The search for a new play-caller in Bloomington is well underway after head coach Tom Allen announced the firing of Nick Sheridan on Sunday.
With the transfer portal wide open and the high school early signing period fast approaching, Indiana is looking to fill the opening in short order to help clarify for prospects what the IU offense will look like in 2022.
Hiring a coordinator is not an unfamiliar process for Allen. This will be his fourth offensive coordinator hire in six seasons, and he has also hired two defensive coordinators since replacing himself after the 2018 campaign.
Twice Allen has looked inward for those hires, but that seems highly unlikely this time around. The Hoosiers need a proven play-caller with a track record of experience running a dynamic offense to quickly flip the script on a disappointing 2021 season. Here are some names to keep an eye on, starting with a handful of guys with Indiana ties.
Kevin Johns (Memphis OC) – Spent six years in Bloomington as the co- and then offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2016 under Kevin Wilson. Johns has been the OC at Memphis for three years and the Tigers’ pass-first approach has finished 36th, 22nd, and 10th in total yards during those campaigns.
Justin Frye (UCLA OC) – An ’06 Indiana alumnus and native Hoosier, Frye has worked under UCLA’s Chip Kelly for four seasons, meaning he hasn’t been the primary play-caller. He does have extensive experience as an offensive line coach as well however, something that may be attractive to Allen.
Rod Carey (former Temple HC) – The IU alumnus and former Hoosiers center (’93) was recently fired as the Temple head coach. Previously, Carey had a 52-30 record at Northern Illinois including two MAC titles. Prior to becoming head coach, Carey orchestrated an offense that was No. 13 in the nation at 38.6 points per game at NIU. He also has an offensive line coach background.
Seth Littrell (North Texas HC) – He led one of IU’s best offenses ever in 2013 as OC. It appeared that his North Texas team was headed to a third-straight losing season but his job now may be safe after a couple late wins. Littrell also generated 33.2 and 40.7 points per game in the final two seasons as the OC for North Carolina.
Matt Canada (Steelers OC) – We’ve included Canada each time there has been an OC opening, so let’s do it again. The timing likely wouldn’t work, but with the Steelers’ offense floundering, Canada might be headed back to the college game sooner than later. Canada is an Indiana native, an IU alumnus and coached in the program from 2004-10.
Zach Kittley (Western Kentucky OC) – IU fans know the up-tempo WKU offense well after it nearly delivered what would have been an eleventh loss to the Hoosiers. The Hilltoppers have thrown for more yards than any team in the country (5,073) in 2021. Kittley is from Texas, which would provide obvious recruiting appeal.
Tim Cramsey (Marshall OC) – Cramsey is in his fourth year as the play-caller and quarterbacks coach for the Thundering Herd, who are eighth nationally in total offense and No. 21 in scoring offense so far in 2021. Cramsey also hails from the Chip Kelly coaching tree.
Major Applewhite (South Alabama OC) – Could Allen hire away an OC from his own former DC Kane Wommack at South Alabama? Applewhite led some high-level Houston offenses in the past, but this year’s offense at South Alabama only came in at No. 91.
Andrew Sowder (Kent State OC) – His Kent State offenses have been top 10 in the country for the last two years, but his approach is more run oriented. While Tom Allen seeks to run the ball, that is something that might not be a good fit with IU’s personnel.
Graham Harrell (former USC OC) – With a new regime in place at USC, Harrell is on the market and hot name both for head coach and OC openings. A student of the Air Raid system under Mike Leach, USC ranked No. 24 in total offense in 2021. And Harrell’s Texas ties are an attractive recruiting bonus.
Walt Bell (former UMass HC) – After a 2-23 stint as head coach at UMass, Bell is likely headed back to the OC ranks. Bell had been an offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Maryland and Florida State before landing his first head coaching job at Massachusetts.
Barry Lunney (UTSA OC) – Lunney has led UTSA to top-50 offenses in each of the last two seasons. The former Arkansas interim-head coach has emphasized a balanced run/pass attack. The Roadrunners are averaging 433 yards of total offense, and they are 14th in the nation in scoring at 37 points per game.
Willy Korn (Coastal Carolina OC) – Current quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. He is also the play caller for the nation’s sixth ranked offense. Korn is very young at 32, but he seems ready to move up to the Power Five and has good recruiting ties in the Southeast.
Anthony Tucker (Utah State OC) – In just one season leading Utah State’s offense, Tucker has the Aggies ranked among the top 15 passing attacks in the FBS. He coached in Florida at UCF, in the Big Ten at Maryland and also has ties to California.
Greg Stevens (Southeast Louisiana OC) – It wouldn’t be a high profile hire, but Stevens has orchestrated the No. 1 offense in the FCS at 561 yards per game. He was the OC at Eastern Illinois at the same time as former IU DC Kane Wommack.
Ryan Carty (Sam Houston State OC) – Another FCS OC, Carty has produced top-10 offenses in each of the last two seasons. He helped lead the Bearkats to the 2020 FCS national championship and was named the FCS Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com.
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