Indiana to hire former Michigan RB Mike Hart as running backs coach

Indiana’s coaching staff is complete once again.

Michigan’s all-time leading rusher Mike Hart is in line to become IU’s new running backs coach, a source confirmed to The Herald-Times on Thursday. Hart, who played three seasons for the Indianapolis Colts, spent the past year in a similar role at Syracuse after previous stops at Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

Peegs.com’s Matt Weaver first reported Indiana’s intention to hire Hart.

The 30-year-old set Michigan records for rushing yards (5,040) and rushing attempts (1,015) playing under IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who served in the same capacity on the Wolverines’ staff during Hart’s junior and senior seasons. Hart was also a Michigan teammate of new IU quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan.

After three injury-plagued seasons with the Colts, Hart joined Eastern Michigan’s staff as a quality control coach in 2011. He was promoted to running backs coach a year later before leaving for Western Michigan in 2014. There, Hart guided a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan. Franklin was named MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 2014 before Bogan earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors in 2015.

Hart will replace Deland McCullough, who left last week to become run game coordinator and running backs coach at Southern California.

Since becoming IU’s new coach on Dec. 1, Tom Allen has overseen a total overhaul of Indiana’s offensive coaching staff. Former offensive coordinator and receivers coach Kevin Johns and tight ends coach James Patton were not retained after the season, while offensive line coach Greg Frey, newly-promoted quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and McCullough each left for new jobs. Frey took the same job, albeit with a higher reported salary at Michigan, while Watson took a step up as offensive coordinator at Pitt.

Sheridan was hired to replace Watson and former Houston and South Florida coach Darren Hiller was hired to replace Frey. Allen also hired former Ole Miss colleague Grant Heard to replace Johns as receivers coach.

Allen said after Thursday’s workout that his new assistants have done a nice job making connections with their new players ahead of spring practice, which begins Saturday.

“We’ve attracted some real high quality people,” Allen said. “I know one of their strenghs is relationship building and being able to do it in their own way. Everybody has their style. I feel like, so far, this is very new, for sure. There’s not a lot of time involved here, but spring ball will create a lot more of that time for them.”

27 comments

  1. This looks to be a good hire on several fronts. Hart is a known name with this coaching staff and in the B1G. He will be able to tell the RB what it takes to be a leading RB in the B1G and what it takes to get into the NFL.

    Coach Allen has shown he can bring in quality coaches with experience in the highest levels of NCAA FB. This season will show how well they can coach as the offense has talent but a lack of experience as starters. For IU to breakthrough this season, the offense and its new coaches need to put a quality offense on the field. I am really excited to see how this new coaching staff and team does this coming season. Will they improve the special teams, cut back on turnovers, and improve the defense moving it up into the top five in the B1G. Doing these things will go a long way to winning games they were close to pulling off last year. The encouraging thing is how close last year’s team was to beating the top teams even without the offense IU had in 2015.

  2. If the offense can keep the defense off the field for a reasonable amount of time the defense could, statistically, look even more improved this upcoming season. Considering what they were up against the defensive stats were remarkable.

  3. Hart looks to be a good replacement for McCullough. Experience recruiting in the Midwest, success in developing productive and talented running backs, former NFL player, former star in the Big Ten, and a relationship with his boss. I’m sure he’ll do a great job. My concern is, how long can IU keep him in Bloomington? The better job he does, the sooner he’ll get poached by another power program for a compensation package that IU can’t/won’t match.

    Anybody know the average time-on-the-job for D-1 college position coaches? We were fortunate to keep McCullough for as long as we did. If we can keep Hart in Bloomington for that same amount of time, that will be a major achievement.

    1. Why are you concerned already? When you read a book, do you only read the cover and the synopsis on the reverse side? The man hasn’t even coached a down yet. I agree it’s a good hire, but you’re basically discarding chapters into his Hoosier coaching career which haven’t been written yet.

      It is what it is. It will be a shoe string budget for coaches until we can fill the stadium or get to a respectable level. They can’t even draw as is, so raising ticket prices won’t create revenue, and I hope they wouldn’t use the rising cost of college to satisfy a clearly shoe string assistants salary.

  4. That’s the thing about hiring the best people though, isn’t it? Acme Web Design is never gonna keep their best people from getting poached by Google but they will still benefit from having the best people as long as they can.

    I just hope we continue to have coaches good enough that someone wants to hire them away. Not that long ago it wasn’t much of a concern.

  5. Po, according to an ESPN article the most recent data showed a 24% turnover rate among DI college coaches. I didn’t see any data on longevity at a particular job but at 24% turnover it can’t be long.

    The average salary is $216,000. The average work week is about 100 hours. I imagine that money goes a long way. Not exactly a recreational lifestyle.

    I’ll pass.

  6. Chet, good point about how the offense created problems for the defense. I agree if the offense comes around again the numbers for the defense could improve dramatically. I hope the offense is productive without the turnovers. No more three and outs as a regular occurrence or coming up short on 3 & 4 th and short more times than not. As exciting as Wilson’s offense was it was very dependable in short yardage situations.

  7. Chet, I did mean not very dependable. It would be nice if this sight had edit feature.
    Yes it was frustrating to see the Wilson offense failing so often on short yardage plays. If OSU lets Wilson run his offense then it will create problems for them on short yardage downs. One thing about the new offense IU will have is they will use TEs as receivers and not just a third tackle. TEs cause problems for pass coverage as it allows WR not to be doube covered or the defense leaves the TEs without adequate coverage. It is good IU has some receiving TEs especially once Hendershot gets in the rotation. IU has a couple of good receiving TEs now and it looks like Hendershot will be a very good receiving based on HS career in football and basketball. It will be great to see the TE used as a receiver like other schools do.

  8. You know, I remember the Lee Corso years. They were a mixed bag but Lee was a risk taker and frequently went for it on 4th down.

    The thing was, sometimes they made it. Last season it seemed as though we never made it. Then, it just looked desperate and stupid.

    I really believe in using the tight end as an offensive threat. One tight end can negate two defensive players if they are a pass receiving threat. That’s a really big deal.

  9. If hart was coming to IU to run the ball I’d be all in. Since he is not I’ll take the wait and see angle. After all he is replacing a stud coach. Can he rise that high. At this point in time I evaluate Hart as a ? .
    With a Frosh at left tackle and injuries to the R guard and tackle and a mediocre center Johns and Wilson had to keep the TE in close to bolster blocking for the rush attack and protection for a 1st year thrower. DeBord may have to exercise the same tactic as this new offense most likely won’t gel without some heartache during this 1st year with all the new offensive personnel on the sideline and no set in stone starting QB. The D will have to play bigger and be more prominent than last year just to get to 6-6. It will not be an easy season In other words just like the last 3.

  10. The last 3, Rather through IU fb lore and history (with an exception here and there. Even when IU fb has been successful it has never been totally dominate for a whole season). However, want and hope is a staple every season. In November will the college fb nation be talking about IU fb as the success story for the 2017 fb season and T.A. as coach of the year with virtually a new coaching staff?

  11. In 2013 Florida State began the season as #1 with six new coaches on board. They went on to win the national championship.

    With an average coaching turnover rate of 24% it’s just a part of life in college football that everybody has to deal with.

  12. 6 new coaches and arguably the best talent in the country or at least some of the best talent. No valid comparison in that respect.

  13. IU Football = A collection of very worn Wrangler denim and Carhartt flannel. It suffices just fine for a night out at the Golden Corral.

    IU Basketball = Our finest pastel leisure suit of bellbottoms and aerodynamic disco lapels. It hangs in the back of a mothball infested closet awaiting a dry cleaning and 45th reunion party. New suit? Who the hell needs one? Leisure is coming back.

    This is the state of our Hoosier Athletics wardrobe.

  14. t,
    If we were comparing IU’s national title hopes to FSU you would be correct.

    We weren’t.

    The discussion was the impact of a group of new coaches on a football team. FSU did not miss a beat and played as they would be expected to given their talent. The coaching shuffle had no discernible impact.

    The comparison is apt.

  15. HC, if coaches had to keep in TEs for the run and pass protection why did the same thing happen in 2015? It just seems that Wilson and Johns got into the habit of using TEs as blockers not receivers. There are other ways to protect QBs than keep TEs in to block. Mixing up pass protection is one way so defenses can’t tell if TEs are blocking or going to release into the pass route. Offenses can do more than straight drop back to throw the ball; get the QB on the perimeter to change the launching point so rushers can’t tee off on the snap of the ball.

    I bet we will see TEs catching more passes this year than they have the past 4 yrs combined. I also think our TEs will create problems for defenses in the passing game this season. I bet we see the TE doing more things in the run game and passing game than we have seen in the previous offense.

  16. The reason Hart’s longevity matters is continuity. The continuity of a coaching staff, like any group of managers in any enterprise, is important because it goes a long way in making a program successful.

    If the turnover rate is 24% per year, then we can expect Hart to stay at IU for five years. It also tells me McCullough’s tenure at IU was above average.

    These coaches work long hours, especially during the season. But I have a friend who retired as a long time assistant football coach. He told me that the best head coach he ever worked for was very sensitive about the hours his staff was putting in. The head coach used to tell his staff, “if you’re working 18 hours a day, you’re not doing it right.” This head coach constantly “preached” to his assistants to guard against physical and mental burnout, especially during the off season. And he was active in trying to protect his staff against risks like family strife, health problems, and substance abuse caused by working too many hours. He knew those things could destroy a talented coach’s career, create the temptation to cut corners (i.e., cheat) and would be detrimental to the program. My friend said the worst part of the job for him, especially as he was climbing the ladder, was the relocation, especially when his kids started going to school.

    1. Uh, how do you get 5 years? That doesn’t make any sense. 24% means that in any given year, a CFB program can expect to experience a 24% turnover in their staff for next year. This number can fluctuate year to year, based on how many major programs fire their head coach. In years where there are lots of head coaches getting fired, you get more open positions down the chain. But, the trend is that programs are firing their head coaches much faster than in the past, so there are always a lot of coaching staff openings in a given year.

      Continuity doesn’t make sense in this environment, because you are either a victim of your success or failure. If you succeed, other school are going to come looking for you when they have openings (and there are ALWAYS plenty), which are promotions, and are open do to the same factors.

      “Continuity” is an arbitrary value that you are assigning that NO FBS school and possibly live up to. Even the good ones. Maybe even especially the good ones. OSU, where our former HC is, has had 3 Offensive coordinators in 3 years. 3 Defensive coordinators three years, too. That’s at the top. This is a standard that you are setting so that when a coach leaves Indiana, you can call Glass and the Indiana Atheltic Department cheap.

      The best programs are the ones that understand this environment and work within its parameters. If an AD sets a”continuity” as a standard for success, they will fail.

      Allen seems like a guy who a lot of people have had glowing things to say about him. They liked working with or for him. His ability to hire some exceptional assistant coaches has shown that he understands this and other coaches see him as an opportunity to further their careers. Instead of what Indiana has historically been known for, which is a graveyard for coaching careers. He’s going for the best guys he can attract to Bloomington and, I’m sure, he probably views coaches, under his program, who get hired for better jobs elsewhere as a compliment.

  17. There is a balance between scheme and execution. I felt that many times throughout Wilson’s tenure, that there seemed to be this fixation on being a little too clever by a half. Then, you’d see them whiff or make some stupid errors on something simple. Perhaps the complications in the offense were too much where the forest was lost for the trees.

    I’m agnostic about how to specifically use TEs. Whatever they decide to do next year, Indiana has to do stop making the mental and physical mistakes (dropping passes, running wrong route/throwing wrong route, blocking wrong guy, etc) that peaked last year. Better execution is what I hope we improve upon.

  18. DD, IU does need to improve execution to have a better offense and more wins in 2017. I hope the offense is more player friendly as you don’t need to be so complicated, players struggle to understand the plays. You are right that too many times, especially last year, we had players running the wrong routes, QB throwing the wrong routes, and OL blocking the wrong players. Despite all those issues IU was in the upper echelon in offense yardage but those mistakes showed up in the red zone and IU didn’t score as much as they have in the past.

    I hope this new offense is one that has players knowing exactly what they are supposed to do and executing the offense efficiently. It would be great knowing the offense can move down the field and score without having to come up with a big play to put points on the board. Last year, coaches seemed to hit on the solution but not see it any way; Johns and Wilson talked about when the QBs knew where to throw the ball they were very good and accurate. Yet, we would see the offense try to do more and come up with a more complicated passing offense with QB and receivers making mistakes. One thing I couldn’t figure out last year when they put in the special offense with Big Bacon why they didn’t include a simple passing game to go with it instead of allowing defenses to shut it down after the Maryland game. Zander wasn’t the best passer but he was good enough to throw passes when defenses thought we were going to run. The addition of passes every 6 plays would have opened up that offense and given defenses real problems.

    If nothing else this offense will use TEs as receivers again. It will be fun to see TEs as focused on catching the ball as they have been blocking in the past. TEs can block and catch passes so their is no reason to limit our TEs so much. I would have liked to be at the opening practice today and see the energy this team has for this coming season. It has been a great day to be outside and playing football today.

    1. I hope we can run the ball. But 3 new OL starters, OL coach, RB coach and OC with new offense makes that bold talk out of the box and 50-50 for the B1G. Would not make that bet, wish I could say yes.

  19. DD and v13 are both right about the schemes, and what I was saying about Mallory’s defenses, especially in the secondary. If assignments are repeatedly blown (whether coverage or routes or blocks) by one player, it’s the player, but when it’s all over the field, then it’s the scheme. And KW certainly had a tendency to outsmart himself.

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