It took Tom Allen a little over 12 hours for Indiana to part ways with offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan.
On Sunday morning, Indiana football announced via email that the assistant coach was let go following a need for a “reset” on the offensive side of the ball.
Additionally, Allen had to make some changes to his contract.
“In order to make this change, Allen restructured his current contract,” the email read. “His annual salary will decrease $200,000 each year from 2022-25. Allen’s contract will still run through the 2027 season.”
Listen, there is no need for sugar coating this. There is a reason this happened immediately. You simply couldn’t do worse offensively this season.
There are 130 teams in the NCAA FBS. #IUFB‘s 2021 offense ranked:
124th in total offense
127th in offensive TDs
127th in yards per play
115th in first downs
113th in passing offense
113th in rushing offense
117th in passing yards per completion
118th in winning %
— Chronic Hoosier (@ChronicHoosier) November 28, 2021
Let’s not spend too much time on the past. We know it was bad, and frankly, after watching 12 weeks, I’m tired of talking about it. it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.
So what does bigger and better look like? Let’s take a look at the candidates IU may be looking at:
Kevin Johns (offensive coordinator, Memphis)
This is a guy that I firmly believe should get a solid look for the job. You may remember his name too. Johns was the offensive coordinator at Indiana from 2011 until 2016 when then-new head coach Tom Allen decided to go in a different direction and hire Mike Debord.
Johns led Indiana to having a top-20 offense in 2015 and brought in and developed talents like Nate Sudfeld, Shane Wynn, Jordan Howard, Simmie Cobbs, Tevin Coleman, Jason Spriggs and more.
Since leaving Indiana, Johns had had single-season stops with Western Michigan (33.9 PPG) and Texas Tech under Kliff Kingsbury (37.3 PPG) and since 2019, he has served as the OC at Memphis (32.3 PPG). Clearly, the guy can coach offense.
So what is the problem? It is extremely hard to bring someone back you felt wasn’t meeting the expectations of the program just five years earlier. Clearly, Allen felt he wasn’t the guy then, so what makes him the guy now?
Justin Frye (offensive coordinator, UCLA)
Yes. Another guy who has spent a significant amount of time in Bloomington. Justin Frye played offensive line at IU until his graduation in 2006.
Following two seasons as a grad assistant with the Hoosiers and the Florida Gators in 2007 and 2008, Frye became the offensive line coach at Temple for a year before heading to Boston College where he spent four seasons. In 2018, Frye became the offensive line coach at UCLA for a year before becoming the offensive coordinator in 2019 under Chip Kelley.
According to Pro Football Focus, since Frye took over in 2019, UCLA’s offensive grade has improved each year from 79th in the nation to 48th. In 2021, UCLA only scored fewer than 30 points three times and finished the year with three straight games over 40 points. Additionally, his offensive lines ranked in the top 60 in both pass and run blocking.
So what’s the issue? The PAC-12 is not the Big Ten East the defenses aren’t as impressive and transitioning could be pretty difficult over time. Additionally, Frye probably wouldn’t bring the immediate change that IU would need. Frye would be a two to three-year project but could bring long-term success and a built-in loyalty to IU.
I see this as my most likely candidate to replace Nick Sheridan.
Zach Kittley (offensive coordinator, Western Kentucky)
That’s right. We all knew that we would be talking Western Kentucky following a week 12 loss to Purdue. Especially since that is the last time Indiana football won a game.
We all saw how talented Western Kentucky looked against Indiana in September of this year and they kept that offensive momentum going all season long. The Hilltoppers had the 20th best offensive grade in the country and one of the best pass-blocking offensive lines in the country.
Kittley is in his first season with WKU and has provided an immediate boost. He comes to WKU after two years with Houston Baptist. Before that, Kittley spent time with Texas Tech as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech where he worked closely with NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Kittley is the high risk, high reward candidate in my opinion. What he lacks in experience he makes up for with a record-setting first season and it is up to Allen to decide whether or not that is enough to justify a jump to college football’s hardest division.
Bottom line, this is going to be Allen’s biggest hire yet. You desperately need an offense that will be able to score on a consistent basis. If Allen is unable to find the right guy who can achieve that, his seat will certainly become hotter.