DeBord crafting offense that fits Lagow

Several times this month, Indiana offensive coordinator Mike DeBord has turned to his quarterback with a basic, but very important question.

“What do you like?” DeBord will ask Richard Lagow, tailoring Indiana’s passing playbook to the schemes that the senior feels most comfortable running. At each of his stops during a three-plus decade coaching career, one of DeBord’s first objectives has been getting on the same page with his quarterback.

As DeBord installs his offense at Indiana, he’s using Lagow’s input to help determine the direction the Hoosiers will take.

“I don’t want to do what I want to do,” DeBord said. “I want to do what they can do best. What they do best is what we will do. We’ve changed a few things here or there because that’s what Rich liked. (We’ll) go out and change a wrinkle here or there for him. I just think that the quarterback has to have great confidence.”

The chatter around IU’s program this summer has been consistent, that Lagow is feeling more comfortable and confident in his role during his second and final year at Indiana.

Of course, change has been a central theme to Lagow’s college career, especially when considering he’s now worked with five offensive coaching staffs across stops at Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Cisco (Texas) Community College and IU, where his Big Ten career began under the guidance of quarterback taskmaster Kevin Wilson.

Along that winding path, Lagow has had to demonstrate a unique degree of adaptability at each new home. But upon DeBord’s January arrival as the marshal of IU’s offense, he wanted to make something clear — Lagow shouldn’t feel obligated to adapt to DeBord.

DeBord, instead, would adapt to Lagow. Hence that oft-repeated question.

“There are times out there right now when I’ll ask him, ‘What do you want to start out with? What do you like?'” DeBord said. “A couple nights ago, we met one-on-one. I said, ‘What do you like with all the throw game stuff?’ That’s just part of us working together.”

With fall camp now complete, and Ohio State-focused practices set to begin this week, DeBord says Lagow has embraced the newfound freedom.

After throwing 17 interceptions last season, Lagow has authored a consistent month of preparation. DeBord reported no interceptions in last week’s scrimmage. IU’s offensive coordinator also holds the belief that Lagow is effectively processing one of DeBord’s few requests — don’t try to do too much.

While practicing the two-minute drill during a recent scrimmage, Lagow was charged with guiding IU’s offense from its own 6-yard line and taking it deep enough to set up a game-winning field goal situation.

One of Lagow’s most lauded skills upon his commitment to Indiana in 2015 was his arm strength. At times during the 2016 season, he demonstrated that deep-ball potential.

But in this recent practice, with less than two minutes remaining in the drill, Lagow opted for check-down passes when his other options weren’t open. A key play came when Lagow checked down to running back Ricky Brookins, who split two defenders for a first down. IU’s offense eventually made it to the opposing 25 before kicking the winning field goal.

“We did it,” DeBord said. “What I appreciated with Rich, and I told him this, is, ‘It’s not your job to make a hero play. Just take what they give you. Let me try to get you into the better play next time. That’s what he did on that drive. … That’s what we’re continuing to embrace with the quarterbacks is just take what they give you. Don’t force anything. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

As part of the quarterback-friendly system that DeBord wants to oversee at IU, check-down passes will be a key component to advancing the ball.

Lagow has said he is totally on board with that and other yet-to-be-unveiled wrinkles.

“If I don’t like something, they’ll scrap it,” Lagow said. “If I say I just need more reps with it, they’ll give me some more reps. I think that’s the biggest thing for a quarterback-friendly offense. You have to value the quarterback’s opinion.”

With DeBord in charge, it seems that’s exactly what Indiana will do.

“We’re teaching a lot of different things in the throw game stuff,” DeBord said. “We’ll have answers, and we got to have answers for him against different coverages and things like that. But we’re gonna do what he likes to throw. If he has certain throws that he likes better, we’re gonna use those.”

20 comments

  1. Coach DeBord is a very good coach and an outstanding OC. Asking the QB what plays he favors and adapting the offense to the QB. Telling Lagow he does need to be a hero but a player that takes what the defense gives him. Players have said Lagow is doing much better this year and I hope that it continues in the games. He has outstanding receivers all over the field to throw the ball and let them catch and pick up the yardage needed. Having RBs and TEs catching passes will help open things up for the WRs. A successful passing game will help OL open up holes fo the RBs and let them gain more yards. Lagow will have plenty of possibilities fo the deep ball but stay away from throwing into double coverage.

  2. A year of starting under his belt will be the biggest advantage to learning a new offense and knowing what he feels confident about executing and what he doesn’t like to do. Last year was a test drive.

  3. Yes, as I had posted a couple of weeks ago, this is adapting the system to players’ strengths as opposed to shoehorning players into a system, which is what it seemed Wilson was doing with Lagow. Wilson’s system(s) have been pretty darn effective (at IU and elsewhere) but it didn’t work last year.

  4. Shoehorning? Didn’t work last year? 2016 IU offensive B1G ranking: Total offense 3rd, Pass offense 2nd, Pass efficiency 5th, Offensive scoring was 4 spots lower than the IU record offense of 2015 which is easy to grasp when you lose Howard/ Sudfeld and move to Redding and 1st year B1G starter Lagow. 2016 was RL’s test drive. This year he will be more comfortable and confident in the starting in the B1G.

  5. Well, I understand how davis could have that opinion, and there is certainly anecdotal evidence that some shoehorning took place last season. Maybe it’s a compliment to the standards Wilson’s offenses established during his first five years at IU, but last year’s offense just wasn’t as effective, regardless of the stats and the rankings. Too many turnovers, inefficiency in the red zone, too many missed field goals, too many failures on fourth down and short, too many incidents where clock management errors broke momentum and stalled drives. Obviously, you can’t blame the quarterback for all of that, but the bottom line is that they did not score enough points last season. But as optimistic as I am about Lagow’s potential this season, the real question is why was a guy who was brand new to the team and to Wilson’s complex offense the starter last year? Why was it necessary in the first place? The reason was because Wilson had not done a good job recruiting or managing his quarterbacks for much of the previous five seasons. He did not recruit enough good quarterbacks, and two former talented QBs, each with significant experience as starters, had transferred, leaving his cupboards empty. And this year, the new coaching staff once again finds itself with just one quarterback that has any experience. I don’t believe any of Lagow’s back-ups have played a down in a college football game. Given the circumstances he was thrust into, I give Lagow a lot of credit for his performance and the composure he demonstrated last season. Wilson is a very talented offensive coordinator, but he never lived up to his reputation as a “quarterback guru” while at IU.

  6. HC, don’t strain yourself considering other people’s opinions or dismissing facts that you don’t like! Just because you don’t agree with an opinion, does not make it any less valid than any of yours.

  7. And since you like stats so much, I thought I would provide you the following. They will shred your claim that my opinions sited in the previous posts were “bogus BS.” (Source: 2016 NCAA FBS Football Statistics)

    Lagow completed 57.8% of his passes in 2016, with 19 TDs and 17 INTs. His INTs were second most INTs thrown in the Big Ten, and his Total QBR was 57.9%, ranking him 68th out of 120 QBs in FBS (that’s in the bottom half of all FBS quarterbacks who played enough downs to be included in the rankings).

    In field goals, IU made 16 of 26 attempts for a conversion rate of 61.5%. And since IU attempted zero field goals from 50 yards or longer, IU was not very good kicking field goals last season.

    On fourth down conversions, IU was 7 for 27, for a conversion rate of 25.9%, ranking IU 89th out of 128 schools in FBS. You’d have thought with such an improved defense, Wilson would have punted the ball more often, choosing to trap opponents deep in their zone. But lest we forget, Wilson was a (degenerate) “riverboat gambler” when it came to going for it on 4th downs. And obviously, like most gamblers, he lost a lot more than he won.

    In total offense, IU was ranked 55th out of 128 in 2016. In total rushing, IU was ranked 86th out of 128 FBS schools, making 3.7 yards per rush attempt and averaging 152.2 total rushing yards per game (injuries to key O-lineman hurt our run game last year).

    In “Offensive Efficiency,” IU ranked 83 out of 128 FBS schools. That’s almost in the bottom third of all schools in FBS. Can’t blame Lagow for all of that, because as we all know, Zander and a few other players took a significant number of snaps in 2016.

    Those facts don’t suggest that Wilson’s 2016 offense was as effective as it had been in previous seasons and that the opinions I sited earlier were not “bogus BS.”

    1. Never a strain jousting with you. Oh, also in your next long winded, dead horse beating post provide me with stats I don’t know.

  8. everything will be exposed when IU plays Ohio State…..the Ohio State secondary is inexperience. all of this depends on how much time the Offensive line gives Richard Lagow. It would be interesting to see what Vegas over/under is on the number of INT Lagow throws for the game and the seasons.

  9. IU79- They really have an over under in LVegas for interceptions by QBs?

    HC- My shoehorning remark was meant re: QB Lagow. The offense was not horrible, but the spaz-outs by Lagow seemed to have come at such inopportune times. I think the “system over players” mentality might also explain the repeated Chinese fire drills in the red zone last year- players weren’t “getting it,” so they couldn’t get the snap off and had to blow a time out/get called for delay of game.

    PO- Speaking of dead horses, allow me to club mine a few more times. KW going for it on fourth down was the opposite of gambling. By punting on fourth down as a default mode, coaches are giving up 25% of their offensive plays from scrimmage. For a detailed analysis of why going for it on fourth down A LOT MORE OFTEN is not gambling but smart football, see http://www.advancedfootballanalytics.com/index.php/home/research/game-strategy/120-4th-down-study
    “Pin ’em deep” made sense in the days when the rules were not so offense/passing friendly, the ball was fatter, and offenses were “four yards and a cloud of dust.” But now with offensive schemes that seem to get more and more creative every year, it is silly to give the ball up to the other side’s modern offense as a matter of policy- especially when your own offense is usually pretty good (as with KW).

  10. The losing of many 2015 2-deep players through graduation/injury made red zone efficiency more challenging in 2016. As a 1st year starter RL was not always comfortable in that short field. His year of experience in D1 will make the task of leading that assault less daunting.

    Read the article a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it. It was a bit of an eye opener. Every year, I believe in the philosophy, more and more. Somewhat along a parallel path of the 3 down Canadian FB rules easily explains why their offenses opt to pass such a high % of plays.

  11. davis, I’m familiar with the philosophy you reference, and I certainly agree that teams should go for it on certain fourth and short scenarios, like for example, when there is nothing to lose. But for whatever reason, as the statistics prove, Wilson’s IU teams were just terrible on fourth down conversions. 7 for 27 last year is just miserable, especially when at least two of the seven successful attempts came against weaker, non-conference opponents. And with so many close games, there were many situations last year where failing to convert on fourth down took a toll on the morale of the team, while giving the opponent a psychological/emotional boost. You could almost hear the air coming out of the balloon at times. Those decisions turned the momentum of certain games around, and in my opinion, cost IU a victory or two. And when you’re trying to produce a winning season for the first time in nine years, one or two victories is HUGE! It appeared to me that Wilson often lacked “situational awareness” during games, and that he remained stubbornly determined to stick with his philosophy in spite of the circumstances and the failure rate. Bottom line: Wilson’s tendency as a Riverboat Gambler did not produce a winning record in six seasons.

  12. PO- I do find your comments about the poor IUFB 4th down success rate vis a vis Wilson worthwhile. “Gambler” may not be the right term, but his decisions to go on 4th seemed not part of a deliberate plan to maximize the IUO’s opportunities, but to have been impulsive. So in away I am agreeing with you about Wilson, except you are calling it a “philosophy” that KW was stubbornly sticking with, while I don’t think it was that sophisticated- his decisions seemed to be hunches or “inspritations.” And not having a plan leads to confusion, which seemed to be the problem in the red zone last year (and in the OT v. Duke the year before).

    But lack of success on a particular call doesn’t mean it was the wrong call. If the right call was a punt and the punter shanks it, it was still the right call. But as a matter of general football strategy, offenses should go for it A LOT MORE on 4th down. You wrote that going for it on 4th makes sense in certain situations “when there is nothing to lose[,]” and at least that is a philosophy or a principle of sorts but, respectfully, I disagree. Losing 25% of your offensive possessions as a matter of habit is misplaced. 4th and three on the fifty? Odds of the coffin corner punt pinning the enemy inside the ten are no sure thing, so the ball comes out to the twenty- or maybe returned even further. A gain of thirty – or maybe less – at the cost of a first and ten in enemy territory if the offense can make relatively routine gain of 3 yards and an inch.

  13. davis, well said, you are correct.

    If anyone has even the slightest inclination towards statistics and probability (not quoting numbers like sports fans are wont to do, but the actual mathematical discipline), it isn’t even arguable that it is better to for it on 4th down. It doesn’t matter “how close.” It is exactly for the reason you said. You are taking away 25% of your chances to score by punting – or a lesser scoring chance, when kicking a field goal. Field position isn’t as statistically relevant, but it is when “sports narratives” and conventional knowledge is at play.

    This isn’t up for debate. It isn’t theory. It is math. The execution and particulars can be debated.

    Also, it isn’t universal that you go for it on 4th down every time. Time on the clock, plus how close the game is factor into the equation. What isn’t as much of a factor is the yards you have “to go” on 4th down. Note, I said “isn’t as much” not “isn’t at all.”

    The reason it isn’t done, is being played out in this comments thread. Firstly, it is about blame & risk. If a coach goes for it on 4th down and fails (which he will fail), HE is blamed. HE takes the risk. If he kicks and the other team scores on their next possession, it is the fault of defense and special teams. Not him. Miss on 4th down? You are now a “riverboat gambler”, which implies that you are throwing caution to the wind and “the House” always wins. The coach is the blame.

    Also, as the article I link to below explains, people tend to value the prospect of losses more heavily than gains. It is psychological, not factual.

    Reading the comments below the article are instructive. No matter how much evidence you give people, they are intractable from their positions. I anticipate the same here since the last time the subject came up, the same people are making the same arguments.

    https://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/a-new-study-on-fourth-downs-go-for-it/

    1. DD- I like the article’s scenario “what if the punt were just invented.” “New rule, guys. You can kick the to the ball to the other team any time you want.” “Huh? Why would we do THAT?”

      There is a successful high school coach in Ark. who doesn’t even have punts or punt returns in the playbook. Stated reasons are the aforementioned “extra” play from scrimmage each series (knowing that at the start of each series you have four rather than three downs would also certainly change the play-calling strategy and be another reason) and, relative to the return game, electing not to field the ball results in 1) the complete elimination of any chance of a muff leading to a turnover, and 2) frees up another man for the punt block scheme.

      Unmentioned was that if you don’t have to install and practice a punt/return game, the time spent doing that is now freed up to work on regular offense and defense. This would seem especially valuable at the high school level, where practice time is at a premium.

  14. To my recollection, we’ve had a pretty atrocious kicking game the last couple years.
    We left points off the board and lost far too many games on short range field goals that weren’t much different than extra point conversions.
    Our punting game was very inconsistent. We didn’t exactly have a hang-time specialist helping to ensure field position goals achieved.

    Field position and the quality of your kicking game plays into these decisions. The return specialist on the opposing team is another consideration. Giving Devin Hester a shot at touching anything when any semblance of an open field is ahead of him makes for a far bigger ‘riverboat gambler’ than a coach who will go for short yardage on 4th and short at the opposition 47 yard line.

    I think Wilson’s decisions were taking all things into account. All these decisions don’t play out in a vacuum. Games don’t happen in your college statistics class. They happen under massively different conditions with influencing variables that most BarcaLounger critics simply don’t have anywhere near the coach’s insights to fully assess. The opponent, a defense’s fatigue level, roster depth, quality of your kickers, confidence in your play calling, confidence in your line, sustaining momentum(or a need to put some voltage into a game and change momentum)….and far too many other variables to list all go into recipe of 4th down decisions.

    I had no problem with most of Wilson’s decisions because conservative football probably isn’t going to work when you have rebuilding mode challenges while playing in a brutal division of the BIG(especially when some of your running backs are top D-1 level and the kicking game is not stellar).

  15. Dead last in field goal conversions last year…

    Indiana 16-26 61.5% (The top five teams in the Big all had fg percentage conversions above 80% The top ten teams had above 70%),

    Next to last in avg. punt distance….

    61 punts 40.3 yd. avg.

    Given the numbers above, it would be more likely for a BarcaLounger Hoosier football fan to assume an Indiana coach to be more of a “riverboat gambler” to kick the ball in just about any scenario.
    Watching some of our kicks last season would indicate a possibility of the footrest of your BarcaLounger making our kicking team roster.

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