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Tom Allen Hires Mike DeBord And Grant Heard, Retains Shawn Watson

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IU head coach Tom Allen announced major staff changes on Wednesday.
USA Today

Tom Allen's offensive staff seems to be in place.

Allen announced the hiring of Mike DeBord as associated head coach/offensive coordinator/tight ends coach and Grant Heard as passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach on Wednesday. Shawn Watson, who was elevated from quality control coach to quarterbacks coach in December, will continue in that role.

"Mike, Grant and Shawn are men of high character and strong leadership," Allen said in a team release. "They share my philosophies on how to build up and motivate young men. They will get our players to compete at the highest level."

Former offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns and tight ends/fullbacks coach James Patton will no longer be with the program. There's no indication that offensive line coach Greg Frey or running backs coach Deland McCullough will be leaving at this point.

"I would like to thank Kevin Johns and James Patton for their service to Indiana." Allen said. "Kevin is a tremendous coach and a fine person. He has a great family and I want to wish them the very best. I appreciate James and all of his hard work over the past four years. He is another strong coach with a great family. Again, I wish them nothing but the best."

DeBord, who spent the last two seasons as Tennessee's offensive coordinator, comes to Bloomington with 35 years of coaching experience. His has included time as the head coach at Central Michigan University (2000-03), offensive coordinator at the University of Michigan (1997-99, 2006-07), and assistant coach with the Chicago Bears (2010-12) and the Seattle Seahawks (2008-09).

He fits the bill as a run-first coordinator that Allen wants, ranking No. 9 nationally in rushing in the S&P and No. 12 in the passing game. He's ran pro-style offenses with Michigan and spread, up-tempo looks at Tennessee, a credit to his versatility and flexibility as an offensive mind.

"I was looking for a strong, experienced leader to run our offense," Allen said. "I want him to be able to cast a vision for the direction we want to go in the future, be the head coach of the offense and to run that room. I feel like I am getting that with Mike DeBord. He has coached at the highest levels in the Big Ten and the SEC, as well as being in the NFL."

Under DeBord's leadership, Tennessee set single-season records in points and touchdowns last season. The Volunteers finished second in the SEC in scoring offense and were one of just three schools to finish in the top half of their conference in scoring offense, passing offense, rushing offense and total defense.

An offensive lineman in his playing days, DeBord was a four-year starter at Manchester College. The Muncie, Indiana, native was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and his brother, Eric, played for the Hoosiers from 1977-80.

"As a native Hoosier, I am extremely excited about working for Tom Allen and joining the Indiana University football program during one of its most exciting times," DeBord said. "I've been a fan of Indiana Football for a very long time, dating back to when my brother arrived on campus. I have never stopped following the team and look forward to building on its success."

Heard comes to Indiana having just completed his fifth season as wide receivers coach at Ole Miss, where he previously worked with Allen. The two men also worked alongside each other at Arkansas State and Lambuth.

Heard, who coached 2015 Biletnikoff Award finalist Laquon Treadwell and current Indianapolis Colt Donte Moncrief, among others, is widely regarded as one of the most successful receivers coaches in the nation.

"Grant Heard is one of the top wide receiver coaches in the country," Allen said. "He will bring his expertise to the receivers room, a group of very talented players. We are blessed and excited to have him as a part of our family. He will coordinate the passing game and allow us to build off of the strong past that we have created with our ability to throw the football."

Heard is a Houston native and Ole Miss graduate. At Ole Miss, his unit earned the nickname "Receiver U" because of its success on a national scale both on the field and on the recruiting trail.

"To be able to come and work for Tom Allen is an honor for me and my family. I've worked with Tom for a number of years, know what he is all about and believe in what he stands for. I'm ready for a new challenge and to bring a different perspective to the staff."

Watson's retainment provides some continuity in the passing game.

Hired initially by former head coach Kevin Wilson, early reports were that Watson was doing a good job working with rising redshirt senior quarterback Richard Lagow and the other passers. At IU, he'll work only with the quarterbacks after having offensive coordinator experience at Louisville and Texas.

"I look at Shawn Watson as a tremendous mentor of quarterbacks in terms of their physical development, their ability to process and read defenses, and their preparation for the next level. He has a track record of doing that, which is very impressive. Shawn gives us the ability to develop a position that I feel is the most important on the football field."

Watson is apparently already friends with DeBord, which will make their transition even smoother as they start working together. With those two and Heard now in place, Allen's vision for Indiana's offense moving forward seems to have the direction he wants.

"It's an honor to be able to stay here at Indiana with Coach Allen, who in a short period of time I've developed a fondness for his passion and his philosophy," Watson said. "At the same time, I'm really excited to work for Mike DeBord, who is one of my closest and dearest friends in football. We've shared a lot of football over the years and I'm excited to be able to coach with him side by side."