Kalen DeBoer’s offense is far from a finished product.
Indiana held its spring game on Friday night, marking the first time the Hoosiers’ new-look offense was on display. It probably wasn’t quite the debut that DeBoer was hoping for, with dropped passes, miscommunications and turnovers coming by the handful. IU’s scrimmage was anything but smooth for the offense.
Despite all the glitches, there were signs throughout the night that DeBoer’s scheme will produce results in Bloomington.
At times, Indiana’s offense was downright ugly. Keep in mind, though, that the Hoosiers are still learning a brand new system under a brand new coordinator. Receiver Nick Westbrook, quarterback Jack Tuttle and a few key offensive lineman were on the sidelines, too. Offense is usually a step behind during the spring, and when you throw those factors into the equation, it’s understandable that the Hoosiers struggled.
So, why exactly is there reason for optimism moving forward?
DeBoer didn’t show everything on Friday night, but it’s pretty clear that he’s going to utilize Indiana’s playmakers and attempt to convert on more explosive plays throughout the season. He’s not afraid to let the ball fly down the middle of the field, either.
The most successful play of the night came on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Ramsey to Ty Fryfogle down the middle. Fryfogle beat his man and a defender bit on Ramsey’s pump fake, leading to the score.
— Indiana Football (@IndianaFootball) April 12, 2019
Receiver Donovan Hale was also a big target in the passing attack throughout the night, serving as the go-to guy with Westbrook on the sideline. Those two guys — along with Fryfogle and Whop Philyor — are all capable of helping the Hoosiers stretch the field through the air.
DeBoer wants to utilize the talent he’s got at the skill positions and cater the offense to their strengths, at least to some degree.
Indiana also operated at a quick pace on Friday night, taking advantage of gassed defenders and attempting to catch players out of position. Throughout the game, the offense was able to create space for receivers and pick up chunks of yardage with defenders scrambling. It was especially useful inside the red zone, when the Hoosiers seemed to push the tempo even faster, creating easier scoring opportunities.
Red zone efficiency is a huge key heading into next season for DeBoer’s offense. Last fall, the Hoosiers’ turned just 25 of their 44 red zone trips into touchdowns. The 56.8 conversion percentage ranked 12th in the B1G and 104th nationally.
Finishing drives has been a focal point this spring in Bloomington. Targeting playmakers and speeding up tempo inside the 20 might be the perfect remedy for those woes.
Regardless of your general takeaway from Friday night’s spring game, it was clear to see that DeBoer is implementing a scheme and mindset that can benefit Indiana’s offense. The playbook is diverse but the strategy seems relatively simple: get the ball to the best players and take advantage of what the defense gives you. Those aren’t things the Hoosiers have been able to do consistently the last two years.
Obviously, IU has to clean up some of the muck moving forward, most of it simple errors. There were several dropped passes, throws into coverage and failing to secure the football. Those are the mistakes that must be corrected before the start of the season.
Indiana’s offense wasn’t in pristine condition on Friday night, but it didn’t have to be. Spring is all about learning new concepts and working out some of the kinks. When the Hoosiers put it all together, they’ll be capable of putting a lot of points on the board.
For now, though, DeBoer’s offense is still a work in progress.