BLOOMINGTON -- When it comes to Indiana’s new-is-old football offense, the key is as it always is:
You’ve gotta have a good quarterback.
Case in point -- Clemson. The Tigers won the national title for a lot of reasons, but if it wasn’t for DeShaun Watson, it wasn’t happening.
So if the Hoosiers want to return to leading-the-Big-Ten-in-offense form, they have to have outstanding quarterback play.
Enter Shawn Watson, the man most responsible for elevating the position’s Cream ‘n Crimson play.
He’s the new quarterbacks coach with a world of experience. He’s been the offensive coordinator at Colorado, Nebraska, Louisville and Texas. At Louisville he helped develop quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who became a NFL first-round pick for the Minnesota Vikings.
Now he has to develop Hoosier talent.
“We call him the quarterback professor,” head coach Tom Allen said. “He does a great job of dissecting and teaching.
“We need that because quarterback is the most important position on the field.”
At least for now, Watson has three main quarterbacks to work with -- last year’s starter Richard Lagow, and freshmen Peyton Ramsey and Austin King, who have never played in a college game.
“I have to do a good job of building our offense around them,” Watson said.
Lagow was OK as a first-time Hoosier starter this past season, but IU needs more than that to finally break the winning-record barrier. It’s made a bowl game two straight seasons, but finished 6-7 both times. It hasn’t had a winning record since 2007.
Lagow threw for 3,362 yards, which was good, but had 17 interceptions against 19 touchdown passes, which was not so good. He also competed just 57.8 percent of his passes. Coaches would like a quarterback’s accuracy at 65 percent or higher.
But all of that was under former coach Kevin Wilson’s system. Now Lagow must learn the ways of offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who will tweak the Hoosiers’ uptempo, spread attack to generate a more consistent rushing attack and more efficient red-zone scoring.
Watson worked with Lagow during last month’s bowl preparations in the aftermath of Wilson’s unexpected resignation. Watson was promoted to quarterbacks coach from offensive quality control coach.
“Richard is a blank slate in a lot of regards,” he said. “I have a good feel for what he needs to develop. He has to continue to learn how to manage a game, improve his decision making. Just how to handle situational football. Peyton and Austin will have the same learning curve as far as situational management.
“Richard has the arm talent to take him to next level. He has to detail his game. Austin can make the room better by understanding where he is at. He needs to make the room competitive now. Peyton he is smart, tough, dependable. He’ll study the game and do what Coach (DeBord) asks him to do. Peyton and Austin have futures ahead of them.”
Could that future start next season?
This much is certain. The best guy will start. Nothing will be given. Everything will be earned.
“That room has to be the most competitive room on the team,” Watson said. “If that room is right, the whole team is right.
“They need to continue to learn the game, learn how to be efficient on the field. It’s about betting the offense in their blood. Know when to and when not to. Know how to and how not to.”
Watson also will be instrumental in recruiting new quarterbacks. He has connections in most of the major cities in Texas, plus Dayton, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago.
“I’ve always chased national quarterbacks wherever I’ve been,” he said.
“I’m looking for a guy who has the ability as a passer. Who can get himself out of trouble. Who has the ability to run. It’s about finding the pedigree, makeup and character.”
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