IU makes DeBord, Heard hirings official

Tom Allen’s new offensive coaching staff is taking shape.

Indiana made it official Wednesday, announcing a series of changes to the staff. IU confirmed the hiring of former Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who will occupy the same role for the Hoosiers while also working with the tight ends. Allen has also added longtime connection Grant Heard, formerly of Ole Miss, as his passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.

Shawn Watson, who was promoted to quarterbacks coach prior to the Foster Farms Bowl, will continue in that role.

“Mike, Grant and Shawn are men of high character and strong leadership,” Allen said in a statement. “They share my philosophies on how to build up and motivate young men. They will get our players to compete at the highest level.”

Word of DeBord’s appointment broke Tuesday, and the 35-year coaching veteran and native Hoosier comes to Bloomington after guiding a Tennessee offense that set a school record in 2016 with 63 total touchdowns and 473 total points. The Volunteers were one of four teams to end the year in the top half of the Southeastern Conference in scoring, passing, rushing and total offense.

DeBord, a Muncie native who played at Manchester College, also has experience as offensive coordinator during two stints at Michigan under former coach Lloyd Carr, and served as head coach at Central Michigan for four seasons beginning in 2000. The Indiana Football Hall of Famer, whose brother, Eric, played defensive end at IU in the late 1970s, also recently served as an assistant on the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks coaching staffs.

Just as former IU coach Kevin Wilson, who is expected to soon be named offensive coordinator at Ohio State, turned over Indiana’s defense to Tom Allen last year, Allen plans to do the same with DeBord. Allen has said repeatedly during the past month that he has no plans to meddle in offensive minutiae, and would rather hire someone he trusts to take complete control of the unit.

DeBord, who has experience with pro-style and spread offenses in the past, is that man.

“I was looking for a strong, experienced leader to run our offense,” Allen said. “I want him to be able to cast a vision for the direction we want to go in the future, be the head coach of the offense and to run that room. I feel like I am getting that with Mike DeBord. He has coached at the highest levels in the Big Ten and the SEC, as well as being in the NFL.”

Rumors of Heard’s move to Bloomington have swirled for a month after a report from the Jackson Clarion Ledger indicated the Ole Miss receivers coach had a chance to take a similar job with a longtime connection in Allen.

The two men previously worked on the same staffs at Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Lambuth. Heard just finished his fifth season as Ole Miss’ receivers coach, and in 2015 mentored Biletnikoff Award finalist Laquon Treadwell. A first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings, Treadwell posted an SEC-best 1,153 yards on 82 catches, scoring 11 touchdowns.

“I am extremely thrilled and blessed to join the Indiana football program,” Heard said. “To be able to come and work for Tom Allen is an honor for me and my family. I’ve worked with Tom for a number of years, know what he is all about and believe in what he stands for. I’m ready for a new challenge and to bring a different perspective to the staff.”

With Treadwell leading the way in 2015, Heard’s position group was one of four in the nation with seven or more players who caught at least 20 passes. The season prior, Ole Miss was the only SEC school to place three receivers in the top 12 in touchdown catches, and in 2013 Treadwell and current Indianapolis Colts receiver Donte Moncrief each ranked inside the league’s top eight in receptions per game.

At Indiana, Heard will get to work with 1,000 receiver Simmie Cobbs and another, Nick Westbrook, who finished with 995 receiving yards in 2016.

“Grant Heard is one of the top wide receiver coaches in the country,” Allen said. “He will bring his expertise to the receivers room, a group of very talented players. We are blessed and excited to have him as a part of our family. He will coordinate the passing game and allow us to build off of the strong past that we have created with our ability to throw the football.”

Watson, too, has a long history in prominent coaching roles. He’s served as an offensive coordinator at Colorado (2000-05), Nebraska (2007-10), Louisville (2012-13) and Texas (2014-15), and is generally well-regarded for his work with quarterbacks. At Louisville, he mentored future first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater.

Watson originally joined IU’s staff last spring as an offensive quality control coordinator, a non-coaching position that allowed him to serve as an extra pair of eyes in the film room, among other roles. He has helped Indiana with its recruiting since being promoted to quarterbacks coach a month ago.

“It’s an honor to be able to stay here at Indiana with coach Allen, who in a short period of time I’ve developed a fondness for his passion and his philosophy,” Watson said. “At the same time, I’m really excited to work for Mike DeBord, who is one of my closest and dearest friends in football. We’ve shared a lot of football over the years and I’m excited to be able to coach with him side-by-side.”

Wednesday’s announcement represents the latest wave of news for Indiana’s staff. On Monday, it was reported that former offensive coordinator and receivers coach Kevin Johns and tight ends coach James Patton would not return in 2017.

Both Johns and Patton were longtime coaching connections to Wilson.

“I would like to thank Kevin Johns and James Patton for their service to Indiana,” Allen said. “Kevin is a tremendous coach and a fine person. He has a great family and I want to wish them the very best. I appreciate James and all of his hard work over the past four years. He is another strong coach with a great family. Again, I wish them nothing but the best.”

19 comments

  1. Coach Allen has put together an offensive staff that appears to have experience at high levels of success. IU has a complete staff that has great recruiting chops that I hope sees IU in 2018 and after bringing in higher rated recruiting classes.

  2. Right off the top of my head IU appears to be acquiring some of the best football coaches I can recall being together in Bloomington. We are usually looking at staffs filled with guys looking for their big break or who had recently crashed and burned at a previous stop (Doug Mallory wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire).

    Just based on his resume and reputation I don’t recall a Hoosier OC with the history of success that DeBord brings. While he had discussed retiring it was not due to his age or abilities. He is currently at the apex of a solid career.

  3. I do realize that it appears the ship is slowly turning for IU Football, but I do believe we shouldn’t abandon a critique of the many implied promises unfulfilled. At the end of the day, Wilson ended his stay at IU with never achieving a .500 conference record in any of his six seasons. His overall conference record was 12-37(less than a .250 conference record). When Wilson achieved his best conference record in his final season(4-5), he is let go due to accusations of being too verbally hard on some injured players…Why does OSU not care about such accusations?
    We are seven years out since Glass marketed the “Win Today” slogan to be spattered all over billboards and local newspaper outlets.
    In all honesty, it just seems like the same old football movie to me. Allen will be given 3-6 years to move his own needle tiny increments forward.

    Meanwhile, we are now 9 years into the Tom Crean era of Hoosier Hoops. We have been smoked, outplayed, and out-coached by the likes of IPFW, Butler, Louisville, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. When we reach a Sweet 16, we are generally embarrassed by the “blue blood” teams we don’t appear to be a near equal. Yet, I continue to hear many broadcasters refer to Indiana as a “blue blood” program.

    We’ve grown far too complacent. .250 overall conference records in football. We will be on our fourth defensive coordinator in six years. Basketball is sputtering and our teams look lost since the last remnant of the Zeller “Movement,” Yogi Ferrell, used up all four years of his eligibility. What movement is in the future? Crean seems to be a factor of zilch on the Indiana recruiting front. There are no more local saviors in the pipeline…The loss of heady players from this basketball rich state has left Crean’s coaching under a much closer examination. We are now seeing the results of losing the high IQ “Movement” recruits that once left Crean protected from the reality of his struggles as an in-game tactician and teacher of the game.

    What happened to us? What sort of undeserving mentality infected us….and why?
    Why can’t a major university with the academic prowess of Indiana attract the best college coaches in the business? Why did we so overspend and over-hype on very average coaches over the past 7(football) to 9(basketball) years? Millions upon millions in coaching salaries for these results?

    Mike Davis got us to an NCAA Championship game in his second year. That remains the biggest national stage for IU Sports in the past 15 years.

  4. When you’re willing to spend the money necessary to attract and keep highly talented coaches, it’s amazing the talent you can attract. I wonder if some of the money that will be paid to these experienced assistant coaches is due to Allen being paid less compared to what Wilson would have gotten if he had stayed? Does anyone know the specifics of Allen’s new compensation package? Did Glass simply expand the coaching compensation budget, or are they shifting dollars between coaches under the same budget?

    I like Allen saying that he wants DeBord to “be the head coach of the offense.” He seems to have picked a man with the experience necessary to make it work.

  5. I think it bodes well that Allen acted quickly and decisively in terminating Johns and Patton and having Debord, Heard, and Watson ready to step in and complete his staff. Hopefully, he has come to terms with all of the remaining assistants, and the staff is set for the 2017 season. It will be interesting to see if the staff, especially the new members, are able to pull in any higher rated recruits in the remaining month before signing day. I do look for them to convince a highly rated QB and some good wide receivers to join the team in the 2018 recruiting class.

    Po, I agree with you about liking Allen’s comment about Debord being “the head coach of the Offense.” Debord is certainly capable of handling this assignment and it will allow Allen to focus more of his time and energy with the defense. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Allen say he wanted to continue to run the defense as defensive coordinator at least for 2017?

    The only way I can personally get optimistic about the 2017 season, however, will be if King or Ramsey beat out Lagow in spring ball or we pick up some 5th year transfer. The defense should be even better than it was this year, but we need a QB who can scramble and keep the play alive and who can run a read option occasionally. It was such a pleasure watching the two mobile QB’s in the Rose Bowl, and that is exactly the type of QB Debord had at Tennessee in Joshua Dobbs.

  6. Ranger, you are correct. Allen will continue to run the defense.

    As for Lagow, he has a lot of room for improvement. I hope he makes it, because given his experience, it will give Iu a better chance of producing a winning season as compared to starting over with a completely green QB.

  7. Problem with Lagow besides not being very good is he is no run threat at all. He cannot even get himself out of trouble by making a play. Defenses can t off on him or completely ignore him and to many times he will only not make a play but will turn it over.

  8. I hope you are right about Lagow, but I don’t know about him having a lot of room for improvement, as he struck out at U. Conn and Oklahoma State, and was barely recruited out of JC (Colorado State, Memphis, IU). He is not the mobile QB Allen envisions to lead his offense. He is already 22 years old and it is possible he has reached his ceiling. If he could significantly cut down on his interceptions, that would certainly help, but he still can’t run a lick or scramble. Maybe he was more mobile in JC, but the defenses in the Big 10 are way faster than the ones he encountered at Cisco JC. I am not sure he wasn’t lucky not to have more than 17 interceptions, because he seemed to consistently throw into double and triple coverage, and had a very difficult time looking for and finding secondary receivers.

    USC went with experience at the beginning of the year and after a disastrous start, rolled the dice with their red shirt freshman who won 9 straight games including the Rose Bowl. Of course, it all depends on how talented King and Ramsey are, and if they have a higher ceiling than Lagow. That is something Debord and Watson will find out in the Spring.

    If either one of them beats out Lagow for the starting job, I will feel better about the coming season, experience or no experience. That doesn’t make me right, it’s just my opinion. As always, it will be interesting to see how it all works out.

  9. Ranger 67 excellent point about USC and how their season turned around with a freshman QB. With the right system and coach King or Ramsey can do the job and help IU win games next year. Both were considered dual threat QBs [not in the mode of Tre but mobile] and are capable of being B1G QBs. Wilson’s system may have been successful but it sure was much too complicated and we couldn’t expect a freshman QB to come in and start.

    With new coaches on the offensive side all QBs should have a clean slate to be evaluated. Lagow has experience but it wasn’t good experience so that shouldn’t give him any advantage. It will be interesting to see how the QB position plays out in 2017. Coach DeBord certainly has the high level experience to be able to run an offense on his own. I think coach DeBord is an outstanding selection since Coach Allen is wanting to turn the offense over to the offensive coaches and he will focus on being DC along with HC.

    I haven’t seen Ramsey throw the ball but I have seen Lagow and King last Spring. Both have big time arms with King more accurate than Lagow at that time. It takes more than arm strength to excel at QB but it does make the job easier. Based on comments through the year Ramsey has the leadership qualities to be the starting QB but he isn’t the only one with that ability. One QB not talked about much is Cameron, he isn’t my favorite, because his arm strength is limited and he is more of a game manager. There have been great game managers IE Brady, Bob Griese, Joe Montana, etc; so Cameron in the right system may be an outstanding QB. This Spring should be a fun Spring camp for QBs and receivers [WRs and TEs (I hope TEs are part of the new passing game)] as they have new coaches to impress and show they deserve to be the starter. Coach heard certainly has the hops to get the attention of WRs with the WRs he has recently coached.

    H4H, I am excited for IUFB as coach Allen hasn’t set on a pat hand instead he restructured the offensive staff to get one that wins in the clutch. The defense is an example of the change that can occur in one year. With all the returners from 2016, 2017 IUFB team should have a chance to win 8 or more games; it requires the team to learn how to make plays at critical times to win games. If the offense can’t develop along these lines then winning 6 games will be tough to do once again.

    Po, I agree that Coach Allen has put together an experienced staff with more importantly experience at winning at a high level. We now have an OC that coached a National Championship team, a QB coach that coached Teddy Bridgewater, and a WR coach that has coached two WR that now start in the NFL. I am looking forward to see what kind of offense these coaches along with coach Frey and McCollough can produce.

  10. I can’t stand Brady but labeling him, Montana, and Griese as ‘game managers’ seems bit overly critical. Yeah, they were (are) GREAT game managers. They were great at everything else there is about playing the position.

    I think, as fans who may or may not be enamored by Lagow, that bringing in a new OC and passing game coordinator is the best chance we are likely to see as far as having an open competition for quarterback is concerned. I think that is a positive thing.

  11. Chet, maybe calling Brady and Montana [I would add Drew Bress in this category] game managers isn’t the best term but both had limited arm strength yet have excelled playing the position of QB. Both show that having big arms aren’t necessary to have big passing numbers and winning most games they play. Both QBs have been in offenses that allowed them to succeed without requiring big arms to get the job done. In this way I hope IU’s new offense is more QB friendly and as a result comp. % increase along with the # of catches for receivers increase.

    Our offense next year could be a special one as long as the OL comes together and jells. We have pass catching TEs to compliment big experienced WRs to really stress secondaries. Add in quality RBs [maybe difference makers in Patrick, Gest, and Natee] like Redding and defenses will struggle to control all the aspects that can be part of this offense. It would be great to see some two back pro sets [only some not a majority] to add to the offense and be more productive in 3rd and short along with red zone production.

  12. I still think Natee is a number of lbs from being effective. He benefited greatly from the little guy with breakaway speed standing next to him. Force still equals velocity times mass and the velocity just isn’t there. Maybe the weight room and the training table will straighten that out.

    I agree that, on paper, we have a great opportunity for a breakout year. A tip of the ‘ol hat to Kevin Wilson for that. I’m neither pro nor con on CKW but I concur that he probably reached his ceiling. There is no question that a coach’s interpersonal skills play a huge role in their success. If it was simply about knowing football anyone could learn the skills given time and perseverance.

    There is a reason so many ‘old school’ coaches were put out to pasture. Kids knew they didn’t have to be treated like livestock. I have to believe the book that exposed the abuses of University of Texas players, ‘Meat on the Hoof: The Hidden World of Texas Football’, ushered in the end the career of Darrell Royal. He lasted three years after its publication. That’s just about long enough to weigh the recruiting damage it did. He retired at 51, a single season removed from a 10-2 campaign and a final season at 5-5. At what should have been the height of his career many Texas high school players (or their parents) would no longer take his calls.

    Woody Hayes went out sadly as well. Many coaches could not transition to a world where players wanted to be taught but did not feel the need to be abused. Even the military figured that one out and, though still an orchestrated series of challenges, began to embrace teaching as more effective than pure intimidation (I would probably still jump to attention if I heard my Drill Instructor’s voice).

    Time will tell but I think Tom Allen is a perfect example of how to coach effectively today. He is obviously a tough guy but his players will run through wall for him because they WANT to run through walls for him. Not because they are afraid of him. You can only get so far relying on fear (this is a generality, not a condemnation of CKW).

    Looking the the guys that Coach Allen is bringing in that appears to be the direction he plans to take the Hoosiers. These are guys with a history of teaching and developing players.

    That’s what a recruit wants.

    Again, IMHO.

  13. Chet, you nailed it on the head about the change in coaching today. I told my administrators that I believed coaching was teaching and all my hires needed to be good teachers as it would make them good coaches. I was dealing with administrators that were reluctant to hire coaches as teachers so I had to educate them about what I wanted from my coaches. This gave me a chance to get some coaches into the system.

    I see coach Allen as the kind of coach I would hire as he is fiery coach that motivates by teaching and getting players to know he believes in them. As a result they will run through a wall for him and his coaches as they play above their talent level. I agree that this is what a recruit wants and as the staff gains a reputation as teachers more will b excited to come to IU because the coaches will get more out of the players using this approach.

  14. One way or the other, we’ll see some of the other QBs playing next year. They have to get the younger guys some experience, even if that is in garbage time. But I’m still not confident all three of last season’s remaining back-ups will return to the team next fall. We could lose one to transfer after Spring football. I hope I’m wrong.

    As for Lagow’s running ability, he’s not a runner, but he can certainly do more than he did this season. I think he was instructed not to run because Wilson had little confidence in any of his back-ups should Lagow have gotten injured. There were times when he could easily have taken off and picked up a first down if he’d had the presence of mind to do so.

  15. The offense that is put in will determine which Qb will be the starter. As one poster said, USC turned their season around with a freshman QB. It will be exciting to see which QB steps up and takes the job. Both King and Ramsey were considered dual QB that could run along with passing for big #of yards.

    I also want to see how the receivers look in the new offense. IU has two big WR with several big WR in the 2nd team. I would like to see Timian at slot with Harris to take pressure of the WRs. We have pass catchers at TE and see how they will be used in 2017. Since Bosler, TEs were used as another T instead of a receiver; I hope that changes in 2017.

    The key will be the OL getting back to where they were in 2015 and control the LOS. With the RBs we have and the receivers we have the OL will have a lot to say how they can give the QB time to pass. We have size, talent, and decent experience to do the job. It will be about how they gel together. 2017 could be a great season and I hope the team comes together win more than the past two seasons.

  16. I like Timian in the slot a lot. It did not happen this year because Paige was so dominate and reliable but I have to believe Isaac James can find some rotation time at slot as he is as big as LT but faster and more elusive very similar to Harris. Donovan Hale may also be the next big WR for a 3 man rotation as he improved steadily all season after spending some time the season before at QB which was his HS position. Offense will live or die with the OL particularly relative to positive rushing. I also expect big gains comparative 1st to performance and then in results to all ST’s play. ST’s is a launch point for the entire team = to the O&D by producing points and winning the field position contest.

  17. Good points V13 and HC.

    DeBord has the best resume’ that I ever remember an IU OC having. I’m pretty excited by the hire. The past few years every time the Hoosier found a successful twist we knew we’d see it until it became useless. The wildcat package with Diamont and Natee looked great until it became predictable. Then it just looked sad. Was there anyone watching the game who didn’t know exactly when those guys were gonna come on the field? It was a nice changeup but neither of those guys were gonna replace a top shelf Big Ten running back play after play. We took our best running options off the field in the hope that the opposing defense had never scouted the Hoosiers and would somehow be fooled. Everybody isn’t Maryland.

    DeBord is coming in with no preconceptions (one would hope) about his players. I imagine the talent dropoff from first string to third string at Tennessee is a bit less precipitous than in Bloomington. I’m betting he finds a way to get his best players in the right positions. I have a feeling the the IU offense is about to go through some rather dramatic changes.

    I hope so, anyway.

    It appears that we have, by far, the best people scheming the offense and defense we’ve had in a long time. Allen says he’s sticking to D and we actually have an experienced, successful OC on the other side. These are uncharted waters for IU football.

    Maybe now Coach Allen can get Frank Beamer to come out of retirement to coach the special teams. They were awful. I’m still ambivalent about Wilson staying or going (though I’m liking Allen’s hires) but the special teams fiasco is all on him. If anything they got worse as the season went along and he was clueless about what to do. It appeared as though he decided to do nothing.

    They’d better do something next season, though. We had the worst kicking game in D1.

  18. He should at least fly out and consult ole Frank and pick his brain over some film study and a 6 pack of Heinekens. But seriously DeBord and Allen have both been in charge of ST’s at big programs previously. Which is why I stated what I did above about the expected improvement. I sincerely believe there is so much room for ST improvement it will directly impact W/L #’s in a positive direction in 2017.

  19. Absolutely. I’m guessing you could probably go back to 3 or 4 of last season’s losses and there would be a special teams fiasco that might have turned the game around.

    As you said, “…there is so much room for improvement…”

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