Allen betting on DeBoer

Kalen DeBoer had one question.

When he interviewed for Indiana’s vacant offensive coordinator position earlier this month, DeBoer wanted to know the truth. So he asked Tom Allen to give it to him.

How close do you think you are to getting the wins this program craves?

Not that DeBoer has ever been shy about entering a trying situation. His last two employers, Fresno State and Eastern Michigan, both went 1-11 the season prior to his arrival as offensive playcaller. But DeBoer was curious to hear from Indiana’s head coach about where he believed his program stood after back-to-back 5-7 seasons, and how a more reliable offense could be the catalyst for profound change.

“The thing he really shared with me is how close he really feels in his heart that we are here to taking that next big jump, (earning) bowl games and being a team in the Big Ten that everyone has got to be worried about every single week,” DeBoer said.

A new approach to offense could go a long way toward getting the Hoosiers to that level. Entering his third season leading the program, Allen is betting on DeBoer to lead the turnaround.

DeBoer has done it before, after all. He helped take two of the least-successful offensive units in the nation at Fresno State and Eastern Michigan and turned them into outfits that ranked inside the top 50 nationally in total offense by the time he left.

The offensive situation at Indiana is not as dire as it was at each of DeBoer’s previous stops, but the Hoosiers are in clear need of a jolt.

If DeBoer can oversee another turnaround at IU, the Hoosiers just might reach the potential Allen sees for his program.

If he can’t? The Allen era could find itself on uneven ground in Bloomington.

To his credit, Allen understands this. Last season’s offense was unsustainable in its constructed form. The Hoosiers lacked explosive plays and saw too many drives stall upon crossing midfield.

So, when offensive coordinator Mike DeBord announced his retirement on Dec. 30, 2018, Allen went about finding a dynamic replacement, doing so with a sense of urgency.

“I just knew how important it was,” Allen said. “I just felt like that where we’re at as a program and starting Year 3, that I knew that we had to get this right. I really appreciate everything that Mike DeBord has done for us and the foundation that was laid and just knew that going into Year 3 that getting the right guy was going to be critical.”

Although IU ranked 52nd nationally in total offense (415.2 yards per game) last fall, it struggled to produce in a few key areas.

The Hoosiers finished the season at No. 107 in the country with only 4.11 points per scoring opportunity, and ranked No. 123 in explosiveness, according to the advanced statistical profile published by SB Nation. IU also produced a meager red zone touchdown percentage of 56.8 percent that ranked No. 104 nationally and 12th in the Big Ten.

Allen identified DeBoer, a veteran playcaller of 19 years, as someone who might be able to help.

At Eastern Michigan, DeBoer’s group jumped from 111th to 35th nationally in total offense during his three seasons as offensive coordinator. At Fresno State, the Bulldogs ranked 120th nationally the year before he took over before bumping up to No. 47 this past fall.

The 2018 campaign was a productive one for DeBoer’s offense, which ranked 43rd in the country with 4.79 points per scoring opportunity and 13th with a red zone touchdown percentage of 73.6 percent.

Allen credits DeBoer’s ability to mix and match different personnel groupings to his advantage, singling out his usage of tight ends, in particular, as a reason for his success near the goal line.

DeBoer says he’ll bring a balanced and versatile offense to Bloomington, one that will have the capacity to play with different styles that maximize personnel and situations.

“We want to be physical. We want to have explosive plays,” DeBoer said. “That should come off of when you have a little bit of a run game. I felt like it was one of the strengths this last year was there was a consistent run game, for the most part. You should be able to have some play action to go along with it. Play action always doesn’t have to be shots down the field, but it should open that up. We’ve got some big receivers from what I’ve seen that can go up and get the football and some guys that can get it down the field, as well.

“You know, that to me marries up pretty well, and then just that aggressive (mentality). We want to have the ability to speed things up and play with some tempo. And then I think you see the intermediate pass game develop as guys become more familiar with the system, understand the route combinations better, the reads that I’m asking them to make, and just everyone is on the same page. There are less drops because guys are thinking less. So we’re going to try to keep it simple, but we also want to be complex.”

Just as Allen oversaw a dramatic turnaround for IU’s defense when he arrived as coordinator in 2016, DeBoer is hoping to have a similar impact on offense this fall.

DeBoer’s track record as a fixer was a strong selling point for Allen.

Now, he’s betting on DeBoer to get Indiana to where he believes it can go — and keep his own coaching tenure on track in Bloomington.

“(It’s a) very important hire for us and (I’m) really, really excited to be able to bring an individual the caliber of Kalen to our program,” Allen said. “I just feel like he’s going to be a great fit for us and really help us take the next step offensively.”


  1. It’s happening gang. I haven’t felt this good about IU football since Allen was hired as DC. The Wilson/Allen marriage could have led to something special at IU, but it wasn’t meant to be. I have a feeling that this marriage is going to be special for the Hoosiers.

    1. Sorta, kinda……not really. Wilson relied too heavily on classic tall, immobile qb’s with big arms (see 2018 Buckeyes). While Wilson managed to accentuate a solid rushing attack the overall effect was pretty limited. Remember how he kept having to insert Tre Roberson to get touchdowns when they stalled in the red-zone? I do. Why. Because he couldn’t stretch the field or run between the tackles when the defense knew that Sudfeld, Cameron or Lagow couldn’t outrun a lunch lady with a tray of bread and butter sandwiches.

      1. What does that have to do with anything that I said?

        “See 2018 Buckeyes”? Was that the Buckeyes that crushed most of the B1G offensive records?

  2. I’m reasonably confident in saying that IU’s offense has no where to go but up. That’s not to say that it was a disaster last season, but it never had the extra gear that is necessary when the team absolutely must produce a score. In other words, IU’s offense was weakest when it mattered most, and that’s because it was so predictable.

    IU is not going to be bigger than most of its Big Ten opponents, so it better be more dynamic. And to be more dynamic, it has to have a quarterback with the arm talent to take accurate shots down field.

  3. I have been as frustrated as anyone over the years with the disappointments and misfortunes that have waylayed this program. That said, I would be surprised if this hire along with what TA has already done to lay the foundation isn’t at LEAST mildly successful barring any weird or sudden personnel setbacks (Terry Hoeppner etc). 7 + win seasons will be the new bar for the foreseeable future, plain and simple.

  4. Yawn. What did DeBoer expect Allen to say? That IUFB is doomed for the next couple of years, but eventually we’ll be alright?

  5. Watching DeBoer’s introduction as OC, Tom Allen seemed more like the Defensive Coordinator and DeBoer the Head Coach. I guess that is to be expected since DeBoer has several more years experience as a Head Coach than Allen. I think DeBoer will probably be a Power 5 Head Coach in a couple of years. But I would much rather have a successful coach that moves on in a couple of years than an unsuccessful one that stays forever.

  6. Well 123, I hope DeBoer’s performance at IU puts him in position to become a head coach for a Power-five conference team within the next few years. That’s the kind of problem we’d all like to have! And honestly, having paid close attention to how Fred Glass does things, I would not be surprised if DeBoer is Tom Allen’s replacement some day. Nothing wrong with evaluating DeBoer for the potential promotion or having a succession plan in place. If Tom Allen starts to win at IU, he’s vulnerable to getting poached by wealthier Power-five conference schools. And if Allen’s teams produce three more consecutive losing seasons, then you might witness Fred justifying the promotion of DeBoer after terminating Allen.

    1. I hope every assistant coach the Hoosiers hire from now through eternity are poached away to be power five head coaches.

      That is an Alabama sort of problem.

  7. Coach Allen is working hard to make IUFB a winner and given time to get his recruits in along with the changes he has made to the S&C program; we could see IU having winning season soon. I don’t know with the schedule next year it will happen , I hope they will, but by 2020 they have to start having winning seasons.

    I am hopeful the offense will become more dangerous for defenses to defend and stop in 2019. If that happens, then the defense needs to step back up to the standards coach Allen established in 2016 and 2017. If both things happen then who can tell how good 2019 will be. A big part of a winning season will be based on have all three QBs ready to be the starter in 2019 so coach DeBoer can choose the best option to lead the offense.

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