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COLUMN: Kalen DeBoer hire signals optimism for future of IU football offense


New IU football offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer explains his vision for IU’s offense during a press conference Jan. 25 at Memorial Stadium. DeBoer spent last season as the offensive coordinator at California State University, Fresno. Sam House

During his introductory press conference last week, new IU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer didn’t spend much time talking about his offensive philosophy.

Yes, DeBoer spoke about the fine line that exists between playing an exciting brand of offensive football and the pragmatic need to limit turnovers, but he spent far more time discussing his philosophical approach to coaching.

He mentioned the journeys each player and coach has taken to arrive in Bloomington, himself included, and what is required to get those people on the same page to reach a common goal. 

Reflecting on why now was the right time for him to accept a Power Five coaching job after being a coordinator at Eastern Michigan University and California State University, Fresno, DeBoer said he relished the challenge of competing at the highest level.

His experience as an NAIA head coach at his alma mater, the University of Sioux Falls, also prepared him for the task of operating a Big Ten offense.

But above all else, a single, 14-word passage from DeBoer's press conference should cause IU football fans to tingle with delight.

“I think once you become complacent, that’s when things start going the wrong way,” DeBoer said. 

If there's one thing IU’s offense became in the past two seasons under former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, it was complacent.

Checkdown pass after checkdown pass from quarterback Peyton Ramsey drove fans to the point of madness. So too did IU’s lack of explosive plays and poor red zone execution. 

While IU’s running game was a significant positive from the past two seasons, the generic, bland and predictable play calling ultimately cost the Hoosiers a chance at two postseason appearances.

How DeBoer plans to address the complacency in IU’s offense is his first big challenge.

Having only been in Bloomington a few days, DeBoer is understandably still getting adjusted to the new players at his disposal. His early impressions, he said, were of a group of young players already with playing experience, combined with upperclassmen skill position players who have an urgency to win now.

Players like junior wide receivers Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook come to mind when thinking of Hoosiers whose college careers are fast ending without achieving the team success they deserve. 

DeBoer said he plans to use play action, explosive plays and tempo to ensure the end of Hale and Westbrook’s college careers aren’t mired in Big Ten mediocrity.

“That’s something I think I’ve learned throughout the few moves,” DeBoer said. “How to have that fine line and build a foundation that prepares you for more success years two, three and four in building your system. But at this time right now, we want to win right now.”

So we’re all on the same page. 

DeBoer wants to set up IU for offensive success in the years to come but also recognizes the need to quell a jittery fan base with immediate results. 

He understands what IU fans want and what the expectations are. The next part of his journey is to live up to these expectations.

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