The Indiana football press conference introducing new safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri seemed a straightforward affair.
But an extra bit of news out of this hire created immediate additional intrigue. Head coach Tom Allen announced that his new hire would take over defensive play-calling duties.
Allen called plays for IU’s defense last season, returning to that role after delegating the responsibility to Kane Wommack in 2019-20 and to Charlton Warren in 2021. But it wasn’t always smooth for Allen in play-calling this year, and he wanted to get back to a structure more similar to what IU had in that successful run in 2019-20.
Guerrieri called plays during his time as Duke’s co-defensive coordinator from 2018 through 2021. Allen and Guerrieri both said their defensive approaches align, which made this move sensible for both sides.
“We’ve been a base 4-2-5 for a number of years,” Guerrieri said. “I played in the 3-4 defense. I’ve been in a 4-3 and a 3-3-5 and 4-2-5. From a philosophy standpoint, Coach Allen would say tackling, take-aways, and effort. Those are the three pillars of who we are. That’s not going to change from that stand point.”
Guerrieri spent 2022 as a senior advisor and analyst at Ohio State, and had originally taken the defensive coordinator job at Tulsa under Kevin Wilson in early January before IU called.
Indiana’s defense finished last in the Big Ten last season at 5.89 yards per play and 449.3 yards per game allowed. Both figures ranked in the bottom 30 nationally.
Under Guerrieri, Duke allowed the most yards per game in the country in 2021 with 517.6. But his Blue Devil defenses fared better earlier in his tenure as defensive coordinator. They gave up 408.8 yards per game and 5.51 yards per play in 2018, and 379.6 yards per game and 5.35 yards per play in 2019. Those figures ranked in the middle of the pack in the ACC.
Guerrieri was a co-defensive coordinator in Durham, and it will be the same situation in Bloomington. Chad Wilt remains IU’s linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator. Allen said he met with Wilt before making this decision, and his role and responsibilities won’t change.
“(Wilt) will be responsible for kind of, as I told him, the toughness of our defense, to help organizationally like he has in the past,” Allen said. “But in terms of scripting and organizing the team components, that will be under Coach Guerrieri’s responsibility. And really just the direction of our defense on a daily basis. I want to be able to walk out of the room and be able to have literally no drop-off in what’s going on in that meeting.”
Allen added that ceding play-calling will allow him to be a better head coach, giving him more time to spend with the offense and manage other aspects of the team.
Guerrieri is emphasizing relationship-building in the time leading up to the beginning of spring practice. He knows it takes time to establish those important bonds with his players, which become necessary to their development as he coaches them.
“I’m a firm believer if you do not have a true authentic relationship in any field that you are in, no one is the best version of themselves,” Guerrieri said. “To me trust is built through, first, caring. Does someone really know that you love them and care about them? The next part is the competency. Does a player know that I’m going to help them get better? If not, then they’re not going to work hard. The third thing is consistency. So am I the same person every single day for those guys?”
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