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An old friend of the program is coming back to IU

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It’s official: Deland McCullough is returning to IU as running backs coach

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Penn State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The man who brought Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard to Bloomington — and then helped turn them into NFL running backs once they arrived — is on his way back to Indiana.

IU announced Monday that Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough is returning to the program — and his old job — after back-to-back Super Bowl appearances on Andy Reid’s staff. McCullough will also add the title of associate head coach.

“The opportunity to return to IU in this role is very special to me and my family for a host of reasons,” McCullough said in a statement. “Coach Allen has done an amazing job of galvanizing and advancing the program’s culture, which has been displayed by success on the field. I welcome the challenges and glory of being a part of helping Indiana Football win championships. I have been fortunate to have won a championship on the ultimate stage in the NFL, and I know what it looks like and how it feels. I believe that Indiana University is primed to not only CHASE, but to capture championships in football, and I can’t wait to contribute.”

Yeah, this is big.

First of all, McCullough is a heck of a coach, proving as much as during his six seasons on Kevin Wilson’s staff. With McCullough mentoring the backfield, IU running backs broke 19 school rushing records from 2011 to 2016, with Coleman (2015) and Howard (2016) becoming the first Indiana backs to be drafted in consecutive years since 1992.

Then, there’s the recruiting boost he would provide Indiana — again. After Coleman’s 2,000-yard, All-American season in 2014, McCullough’s growing reputation as a talent developer influenced Howard to transfer to Indiana after UAB dissolved its football program. Now, after back-to-back Super Bowl trips with the Chiefs, McCullough would add intriguing NFL bona fides to IU’s staff. On the recruiting trail, his resume will be noticed.

There’s also the possibility that McCullough’s return to the college ranks could sway his son, Dasan, to play for Indiana. Currently, Dasan is a four-star prospect who committed to Ohio State in August. 247 Sports ranks Dasan as the No. 6 athlete and the No. 54 overall player in the 2022 recruiting class.

McCullough and IU coach Tom Allen, then the Hoosiers’ defensive coordinator, worked together under Wilson in 2016. McCullough worked at USC in 2017 before joining the Chiefs in 2018.

“I could not be happier to welcome Deland, his wife Darnell, and the McCullough family back home to Bloomington,” Allen said in a statement. “Deland’s a first-class person that has gone on to do great things in the NFL. He has won a Super Bowl, worked with a Hall of Fame coach and helped develop some of the most dynamic players and offenses in football. I cannot wait to bring his winning mindset to our program.”

McCullough fills the position vacated last month by Mike Hart, who took a similar role at Michigan, his alma mater. McCullough is also the second staffer Allen has brought in from the NFL after hiring former New York Giants strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman last spring.

That right there is as much of a barometer of IU’s program health under Allen as anything. Skilled and coveted football people want to work for him, and in McCullough’s case, leave a seemingly good thing at the highest level in order to do so.