BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It didn't take long for Indiana coach Tom Allen to address the serious failures of the Hoosiers' offense during this ugly 2-10 season. He fired offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan on Sunday, and will head in a new direction.
“I want to thank Nick for his work and commitment to our football program,” Allen said in a release from the school on Sunday morning. “He is a good football coach and a man of tremendous character, but we are in the need of a reset on the offensive side of the ball.
"We will begin our search for Nick’s replacement immediately.”
In order to make this change, Allen restructured his own contract. His annual salary will decrease $200,000 each year from 2022-25. Allen’s contract runs through the 2027 season.
“We did not meet the standard that I expect from our football program, and that starts with me,” Allen said. “This season was not acceptable and we will work to address it.”
Indiana went 2-10 in 2021, and lost all nine Big Ten games after finishing 6-1 in Big Ten games a year ago and 5-4 in the league in 2019. Sheridan, who has been a quarterbacks and tight ends coach at Indiana before, was named offensive coordinator in 2020.
He replaced Kalen DeBoer, who set several school records during his one year as offensive coordinator in 2019. He left to become the head coach at Fresno State, and was 3-3 in 2020 and 9-3 this year.
Sheridan coached quarterbacks at Indiana in 2017 and 2018, and coached tight ends in 2019 when DeBoer arrived. He was instrumental in recruiting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to Indiana. He coached previously at Tennessee, and was a former walk-on quarterback at Michigan in the early 2000s.
During Sheridan's first year as offensive coordinator, Penix averaged a Big Ten-leading 274.2 yards per game — 18th nationally — en route to 2020 second-team All-Big Ten recognition. Prior to his season-ending injury in Week 6, Penix led the conference in passing yardage, passing yardage per game, passing touchdowns, completions, attempts, 60-yard passing plays, 50-yarders, 40-yarders, and 30-yarders.
Indiana finished fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (28.9), and fifth in passing offense (250.9) and time of possession (31:15).
But the 2021 season has been a disaster. Penix, who tore his ACL for the second time last November, was rushed back into action by the Sept. 4 season opener, and he was clearly rusty, throwing three interceptions in the 34-6 loss. Penix, who had thrown only eight interceptions in 414 attempts his first three years, threw seven interceptions in September before being injured again in the Oct. 2 game at Penn State.
He suffered a separated AC joint in his left shoulder in that game and missed the rest of the season. He was replaced by veteran Jack Tuttle, but he struggled with turnovers as well and then injured his foot in the Oct. 23 loss to Ohio State. Indiana was forced to play out the season with true freshman Donaven McCulley and walk-on Grant Gremel at quarterback and lost their last eight games.
Indiana scored only 94 points in their nine Big Ten losses, and 35 of those came in a loss to Maryland. In the other eight, they scored just 59 points — a 7.4 average — dead last in the Big Ten.
Sheridan also had to deal with a severely depleted running backs room. Starter Stephen Carr missed the last four games with an ankle injury suffered in the Nov. 6 game at Michigan, and Sampson James and Tim Baldwin Jr. entered the transfer portal during the season.
Indiana's offensive line was also a mess, struggling to open holes in the running game or protecting quarterbacks.
After two years of progressing in contending in the Big Ten, the 2021 season was a huge step backward for Allen and the Hoosiers, so look for himself to be aggressive in his hiring search, probably the most important of his coaching career. There will certainly be money to spend on a proven play-caller.