BLOOMINGTON – We have, at last, the final version of Indiana’s football coaching staff, and if you believe offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, it’s exactly what is needed for a winning-season break-through.
“I can tell you that I've been around a lot of great coaching staffs in my career, DeBord said, “and this is a great one. I'm not going to say the best or anything like that, but I'm going to tell you, it's one of the best I've ever been around because of the quality of people and also the quality of coaching that we're going to get.”
DeBord, who has coached for 35 years, was part of an introductory press conference for two new coaches — quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan and offensive line coach Darren Hiller. That completes head coach Tom Allen’s staff as he seeks Indiana’s first winning record since 2007.
Sheridan was hired to replace Shawn Watson, who recently left to become the offensive coordinator at Pitt. Hiller replaces Greg Frey, who left to become the offensive line coach at Michigan.
“Nick took over the quarterbacks (at Tennessee),” DeBord said. “He had them in meetings. He had them in game preparations. He had them in practice. He was there with me when I was calling the game on game day in a very critical role.”
Hiller has coached for 23 years. He was the offensive line coach at South Florida last season. Before that he was at Cincinnati, Nevada, Arkansas State and Northwestern State. Beyond that, he had a long relationship with Allen.
“I knew of (Hiller’s) reputation,” DeBord said. “Tom came to me right away and said 'This is a guy that I want. I want you to do your research, but I want you to really look hard at him.'
“I went back and I actually studied film of South Florida. When you talk about South Florida last year you're talking about a team that was in the top five (nationally) in scoring and in the top five in rushing. Now if that doesn't make a coordinator happy I don't know what will.”
What does Sheridan want in a quarterback?
“Coach Allen’s vision and mine align,” he said. “The first thing we're looking for is a winner. I think we're trying to just accumulate players that have a winning mentality and are accustomed to winning.
“The second part from the quarterback position is just accuracy. The ability to place the football where you want it to be. The last piece is escapability. I think when you go across the NFL and across college football, the sizes and shapes of the quarterbacks and the skill sets are different, but when you really put those three things together, winning, accuracy and escapability, I think you can can put a really quality product on the field. When we're evaluating and when we're developing quarterbacks, those are the things that we try to focus on."
Beyond that, limiting turnovers is a priority. Last year IU quarterbacks threw 18 interceptions.
"It's the most important piece of playing football,” Sheridan said. “(Quarterbacks) are the caretaker of the ball for the entire team, in the entire university, the entire state. It's something we emphasize every day.
“I think there are some things you can do schematically to help the kid out, to put him in some better situations where he has outlets to get rid of the football, so he doesn't feel like he's forcing it down the field. That's the No. 1 deciding factor in winning and losing. That has never changed and never will. Certainly from a staff standpoint that will be enforced and emphasized in particular with our position as it will be for all positions here.”
As for Hiller, the offensive line became a team strength under Frey, with Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney earning All-America honors the last two seasons.
What does Hiller want from his group?
“We've got to have a group of guys that will come together and play as a unit. I tell our guys that the offensive line is like the engine of a car. We could talk about the quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, and the tight ends. But you know that the car is not going to move without the engine and the offensive line has got to be the engine."