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'There’s not a magic wand’: Indiana offensive coordinator Rod Carey outlines vision

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Rod Carey hopped off an exercise bike and walked into Indiana football’s team room just shy of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday Oct. 4, water in hand and towel around shoulder. 

Moments later, Carey, with water and towel left behind, walked to the podium and stood in front of reporters for the first time since being named as the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator Oct. 1 following the dismissal of Walt Bell, who departed Bloomington for performance-related reasons halfway through his second season as play caller. 

Carey had just one request. 

“Can you hand me that water?” 

Over the next 14 minutes, Carey, donning all-black Indiana football attire, outlined his vision and goals for Indiana’s offense, which ranks second worst in the Big Ten in points per game (20.8) and third worst in yards per game (334.2). 

Indiana head coach Tom Allen noted that Bell’s offense mustered only three touchdowns in meaningful minutes during four games this season against FBS opponents, all but Indiana State University, a mark that simply didn’t reach the standard. 

Carey said the Hoosiers’ key will be turning flashes into consistency, which starts with focusing on small details and turning incremental gains into a big step forward by year’s end. 

“Thought process is do what we can to simplify, to accentuate some things that we can do, do those more,” Carey said. “There is not a magic wand here. It’s the little things, it’s the details and with the setup with the staff and how we’re going to approach things. Those little things tend to make a big difference.” 

An offensive lineman at IU from 1990-93, Carey’s coaching career has taken him many different places, including as the head coach of Northern Illinois University and Temple University. The last time he was an offensive coordinator was for NIU in 2012, but he continued to call plays after rising to head coach. 

Carey returned to Bloomington as a quality control coach after being fired from Temple in 2021 following a dissatisfactory 3-9 record. He’s not new to the midseason role change, as he became the Hoosiers’ interim offensive line coach last season after incumbent Darren Hiller was relieved of his duties. 

The announcement that Carey would take over for Bell came roughly 10 days shy of the one-year anniversary of him replacing Hiller. Such moves are relatively uncommon, but with experience under his belt and the added benefit of this being the Hoosiers’ bye week, Carey believes he’s better equipped to handle it this time around. 

“Last year, there wasn't time to change what had been taught,” Carey said. “We didn't have a bye week when I came on. There is a little bit of a breath here that we have, but the thing you glean from that situation to this one is you have to take what is existing, do what you are doing in that existing stuff better and what you are not doing good, just don't do that stuff anymore.” 

The 52-year-old Carey will also take over Bell’s position as quarterbacks coach. Carey said he’s familiar with what’s already been taught, having been involved in those meetings while he was a quality control coach. Carey opted not to name a starting signal caller between redshirt freshmen Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby. 

As for identity, Carey shied away from declaring the Hoosiers a run-first team like Bell did Sept. 25. Instead, the Madison, Wisconsin native hopes to simplify the operation – use this week to figure out where Indiana’s been successful this season, be it specific reads or schematic principles, and build from there. 

“I have a real easy philosophy on offense: if you ask me what do you like on offense, I say, what works,” Carey said. “I like misdirection, running, throwing, controlling the ball, and controlling the game. I believe that offenses control games and defenses play really well when an offense can control games.” 

Red zone execution was one of Bell’s biggest downfalls, as the Hoosiers had 15 such opportunities and managed to score only eight touchdowns. The 53% touchdown clip is tied for No. 100 nationally out of 133 schools. 

This same problem existed last year, when Indiana turned just 51% of its redzone trips into touchdowns, good for No. 112 in the country. 

Carey didn’t dive into specifics on his plans to improve the number, but said it comes down to everyone’s execution, from him down to the players. 

“We all carry the responsibility, and we have to get the ball across the goal line,” Carey said. “By hook or crook, that is what we have to do.” 

Neither Allen nor Carey wanted this to be the result. Both were heavy-hearted, the latter said, before stressing just how difficult the coaching business can be – but the duo also reiterated that Indiana’s offense simply wasn’t good enough. 

Carey believes Indiana’s offense has the confidence and energy needed to get better, and the early-season flashes illustrate that talent shouldn’t be a roadblock. 

The Hoosiers have the ingredients to take steps forward. Now, the challenge becomes maximizing the pieces of the puzzle that have already been established, a journey that begins when Indiana travels to Ann Arbor for a noon matchup with No. 2 Michigan on Oct. 14. 

“There’s nothing you can do midseason as far as setup,” Carey said. “The setup is the setup, the offense is the offense. What you’re trying to do is get us to run those plays better and maybe do it with a little different flare here and there. That’s about all you can do. I’m excited about it and I think the guys are, too.” 

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana football season. 

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