The first few conversations between Indiana football head coach Tom Allen and new offensive coordinator Walt Bell were just the two getting to know each other’s personalities. After all, Allen was already aware of Bell’s capabilities with an offense.
Unlike Nick Sheridan, Bell’s predecessor, Allen had never been on the same staff as Bell. Allen knew Bell in the same way he knew Kalen DeBoer prior to hiring him for the same position in 2019 — coaching against him.
As Indiana’s defensive coordinator in 2016 and head coach in 2017, Allen had to strategize against Bell, who was the offensive coordinator for Big Ten East rival Maryland at the time. Indiana beat Maryland in 2018, but the Terrapins scored the third-most points against the Hoosiers that season with 36.
Bell triumphed over Allen in his second try, winning 42-39 in 2017. Having already seen Allen’s coaching style, Bell said he’s excited to work under Allen because of who he is as a person.
“To work for a guy who’s accomplished a lot of things that people didn’t think he could do at the time and to also have the chance to work with an unbelievable human being — those two things are what excites me about being here,” Bell said.
From there, the two spoke about Bell’s new role with the staff. As the team’s former defensive coordinator, most of Allen’s work focuses on that side of the ball. Allen has said his offensive coordinator should be someone he can trust to act as the head coach of the offense.
Bell, whose previous position was head coach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he went 2-23 in three seasons, said he understands the value of having great assistants and hopes he can provide that for Allen.
“Hopefully I can help score points, help do the job and do it in a way that satisfies him in the way that he wants the program run,” Bell said.
When it comes to attacking defenses, Bell said his first priority is effectively running the football. In 2016, when Bell was at Maryland, running back Ty Johnson led the Big Ten in rushing yards per attempt with 9.1.
Indiana’s running backs room fluctuated throughout the 2021 season, with two scholarship running backs entering the transfer portal and starter Stephen Carr suffering a season-ending injury against Michigan on Nov. 6.
Carr is now out of eligibility, leaving Indiana without a scholarship running back. Indiana added rising-senior running back Shaun Shivers as a transfer from Auburn University on Saturday and rising-senior running back Josh Henderson from the University of North Carolina.
Bell’s running scheme is a mixture of quarterback-driven plays and plays within his system, he said. He also looks for matchups and how the offensive line plays against each type of defense.
“Where are your better players?” Bell said. “How can you create matchups? Where can we dent the defense?”
Bell’s second priority is creating a quick, efficient and well-protected passing game for quarterbacks.
Quarterback play can be measured on a scale, Bell said. If a quarterback is a better passer, they don’t need to use their athleticism in the run game as much. If they can’t distribute the ball well as a passer, they’ll need to be a dynamic athlete.
Bell said his ideal quarterback would be an excellent passer who can extend plays and boost the offense on third downs and in the red zone.
“What are their winnable tools, and what can we do as an offense to make sure we’re asking that young man to do what he does well?” Bell said.
Bell is entering a program that has an established culture of love and acceptance. His new boss’s “LEO” mantra is everywhere. It’s a culture Bell believes in, and one for which he’s excited to contribute.
“I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time with the right guy,” Bell said.