover.” A year ago, as defensive coordinator, Tom Allen instituted the rule for his defense. He wanted his players thinking in terms of takeaways – something you seize from an opponent – instead of turnovers, which can be something you’re given.

Now that he’s the head coach, Allen has made the rule team-wide. He even had to do some pushups himself after saying the world at Big Ten Media Day.

“We’re watching,” senior linebacker Tegray Scales said, smiling. “We’re holding him accountable.”

The goal, of course, is not just to keep the Hoosiers from saying the word, but to keep them from giving announcers reason to say the word when talking about their offense.

IU lost 29 turnovers last season (18 interceptions, 11 fumbles). Only five teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision lost more.

Quarterback Richard Lagow was tied for second in the nation with 17 interceptions. Fixing the turnover problem begins with better ball security from the transfer senior. Along those lines, coaches have been working with Lagow not just on technical aspects of protecting the ball, making the simpler, safer pass sometimes, or relying more on the offensive system than his arm strength, but also on leadership, since his actions with the ball have such an impact on the team’s overall fate.

Allen said he’s spent time with his quarterback, and sent him off with several books, a leadership book by John Maxwell, another by Admiral William H. McRaven titled, Make Your Bed: Little Things that can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World. But the book Lagow said he might’ve gotten the most out of was one you might not expect from an IU quarterback.

And for this I’ll have to bring up another dirty word around Memorial Stadium, “the P-word.” This book was Coming Back Stronger, by former Purdue and current New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

“A lot of leadership stuff,” Lagow said. “.  . . The biggest thing I got from all the reading I did this summer was all the leadership styles, seeing how everybody responds to things differently. I can’t yell at this guy because he doesn’t like being yelled at. Or, Simmie (Cobbs) likes being yelled out, so I need to get in Simmie’s face. I read Drew Brees book, just about the adversity he’s been through to get where he is in his life, and what he did to get through all of that, which is something I got a lot from.”

I suspect, if Lagow does manage to come back stronger, IU fans might even forgive the Purdue reference.

New offensive coordinator Mike DeBord has worked with quarterbacks at five schools, and had NFL talent at each one. He knows something about fashioning quarterbacks. He said one key for Lagow will be making the simpler play, taking what the defense gives, rather than trying to force a spectacular play – even if he might have the arm strength to make it.

He used one of the guys he coached – Tom Brady, in his Michigan days – as an example.

“I told our quarterbacks, go back and look at Tom Brady’s last drive in his first Super Bowl,” DeBord said. “He checked the ball down a lot. Now he had to make a couple of throws in that drive, but he played smart. And that’s all you have to do. Just play smart, don’t try to be a hero, take what they give you. I know that all sounds simple, but that’s the mentality they have to have.”

DeBord says he likes what he’s seen in Lagow.

“I love him,” he said. “Obviously I like his size. I think he’s got a great arm. The biggest thing Richard’s got to do is take care of the football and take what the defense gives him. It’s easy to say, hard to do. But he’s just got to be patient, and I thought he had a really good spring, and became a better leader. . . . The biggest thing is, even though we call maybe a deeper pass concept, it doesn’t mean he has to throw the ball deep. If that’s taken away, check it down to a back and take what they give you. It’s just following the rules of the play, just being a quarterback.”

Protecting the ball, however, isn’t just on the quarterback, DeBord said, something he says he’ll keep stressing throughout preseason camp. But there’s no question, both DeBord and Allen – despite other issues the offense faces – think that if they can limit the number of times the offense hands the ball to its opponent, they’ll have won half the battle.

“I know they had a lot of yards last year, but they didn’t have the number of points because they turned the ball over,” DeBord said. “We went back and studied the losses, in those seven losses, turning the ball over was a key factor in all those losses. I’m not into yards and all that. I’m into scoring points and taking care of the football. We’ve got to do a better job than that. We have higher aspirations than to be 6-7, and taking care of the ball is the biggest part of that. It’s at every position. It’s a tight end or receiver catching the ball and not letting it bounce off them. Everyone securing the ball. We’re stressing it every day. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but we emphasize it every day.”

So the Hoosiers aren’t saying the T-word. Maybe, by the end of this season, IU fans won’t have to talk about it as much, either.

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