New offensive line coach Darren Hiller and IU Coach Tom Allen have been friends for a long time.
Their two careers first intersected back in 2011, when Hiller coached the offensive line at Arkansas State and Allen coordinated the defense. The Red Wolves finished the season 10-2 and advanced to their second bowl game in program history that season.
Allen left Arkansas State for Ole Miss in 2012, and the two wouldn’t cross paths again until February, when Allen hired Hiller to coach the IU offensive line.
“I have known Darren Hiller for a number of years and have always been so impressed with him, both as a person and as a coach,” Allen said in a press release after Hiller’s hire. “He is a tremendous teacher in the area of the offensive line.”
IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said after former IU offensive line coach Greg Frey left for Michigan in January, Allen recommended Hiller for the opening. DeBord could do his research, but Allen said he wanted DeBord to take a “strong look” at Hiller.
In his last two stops at South Florida and Cincinnati, Hiller coached high-profile offensive lines.
In 2016, South Florida ranked fourth nationally in scoring and fifth in rushing yardage, and the offensive line ranked 14th nationally with 15 sacks allowed in 13 games. Hiller was the offensive line coach and the co-offensive coordinator during that season.
The 23-year coaching veteran also spent 2013-15 at Cincinnati. During that time the Bearcats won three bowl games, and the team broke 18 offensive school records during the 2015 season. The Cincinnati offensive line also ranked third nationally in 2014.
Hiller had just accepted the offensive line and run-game coordinator position at Houston on Jan. 6, where he would coach a program that spent the majority of the 2016 season in the Associated Press Top-25 Poll.
DeBord saw that recent résumé and gave Hiller a call.
“If that doesn’t make a coordinator happy, I don’t know what will,” DeBord said. “I could just tell that this was the kind of guy that would fit well into our offensive staff, as well as our entire coaching staff.”
The tradition of a strong offensive line at IU was enough to draw Hiller to Bloomington. The culture started with Frey and was carried through by former Hoosiers Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney.
Those cornerstones of an offensive line tradition are “paramount to success,” Hiller said. The high-level players that lead in the weight room and on the field transfer those practices to the NFL.
He only knows eight of the 17 current offensive linemen on the IU roster because of recruiting and school affiliations throughout the recruiting process, but he wants to quickly create an offensive line that’s aggressive enough to open holes and athletic enough to make plays in space.
Similar to Frey, Hiller said he wants a high-tempo offense to run through a strong offensive line.
“We’re the engine of the car,” Hiller said. “You can talk about the quarterbacks and the running backs, the receivers and the tight ends, but the car’s not going to move without the engine, and the offensive line’s got to be the engine.”
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