The last name of Indiana’s offensive coordinator won’t change much, but the Hoosiers certainly went a long way to find Kalen DeBoer, the new leader of the offensive unit. Fresno, California to be precise.
Now the question becomes — how much will the Hoosier offense change as the program moves on from the recently retired Mike DeBord.
If history is any indicator, the Indiana attack is about to take a big step forward under DeBoer.
DeBoer inherited a Fresno State offensive unit ranked 122nd nationally in total offense in 2016. The Bulldogs improved to 40th in 2017 and 24th in 2018 under his direction calling the plays.
Those major strides at Fresno State came after DeBoer took Eastern Michigan from 123rd to 35th in total offense between 2014 and 2016 as their offensive coordinator. There his offense shattered the school record for total yards with 5,917 yards, breaking the previous record of 5,010. School records were also set for points scored (385), passing yards (3,849), touchdown passes (25), first downs (303), pass completions (309), plays (999) as well single-game plays (99).
The new leader of the IU offense first honed his craft as a wide receiver in college.
A graduate of the University of Sioux Falls, DeBoer played for the Cougars from 1993-96, where he was an All-American wide receiver. He set school records for receptions (234), receiving yards (3,400) and touchdown catches (33).
DeBoer would go on to cement his status as a USF legend as a coach.
Following his playing days, he started as a student assistant for Sioux Falls and then moved up the ranks to offensive coordinator and eventually became the head coach in 2005.
While his USF playing career was impressive, DeBoer’s five year stint as the Cougars’ head coach was astonishing. During those five seasons, Sioux Falls won as many national championships (3) as they lost games (3).
DeBoer was named a three-time NAIA National Coach of the Year and compiled a 67-3 (.957) record while guiding USF to those three national championships. The Cougars won 50-straight home games and 29-straight games overall in his final two seasons, including back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 2008 and 2009.
A balanced offense has been the name of the game for DeBoer.
Fresno State, which averaged 34.6 points per game in 2018, averaged 267 pass yards and 154 rush yards per contest. The Bulldogs had similar balance for the 2017 season.
Under DeBoer’s tutelage, Bulldog quarterback Marcus McMaryion had one of the most productive seasons in Fresno State history in 2018 — and that is saying something. Fresno State has produced NFL quarterbacks including Trent Dilfer, Derek Carr and David Carr.
McMaryion completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,629 yards with 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His passing efficiency rating was 157, a few points higher than what Derek Carr posted in his record-setting 2013 season.
McMaryion put up similar efficiency numbers in 2017, once again only throwing five interceptions. A major key for McMaryion playing mistake free football was effective pass protection.
Fresno State allowed only 10 sacks in 14 games in 2017 and 12 sacks in 14 games in 2018. Both times those numbers put the Bulldogs in the top ten nationally.
DeBoer worked under head coach Jeff Tedford at Fresno State. Tedford is perhaps best known for coaching Aaron Rodgers at California.
The best way to describe DeBoer’s offense at Fresno State might be to say it was multifaceted.
With the Bulldogs he used multiple schemes, incorporating pro-style wrinkles, shotgun-spread sets, run-pass option concepts, and two tight end formations. Basically, the offense is flexible and malleable to the situation. While there are some elements of the dink and dunk passing game that frustrated Hoosiers fans, the Bulldogs were able to produce more big plays out of the passing game than IU as measured by their “explosiveness.”
As mentioned above, the play-calling has been balanced, with Fresno State at virtually 50/50 on run vs. pass in 2018. McMaryion averaged nearly three yards more per pass in 2018 than IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
It isn’t clear how much the Fresno State offense was DeBoer’s preferred approach vs. Tedford. His 2016 EMU offense was based around tempo (23rd in adjusted pace) and pass-first principles. Stylistically, how much influence did Tedford have in the scheme at Fresno State? That is a question to be asked, but the Bulldog scheme more closely resembled what Tedford did at Cal rather than DeBoer at EMU.
You can watch DeBoer discuss the development of McMaryion here: