IU’s new offensive coordinator joked at his introductory press conference that he might need a little help from IU Coach Tom Allen with play calling from time to time.
However, don’t expect Allen to have too much of a hand in what Mike DeBord has planned.
“I want to run the defense and be able to manage the team,” said Allen, who will remain IU’s defensive coordinator in addition to being the team’s head coach. “That’s my philosophy going forward, and on game day I want to call the defense and manage the game. In order to do that I had to hire an offensive coordinator that I totally trusted to allow him to be a head coach of the offense.”
DeBord left the Tennessee Volunteers of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the SEC for IU and the Big Ten when Allen came calling.
DeBord said he didn’t know he’d have an opportunity like this when IU named Allen head coach after Kevin Wilson’s resignation but knew he’d make the trip if Allen did. The Muncie, Indiana, native said both he and Allen agree the Hoosiers need to run the ball, score in the red zone and take care of the ball.
“I’ve worked for a lot of head coaches,” DeBord said. “I’ve worked for Hall of Fame coaches, and I wanted to work for Tom Allen.”
Allen’s trust comes from a long-lasting relationship with DeBord. The latter, who is also IU’s new tight ends coach, has known Allen’s family since 1979. New wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Grant Heard’s familiarity with Allen dates back nearly a decade and includes stops at Lambuth University, Arkansas State and Ole Miss.
Of IU’s recent staff changes, only quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson hadn’t met Allen before 2016, and in the year the two have spent with each other Watson said he knows he and Allen have similar views as to what their roles as coaches are.
“I’m excited about the direction he’s set for our kids,” Watson said. “I listened to him talk to them during the bowl game, and I know that he’s hitting the right things with them.”
That direction, for the offense at least, will revolve around the position Watson, who Allen calls the staff’s “quarterback professor,” is responsible for. The Hoosiers will cater their offense to what their man under center can do.
That player has to know how to manage a game and be efficient, Watson said. In recruiting, he’s looking for someone who can pass the ball and use his legs to get out of trouble. IU’s 2017 roster will return 2016 starter and junior Richard Lagow, who appears to be on track to return in that role next season.
Watson’s descriptions of the Hoosiers’ top three quarterbacks — Lagow and freshmen Peyton Ramsey and Austin King — followed that line of thinking. He discussed Lagow’s immediate potential while harping on Ramsey’s and King’s futures with the program. However, he doesn’t want King and Ramsey to make Lagow comfortable.
“They’re going to push Richard, which is what you need,” Watson said. “That room has to be the most competitive room on the team. If that room’s right, the team will be right.”
What will count is each quarterback’s consistency regarding what to do, what not to do, how to perform and how not to perform. Lagow has an NFL-caliber arm by Watson’s estimation but needs to detail his game. All three are on the same learning curve, Watson said.
His familiarity with the trio will aid their development in 2017, Watson said, and he’s already started discussing with them what ways IU can build its offense around them.
IU’s offense struggled in offensive categories in 2016 it hadn’t in recent campaigns, and Allen’s comments and decisions in the lead up to the bowl game signaled the changes that came in the last week. Spring ball will assist the new coaches in their attempts to build relationships with their players, and while Allen’s role in the offensive vision for IU will be hands-off, that vision boils down to a simple conclusion.
“It’s about points,” Allen said. “It’s the same way on defense. You’ve got to keep them out of the end zone and you’ve got to put it in the end zone on offense.”