My Two Cents: I'm OK With Indiana's Well-Connected Football Staff

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana needed a new offensive coordinator, and Tom Allen chose to simply promote from within. He needed a new special teams coordinator, too, and did the same thing.

And then, when Allen needed to replace the guys he promoted — Nick Sheridan (offensive coordinator) and Kasey Teegardin (special teams coordinator) — to round out his staff, he hired guys he already knew. Everyone move, every addition, had a connection to Allen.

There's been some howling about that out in the social media world, that this staff is too myopic, that it's all similar people with similar ideas.

And to that, I say phooey!

Allen's plan to have success at Indiana is working. The Hoosiers won eight games last season, and that hadn't happened in Bloomington in 26 years. The vast majority of its roster is back next year, especially at the most important positions. Progress is evident, and there's no denying that.

So why upset the apple cart? Why do any wholesale changes?

Why, why, why?

Indiana's offense was dramatically improved in 2019 under first-year coordinator Kalen DeBoer, and when he left after just one season to become the head coach at Fresno State, Allen was dead-set on nothing changing much with the offense, only fine-tuning it. 

Allen and every assistant coach on the IU staff knew that Nick Sheridan — who has coached quarterbacks and tight ends here in Bloomington and is a former Michigan quarterback himself — is a bright young mind who can take DeBoer's offense and run with it, so that was a no-brainer. The was ZERO need to bring in an outside voice who would have changed the entire offense.

Sure, he hasn't done it before, calling plays and running a complete offense, but DeBoer listened to plenty of input from Sheridan all year, and he's sure he's going to be great in the new role. Allen agrees.

"He has a feel for the game, an understanding of the game, and the ability to have the big picture of it all,'' Allen said recently. "Some guys can visualize it. Really good play-callers can do that. They can see it, anticipate what's next, have a feel for where the defense is going to be aligning, where the weaknesses are, where you can attack them.

"That's what play-calling is about. You have to have a feel for that. Nick has that.''

It's the same with Teegardin. Allen, a former special teams coach himself, understands the importance of that third unit. Teegardin, who's coordinated special teams before at a previous stop (Valparaiso), is also another one of the young guys with endless work ethic and a deep knowledge of the talent levels on this team. He's a good fit, too.

And I do believe that Allen hit a home run in replacing those two guys, hiring Jason Jones to coach safeties and Kevin Wright to coach tight ends. Both bring massive recruiting resumes to the staff — which is always important — and they also buy in completely to what Allen is trying to do on both sides of the ball.

Jones has coached for 17 years, mostly in the SEC and Big 12, and spent a few years with Allen at Ole Miss. The former Alabama defensive back was at Florida Atlantic last year. He's been around winning programs his entire life, and Allen loves that about him

"I have so much respect for Jason," Allen said. "I was fortunate to work with him for two seasons at Ole Miss. He has worked in the SEC and the Big 12, and he was a part of one of the top defenses in the country last year. Jason's a great football coach and is the kind of husband, father and man I want in this program."

Jones has been on the staff of five conference championship teams and coached in 14 bowl games, including two New Year's Six games and a Fiesta Bowl championship.

"I am so thankful to Coach Allen for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great staff," Jones. "IU impressed me so much last season, and I can't wait to contribute to even more success. I am excited and ready to get to work."

Anyone who rolled their eyes over Allen, a former Indiana high school coach, hiring high school coaching legend Kevin Wright as his tight ends coach should be slapped. There are so many great things about that hire, most notably a pipeline to what might be the most important recruiting academy in the country. 

Wright is a winner. He won state championships in Indiana at Warren Central and Carmel, and for the past five years has coached at IMG Academy, which might possess the most football talent in the country year in and year out.

Wright is going to be a great recruiter, and he's got a tremendous football mind. 

"I've known Kevin for many, many years," Allen said. "He's been one of the most successful high school coaches in the country and has done a tremendous job working with some of the top talent in the country at IMG. Kevin allows us to expand our recruiting base and continue our success in the state of Florida. He's a great fit for our program in so many ways.''

Wright's numbers are astounding. He has an overall record of 229-65 (.779), eight Top-10 national rankings, four state championships and two state runner-up finishes as a head coach. He has mentored four national players of the year, 39 All-Americans and over 150 Division I student-athletes. 

He was 44-2 at IMG. Thats winning. And now he's working for Indiana.

"It's very exciting to be coming home to Indiana to join the IU football program," Wright said. "Coach Allen and his staff have done a great job building a culture based on players and staff who care about each other and play the game with tremendous passion. I think Hoosier fans across the country recognize that and are excited for the future."

Wright has college experience too, serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Kentucky University (2007-08). The 2007 Hilltoppers finished seventh in the country in rushing offense and 28th in scoring offense.

With this group, Indiana won't miss a beat. There's a lot of knowledge of this staff, and they're all tireless workers. There's no reason to think things won't continue to get better.

"I've learned every day I've been here and I'm thankful to have been able to work for Coach Allen,'' Sheridan said. "He sets the tone for everyone in the building, and he's about all the right things. 

"We're going to continue to grow and get better, and this is not the end, it's just the beginning. We're not going to put any limits on this team. The common theme is being around great people, and I'm happy to be a part of it.''   

Indiana's coordinators are the youngest collection on any Power 5 staff. Sheridan is just 31, defensive coordinator Kane Wommack is 32, and Teegardin is 34. 

At Indiana, you have to look at that as a positive, because this is a staff that can grow together, because they all really want to be here. Plus, they all started their coaching careers at a very young age, and have coaching blood in their families, so inexperience isn't as big a problem with these guys.

The biggest question is are they all good coaches? The answer, to me, is an emphatic yes., 

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