DeBord emphasizing red zone efficiency during camp

One of the most critical failures of last season’s offense is being addressed early in fall camp.

Indiana needs to be more efficient in the red zone this fall to compete in the Big Ten East. Mike DeBord is seeing to it that the Hoosiers fulfill this objective.

IU’s new offensive coordinator is calling for more consistency inside the 20-yard line, an area where the Hoosiers struggled to cash in during the 2016 season.

“(There’s a) big emphasis on red zone, which, as everybody is well aware, we’ve got to do a better job of,” DeBord said.

Inside the red zone last year, Indiana ranked 13th in the Big Ten in scoring percentage (71.4 percent) and touchdown percentage (48.9 percent).

That’s simply not good enough.

IU’s struggles weren’t limited to the goal line, either. According to Football Study Hall, the Hoosiers ranked 124th out of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in points per trip inside the 40-yard line, averaging merely 3.57 per visit.

The upside for Indiana is that DeBord has a track record for fixing inefficient red zone offenses.

During his second and final season as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2016, DeBord’s Volunteers offense led the Southeastern Conference in touchdown percentage (73.4 percent) and finished third in scoring percentage (87.7 percent).

In fact, Tennessee’s touchdown rate last season improved by 14 percent from where the Vols finished during DeBord’s first year in 2015.

The key? DeBord says it’s trusting the pass.

“I feel like I need to do a great job of putting the ball in the end zone with throws,” DeBord said. “I learned a couple years ago where I was almost trying to play perfect. When you get down to the red zone, everything gets tighter. The coverage gets tighter, the linebackers are tighter, safeties are up in there. So it’s hard to play perfect. You have to put the ball into the end zone.”

To complete that mission, DeBord says he’s implementing new schemes that the Hoosiers haven’t used in recent years. DeBord is also a proponent of using tight ends as a big part of the offense.

Indiana has a weapon it can use around the goal line in senior tight end Ian Thomas, who is being lauded as a potential breakout player this fall. As a defensive mind, one of the first things IU coach Tom Allen does to prepare for an opponent is scout the tight ends. In Thomas, the Hoosiers believe they have a playmaker at the position.

Allen also says perimeter jump balls can stress a defense around the goal line. In Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook, among others on IU’s roster, the Hoosiers should have the ability to play toss and catch, or win a tip drill, near the end zone.

“To me, that’s just a physical issue that you sometimes don’t have an answer for,” Allen said. “If you try to take that away, it weakens you up in other spots. Maybe one, you can handle. You got two? Then, you got a third guy that stresses you there, which Ian does that to a lot of people. It creates a lot of problems for a defense.”

And that’s what Indiana aims to do this season — create problems for opponents around the goal line.

Not create problems for itself.

“We will be there,” DeBord said. “We’ll get there.”


  1. Getting improved play in the red zone will win more games for IU. I sure hope coach DeBord’s changes improves IU’s red zone play along with their short yardage plays. Coach Johns and Wilson couldn’t figure it out so I hope IU does a great job this year on red zone plays.

  2. The current and relevant Q is can DeBord ‘figure it out’. Installing a new offensive system to a new staff and to a new team full of lesser quality talent level than he has had success with in the past is a tall hill.

  3. I’m encouraged by the fact that DeBord has significant experience and really loves being where he’s at. He’s done this before, coaching at places that did not have the best talent. And I think that makes him well-suited to IU, which probably has a level of talent somewhere between Tennessee and Eastern Michigan. But what I want to see eliminated are those momentum-killing time-outs called once IU has driven deep into the red zone. Wilson drove me nuts when, with his team inside the ten yard line, someone got confused or he would call a time out. It usually resulted in IU failing to score a TD. You’ve got to know what you want to do down there before you arrive, and then do it without hesitation, so that the defense does not have time to re-group or catch its breath.

  4. The constant talk about Debord having less talent than he had in the past. I am not sure I agree the talent is greatly less than he as had in the past. With his experience level he knows how to adjust to talent and IU has shown we have NFL talent on our offense [yes I know not as much talent as top ten teams but not much less either]. Wilson’s offense just wasn’t designed to do well in the red zone or short yardage. I hope and I believe Debord’s offense will be better designed to do well in the red zone and short yardage plays. The question is can the offense be as explosive as it was under Wilson and we will have to wait and see how DeBord approaches football out in the field.

    1. Not hard for me to recognize he has had higher quality talent at the programs where he also had success.

  5. He may have coached at programs of lesser quality talent but there is no beating of drums extolling positive results. Take a good look at his HC tenure at C. Meatchicken. His success has been at programs with very good talent.

  6. PO- you said it, man. Wilson used to panic, or outsmart himself, or something when the IUO would get down to crunch time. It happened big-time in the Pinstripe Bowl when called all kinds of weird stuff in the OT instead of sticking with the bread-and-butter (namely Redding, who had racked up +200 yds. in regulation time).

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