We wrote early in the season about the decline of the Indiana offense. It’s somehow gotten worse.
The charts below represent non-garbage plays against FBS competition. It represents a rolling season where the end of a season reflects that previous season, but the time in the middle is comprised of parts from consecutive seasons. For example, the midpoint in a season would represent the first 50% of plays from that season and the last 50% of plays from the previous season.
Yards per play
A basic measure that is easy to understand and combines both an offense’s ability to steadily pick up yards as well as generate big plays. For reference, YPP above 6.5 is great, between 6.5 and 6 is good, 5.5 is about FBS average, and anything below 5 is quite bad. We’ll call 5.5 YPP “The DeBord Line” in the same way that a .200 batting average (back when those mattered) used to be called “The Mendoza Line.” Anything above The DeBord Line is probably at least a competent offense; anything below is a problem.
The chart starts on the far left with the 2013 offense. Moving right, the middle of 2014 to the middle of 2015 was a rough period for Indiana with Nate Sudfeld missing roughly 8 games with separate injuries. His return against Rutgers in 2015 saw a dramatic increase in the production of Indiana’s offense. Even during those rough patches, however, the offense never dipped below 5.0 and mostly stayed close to The DeBord Line. Following Sudfeld’s departure, Richard Lagow took over and while he originally picked up where Sudfeld left off (with some added INTs), his struggles saw the production of Indiana’s offense taper off. It was during this period where The Kevins (Wilson and Johns) debuted the Bacon N Legs formation in order to kickstart a sputtering offense. That’s right, the Kevins managed to keep their offense above average from a YPP perspective with Zander Diamont and Tyler Natee running things.
Mike DeBord takes over in 2017 and immediately things are rough. Indiana reaches depths not seen since the 2011 season. Lagow is benched and Peyton Ramsey takes over before his injury brings Lagow back in to start. By the end of 2017, IU was down around 4.5 YPP. In 2018, Ramsey takes over and plays well. With the help of RB Stevie Scott the offense is much improved over the 2017 team — all the way to FBS average!! — but still not at the level of The Kevins.
is let go decides to retire so Kalen DeBoer takes over in 2019 along with Michael Penix who ultimately battles multiple injuries throughout the season. DeBoer, Peyton Ramsey (for 2/3 of the season), and Michael Penix (for 1/3 of the season) take Indiana’s offense to levels not seen since late 2015 or early 2016.
Unfortunately for Indiana, this improvement catches the eye of Fresno State so DeBoer heads west to be their head coach and Nick Sheridan takes over. Immediately things plummet towards DeBordian levels which isn’t surprising given his connection to DeBord. Last season ends with Indiana being slightly below average offensively. We were left to wonder whether this was Sheridan learning on the job and we could expect improvement in year 2. After all, DeBord’s offense showed improvement in year 2 after a disastrous year 1. Sadly, this was not the case. Between injuries to 2 quarterbacks and questionable play calling, this season has turned Indiana into a laughingstock offensively. Sheridan’s two-year average YPP is now 4.96, in the “quite bad” category mentioned above.
Going into more detail with both success rate and explosive play rate (defined as rushes of 10+ yards and passes of 15+) clearly the graphs indicate a pattern that shows no sign of improvement.
Explosive Play Rate
If there’s a positive, it’s this. In one season, Kalen DeBoer came in, took an offense that had been between downright bad and below average and made them a solid, respectable, decent unit. He did have the benefit of two solid QBs and certainly the 2022 QB room is up in the air at the moment, but there’s no reason that a coordinator couldn’t come in a make a similar positive improvement in year 1 that DeBoer made.
Perhaps the broader point here is that Coach Allen has hired two offensive coordinators that very much didn’t work, and one that absolutely did. If he can get back to .500 with his next hire, his program can easily get back on an upward trajectory. If he hires a third in the DeBord/Sheridan mold, his once promising tenure will be in serious jeopardy.