Written by Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The news of Mike DeBord retiring as Indiana’s offensive coordinator coming out late Sunday night, has IU in the market for a new offensive coordinator. While DeBord had a decorated 37-year coaching career, fans had grown frustrated with his offense over the last two seasons as IU posted back-to-back 5-7 seasons after going to two-straight bowl games. So, what should IU look for in their next offensive coordinator? Here is what I would be looking for if I were Tom Allen.
1. Can They Adapt Their Scheme to the Players They Have?
One of my biggest frustrations is seeing offenses mis-use their players because coaches are forcing their scheme on them. I believe a good coach should be able to adapt their scheme to the personnel that they have. Yes, coaches can recruit any player they would like and logically they would fit their scheme. However, it’s not always possible, especially at IU, to get every single player you need or want for the scheme to run flawlessly. An incoming coach has to deal with a previous coach’s recruits and sometimes it is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
IU has some really talented players on offense and it is up to the new coordinator to use them to the best of their ability. I am looking for a coach who can use a player like Reese Taylor in a role that will maximize his talents and find ways to get four good running back touches even if it means someone is playing out of position and find ways to stretch the field with a big, strong receiving corps.
Not everyone has the ability to adapt, but this skill is going to be a major asset to a coach in their first year or two in a program before he can put his pieces in the puzzle.
2. Is the Scheme Innovative, Yet Balanced?
Great offenses are balanced. Great offenses can run the ball well and go over the top in the passing game. Great offenses can beat defenses in multiple ways. Sometimes, though, offenses are great because of their personnel. At Indiana, the offense needs to be innovative, yet balanced. In the Big Ten teams must be able to run the ball to win games. However, as we learned this year, teams will also have to throw the ball vertically to win. Unless your team runs a triple-option well, being a run-first, dink-and-dunk offense is not going to cut it in the Power Five. IU will rarely be able to just line up and beat top-ranked teams, especially in the Big Ten East, so the next coordinator has to be able to find ways to deceive defenses by using “trick” plays, motion and a little sleight of hand magic. The offense needs to move into the 21st century.
3. Does He Fit the Culture of the Program?
This may be the most important off-the-field attribute of a coordinator. The guy has to be a good fit. While coordinators may ultimately leave for bigger and better jobs, he has to WANT to be in Bloomington. Now, IU can’t get scared away from candidates because they may leave for a bigger Power Fiver position or a head coaching job if they’re successful. That is just something everyone has to prepare for.
A bad cultural fit, even with a great scheme, could be disastrous. IU will need to make sure the next offensive coordinator can fit in well with everyone else and fit IU football well. Can they recruit the South and sell the program to the top in-state players? Tom Allen’s family style of coaching may not be for everyone. On the other hand, a great cultural fit could bring IU’s offense back into the upper third of the Big Ten.
4. Is the Coach Someone Tom Allen Can Trust?
Just like number three, trust is a big deal. IU needs a coach that Tom Allen can trust to do the best job possible. Allen will likely be taking a more big-picture approach to coaching in 2019 after relinquishing defensive coordinator duties to Kane Wommack, so he may have more of a presence on the offensive side of the ball. Tom Allen has a vision for his team’s offense. He wants to run the ball still, but has realized that the vertical passing game has to change. So, can he trust his new offensive coordinator to come up with a way to bring his vision to life? Now, the new OC cannot just be a ‘yes’ man. Allen has to trust him to speak up if the things Allen wants is just not the best thing for IU.
This hire will determine just how successful Tom Allen’s tenure as Indiana’s head football coach will be. IU has been really close, a good offense away, to being in four-straight bowl games and maybe more. A good hire can take IU to heights the program hasn’t seen in decades while a swing-and-a-miss could land them right back at the bottom trying to dig out of the cellar of the Big Ten East.