Indiana head football coach Tom Allen’s tenure in Bloomington has become synonymous with the word “breakthrough.” It should come as no surprise then that he had his eye on Kalen DeBoer for the offensive coordinator position.
No one has seen more breaking through in the last few years than DeBoer.
As the offensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan in 2016, DeBoer was an instrumental part of an Eagle team that finished tied for the most improved program in the Football Bowl Subdivision. EMU bettered its win total from one win in 2015, to seven, and the program reached its first bowl game in 29 years.
The very next season at Fresno State, DeBoer led an offensive turnaround that catapulted the Bulldogs from a 1-11 2016 season to 10-4 and a trip to the Hawaii Bowl.
That latter turnaround was only the second time in college football history that a team has gone from double digit losses to double digit wins year over year.
DeBoer joined Sports Talk with KWSN earlier this week to discuss his decision to take the offensive coordinator job at IU.
While this Hoosier program is nowhere near as low as his two preceding stops, Deboer knows that it will take another Herculean effort to get IU football over the hump.
What we refer to as the “Big Ten East Wall” in Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, DeBoer called a “murderer’s row.”
But the South Dakota native isn’t afraid of the challenge. Referring to it as “having to bet on yourself a little bit,” DeBoer can make a bet on Indiana with the comfort of knowing he has been there and done that.
He also comes to Bloomington with the comfort of knowing the coaching staff and seeing upgrades to facilities that indicate that the school is serious about taking things to the next level. DeBoer said this about his visit to Bloomington that ultimately convinced him to make the leap:
“It was way more than I imagined. I’m really impressed with what’s going on there. The staff’s been there two years and a lot of the foundation has been laid and now they just really need to have the offensive side of the ball kind of take that next step to take the team to the next level.”
The new Hoosier offensive coordinator also mentioned how impressed he was with David Ballou and Matt Rhea and the things they are doing to get IU’s players ready to compete.
Convinced that he would have the tools necessary to succeed, the final piece of the puzzle appeared to be the opportunity to truly take over an offense. While Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford had an offensive background and seemingly had his hands in the Bulldog scheme on that side of the ball, DeBoer sees a different scenario in Bloomington.
On the radio interview, DeBoer indicated that Allen was “looking for a guy to take the offense over,” or as Allen had previously referred to it, be “the head coach of the offense.”
Allen wasn’t going to hand the reins over to just anyone. But he has known DeBoer for more than nine years and watched his career blossom. Apparently that was long enough to know he had his guy, who the Hoosier head coach referred to as “a proven winner.”
Ultimately, DeBoer checked all of Allen’s boxes including proven experience as a Division One playcaller.
Allen got his guy. But if all goes well, the next challenge will be keeping him. DeBoer is somewhat of a legend in NAIA circles and in the South Dakota area. As a head coach at Sioux Falls he was 67-3, winning as many national titles (3) as games lost.
Ultimately, DeBoer would like to get back to leading a program.
“I would love to be a head coach. Sooner than later, DeBoer said on the radio interview”
If it comes to that, it will almost certainly mean that it is a good problem to have for both him and Indiana.
Interesting Note About the Search Timeline
DeBoer also shed some light on the the timeline of the IU offensive coordinator search process. While the retirement of former IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord was formally announced on December 30, it was clearly known within the program well before then.
DeBoer said this about his first contact with Indiana —
“They first reached out to me probably a month ago…when we were still in the conference championship run. But I just didn’t feel like it was the right time.”
Fresno State competed in their conference championship game on December 1, just a week after IU suffered its season ending loss to Purdue.
You can listen to the full interview with DeBoer here.
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