Indiana Head Coach Kane Wommack’s Persistence Pays Off With Hiring of Offensive Coordinator Kalen DeBoer

Indiana Head Coach Kane Wommack’s Persistence Pays Off With Hiring of Offensive Coordinator Kalen DeBoer

Kane Wommack knew who he wanted to be the next Indiana offensive coordinator. So, he made that clear to his boss, Tom Allen.

After the interview with the offensive coordinator candidate ended ahead of the 2019 season, Wommack went to Allen, then head coach at Indiana. Wommack didn’t know the offensive coordinator candidate previously, but he knew he wanted him to get the job.

I would be very excited to work with that guy.

That guy? The Fresno State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. A man named Kalen DeBoer.

“(Kane) kind of sensed, as I did, that he was the right one,” Allen told The Tuscaloosa News.

And Wommack was right. After a successful year coordinating the Indiana offense, DeBoer began a meteoric rise as he kept winning. He returned to Fresno State to be the head coach. Then, after two seasons in California, DeBoer became coach at Washington for two seasons. He coached the Huskies to a College Football Playoff championship game appearance days before he was hired to replace Nick Saban as head coach of Alabama football.

Soon thereafter, DeBoer decided to hire Wommack to call the defense. DeBoer knew who he wanted to be the next Alabama defensive coordinator.

“Once we got together on the staff, you could just tell those guys really kind of gravitated toward each other,” said Allen, now Penn State’s defensive coordinator. “It doesn’t surprise me that Kalen hired Kane. To me, that just seems like a great match and a great fit.”

They were a great fit in 2019, their lone season together coaching the Hoosiers. Indiana had a top-45 scoring offense and defense. The Hoosiers went 8-5 and reached the Gator Bowl, Indiana’s best finish since 1993.

Also part of that staff: David Ballou, Alabama’s director of sports performance, and William Inge, who is reported to be joining Alabama’s defensive coaching staff.

Simply put, the 2024 Crimson Tide’s staff has roots that stem from Bloomington, Indiana. Allen, the coach to whom that tree belongs, recently shared some of his memories of DeBoer and Wommack with The Tuscaloosa News.

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A second attempt at Kalen DeBoer

The first time Allen offered DeBoer the Indiana offensive coordinator job, DeBoer declined.

Fresno State had been telling DeBoer that if he stayed one more year, he would be the next head coach. So DeBoer had good reason not to leave California. Allen countered that idea, though. Allen argued that if DeBoer took the Indiana job and crushed it, he could go back and be head coach at Fresno State. That job would be waiting for him. Plus, DeBoer hadn’t been in the Big Ten before, and adding that to his resumé would add value. So it became part of Allen’s pitch.

He wasn’t ready to take no for an answer.

“I had to come back,” Allen said. “I just knew he was the guy, and I did not let up. I went at him again. I just persisted until I got him.”

Why the persistence? Allen had heard good things, actually great things, from people he trusted. Allen knew some coaches on the Southern Illinois staff, where DeBoer worked from 2010-2013 as offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach. Next, DeBoer went to Eastern Michigan for three seasons, where he was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Allen knew that staff even better. Allen was especially close with Chris Creighton, his former boss at Wabash and Drake. Allen didn’t have to dig for references. He already had plenty in his phone.

None resonated more than the endorsement from former Eastern Michigan defensive coordinator Neal Neathery.

“He told me (Kalen) was the best offensive coordinator he had been around,” Allen said. “Just thought he was the best play-caller, understood how to set things up, just the timing of his calls.”

Creighton, an offensive guy, felt the same way.

“I trusted their knowledge of football, and they were super high on him,” Allen said. “Then when I got him, those things proved to be very accurate.”

The Hoosiers finished No. 42 among FBS teams in scoring offense that season, averaging 31.8 points per game. The season before DeBoer arrived, Indiana averaged 26.4 points per game and ranked No. 88.

“I feel like he, no matter how tense the game was, no matter the situation, he was just very, very, everything’s under control,” Allen said. “Never got flustered.”

Kane Wommack learned patience

Wommack couldn’t see it at first, but Allen was trying to help him.

The future South Alabama head coach wanted to be Indiana’s defensive coordinator when he joined the staff in 2018. Allen, however, wanted Wommack to wait a season before running the defense.

But Wommack had defensive coordinator experience; he had filled that spot at South Alabama and Eastern Illinois the four seasons prior to landing in Bloomington. So he pushed back on it when Allen only wanted him to be linebackers coach.

“Once he kept pushing and pushing, I finally said, ‘Kane, I’m trying to help you,’” Allen said. “’Let me try to help you.’”

Wommack was young, ambitious and frankly capable. But Allen wanted to set Wommack up for success. Allen expected the defense to take a dip that season, having lost good, experienced players to graduation. The young players had promise, but they were young and needed experience.

“I didn’t want all that be thrown on him because he would probably get blamed for it,” Allen said. “So I was kind of protecting him.”

Allen wanted the best for Wommack, someone he had known for years, going back to their time together on the Ole Miss staff. Allen was an assistant coach in Oxford from 2012-2014, and Wommack served as a graduate assistant from 2012-2013.

After a season as a linebackers coach at Indiana, Wommack took over the defense. He ran it from 2019-2020, and the Hoosiers finished No. 45 nationally in scoring defense the first season before jumping up to No. 20 in 2020.

“Just loved his creativity,” Allen said. “When he took over, I felt like he kind of put his own personality on it within the system. That was the benefit of having him.”

Nick Kelly is the Alabama beat writer for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network, and he covers Alabama football and men’s basketball. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him @_NickKelly on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter.

2024-02-10 01:32:17
#Kalen #DeBoer #Kane #Wommack #Indiana #connection


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