clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Indiana’s 2017 potential will mirror Richard Lagow’s progression. That could be, uh, fun!

New, 4 comments

Indiana football’s set for perhaps the best season in decades. The biggest question mark lies at quarterback, but with Lagow’s physical tools it could turn into a strength in Bloomington.

NCAA Football: Foster Farms Bowl-Indiana vs Utah Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Should Indiana fans have faith in Richard Lagow?

No, probably not.

Do they have to?

Yes.

The quarterback position is arguably one of the most dynamic roles in any sport. Looking quite simply at reliance, it’s hard to find a position more valuable to success. You can consider the goalie in Hockey or potentially a pitcher in baseball, but no matter what you have to come to appreciate how valuable a quarterback is in regards to a team’s success.

The position is so vital and complex, yet for Indiana fans the mentality heading into this season should be rather simple. So, I’ll reiterate it.

Should Indiana fans have faith in Richard Lagow?

No, probably not.

Do they have to?

Yes.

Yeah it’s a harsh sentiment, but it’s true.

Last season, Richard Lagow didn’t do much to fortify Indiana Football fans’ confidence in any way, shape or form. His struggles were anxiety inducing and agitating. His accuracy fluctuated, decision making felt consistently erratic, and his reliance upon an initial read became predictable.

Arguably the most frustrating part of his performances, were the glimpses of talent. The hints of down field passing and pocket presence that could make him an elite quarterback. That was the most frustrating aspect of his season. This undeniable potential that made him dominate a JUCO highlight tape prior to his recruitment. This potential that fueled excitement as he approached campus prior to the season. This potential, that is most importantly still there.

To put it simply, Richard Lagow made it very difficult to trust him last season and in turn made it difficult to trust him moving forward. With that said, in the face of difficulty, Indiana fans have to try to trust him somewhat now. Trust him, and the new regime around him to mold this evident potential.

There are facets to Lagow’s game that another year under his belt and proper coaching could help to develop in a way that can alleviate Indiana’s issues offensively. And looking at how vital he is to this team, every fan is going to have to rally around those facets.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

When I say Richard Lagow is vital to this team, that might be short-selling things. His value looms larger then even just this team at this point. His value speaks to a pivotal moment in the program’s history. Lagow’s importance relies on the understanding that this Indiana Football team could be the one that pushes the Hoosiers to the next step in its progression towards relevance.

Lagow might be one of the single most important players to play football at Indiana, because he ultimately holds the key to the program escaping mediocrity and ascending to a level of relevancy driven by a season with more than six wins.

Lagow is the key to Indiana’s success, because the Hoosiers are returning an incredibly talented team around him and can’t afford to waste that talent.

Defensively, Indiana is returning a potentially elite secondary centered around Rashard Fant, Jonathon Crawford, A’shon Riggins, and Marcelino Ball. Indiana is also bringing back one of the best all-around players in the Big Ten in Tegray Scales. Offensively, Lagow is surrounded by some of the Hoosiers best skill position players in the past decade with Nick Westbrook and Simmie Cobbs. The talent is all there, so it just all comes down to Richard Lagow and his ability to develop.

So, Indiana fans have to find a way to trust him. There isn’t much else they can do. An incredible defense can only carry you so far.

Now, it would be incredibly mean of me to write an entire piece on needing to trust Richard Lagow, and not mentioning all of the reasons that you can still have faith in him. I can’t just say, “Lagow has potential” and then run away from this piece like a cynical bandit.

If Lagow is going to take this next step in his development, he’s going to need someone to mold him. He’s going to need someone to talk him through his decision-making issues and put him in situations to properly utilize his cannon of an arm.

Insert new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. A man that recently left his role as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee to come coach at Indiana. A man that has had percieved failures and bland offenses as a coach, but also great successes. Most importantly, those great successes have come when he served in the role of being an offensive coordinator.

DeBord served as an offensive coordinator two times in his career. From 1997 to 1999 at the University of Michigan, and from 2015 to 2016 at Tennessee. So, let’s dive into what he was able to do with the quarterback position.

Before becoming the offensive coordinator at Michigan in 1997, DeBord served as Michigan’s offensive line coach. In ’96, the Wolverines finished with an 8-4 record and the quarterback play was remarkably mediocre according to sports-reference.com:

Michigan’s quarterback play in 1996
sports-reference.com

After that “meh” season in 1996, Mike DeBord took over as offensive coordinator and, well, Michigan won a National Championship. The Wolverines went undefeated with Brian Griese at the helm, and with the help of Mike DeBord, Michigan’s offense was completing approximately 8% more of their pass attempts.

Michigan’s quarterback play in 1997
sports-reference.com

This trend continued into DeBord’s next two seasons as the Wolverines won 10 games in 1998 and ’99 thanks to improved quarterback play.

Michigan’s Quarterback Play in 1998
sports-reference.com
Michigan’s quarterback play in 1999
sports-reference.com

After Debord’s clear success with the program, he moved on to become a head coach at Central Michigan. Looking at his tenure holistically, the biggest improvement at Michigan has to be something Hoosier fans harp on. DeBord succeeded thanks to improved decision making from his quarterbacks, and this obviously highlights one of the biggest keys to focus on with Richard Lagow.

Of course, you can’t simply give all the credit to DeBord because he did have Brian Griese and Tom Brady. To say the increase in talent level at the position didn’t help Michigan’s offense would be silly, but it isn’t everything.

Having a talent like Tom Brady is a unique variable in analyzing DeBord’s success with quarterbacks, but his success later on in his career with Tennessee can help to prove that his Michigan years weren’t a fluke.

DeBord became the offensive coordinator at Tennessee in 2015 and the year before he took over the quarterback play was once again “meh”:

Tennessee’s quarterback play in 2014
sports-reference.com

In the next two years, DeBord turned Josh Dobbs into a leader who could throw for 27 touchdowns in a season. DeBord turned Dobbs into an NFL quarterback and a great deal of that has to do with his system.

Tennessee’s quarterback play in 2015
sports-reference.com
Tennessee’s quarterback play in 2016
sports-reference.com

Richard Lagow needs an offense that is simple. With the arm strength he has and the talent around him, why complicate things. This was the issue last year. Last year it was noticeable that a great deal of plays lacked any safety valve. There were times when Lagow needed a check down, and never had one. Now is the time for that to change. Now is the time for Mike DeBord to instill confidence in his quarterback and put him in a position to succeed. Now is the time to have faith that this will all come to fruition, no matter how reluctant that faith may be.

Richard Lagow will be the quarterback of this team in week one and there is no question about it. Peyton Ramsey and Nick Tronti aren’t battling for this job and probably aren’t touching the field. Over the past few months, Lagow has developed into an unquestioned leader of the team that finds himself on multiple preseason watch lists. He’s quite simply, “The Guy”, and that sentiment will require blind faith.

Come January, we could realistically be talking about how Richard Lagow led Indiana to its first eight win season since 1993. Or, we could be talking about a talented man that never seemed to reach his full potential after a five win season and a bunch of chaos. It's in his hands and it's viable either way. Just know it's all on him, so have your faith.

Have your faith, because that’s part of the beauty of sports. Before a ball is snapped, hopeful optimism is always welcome, and ultimately it can be what drives you.