Losing a coach is so much more than what happens on the field. There’s a relationship there, one that’s been built since a player was in high school and getting letters, phone calls and visits from that coach.
Rod Carey gets that, and he’s making sure to keep that in mind as he enters his new role as Indiana football’s interim offensive line coach and run game coordinator.
“Those are real relationships and those are real people with families,” Carey said in an introductory press conference Monday.
Head coach Tom Allen made the decision to part ways with Darren Hiller, Indiana’s previous offensive line coach, following the Hoosiers’ loss to Michigan this past Saturday. Allen elected to inform the offensive line in person on Sunday afternoon prior to the press release being sent out.
The group was emotional for obvious reasons, Hiller had been there for most of them since before they set foot on Indiana’s campus for the first time.
“They love Coach Hiller, I love Coach Hiller,” Allen said. “They took it personal in a good way. You know what, they know it’s about accountability, those guys stepping up, challenging them to be able to rise up as a group, to be able to play for each other.”
Carey, a former head coach at Northern Illinois and Temple, steps into Hiller’s role with caution. He knows Hiller and how Indiana’s offensive linemen cared for their former position coach, saying that it’s a difficult situation to be in.
But Carey, a former Hoosier offensive lineman himself, wouldn’t feel right stepping in for just anyone. He only feels comfortable doing so under Allen here at his alma mater, he said.
“Getting to know him [Allen] has been one of the pleasures of my coaching career,” Carey said. “He’s as genuine as they come.”
When it comes to on-field performance, Carey didn’t mince words. He sees a lot of intelligence from the position group, but the execution just hasn’t been up to the level of a Big Ten offensive line.
There’s only so much that he can do in-season, especially with a game against Maryland coming up on Saturday.
“This isn’t a wave your magic wand and everything is better situation,” Carey said. “I’m certainly not a miracle worker, but I know this. I’m gonna try.”
Carey is stepping into a room full of players he didn’t recruit that he has very little relationship with. He’s keeping that in mind as he adjusts to the new role.
There will be differences, especially in regard to the group’s fundamentals, Carey said. But they aren’t going to change up the scheme during the season. There’s simply not much he can do to drastically alter their play this season.
That’s especially true of the offensive line, where conditioning and offseason development are paramount to the unit’s on-field performance. He’ll do what he can, but don’t expect some huge turnaround because that simply isn’t within the realm of possibility.