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New Indiana football Offensive Coordinator Mike Shanahan wants ‘to be able to attack all areas of the field’

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New Indiana football offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan appeared on the newest episode of Under the Hood with Indiana Football. (James Madison Athletics)

New Indiana football offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Shanahan’s appearance on the latest episode of Under the Hood with Indiana Football gave some insight into what to expect from him and the new-look offense in 2024.

Before he began coaching, Shanahan played wide receiver at Pitt, where he was a four-year letter winner and two-time captain. In 2o12, he earned second-team All-Big East after 62 grabs for 983 yards and six touchdowns.

During his time at Pitt, Shanahan dealt with multiple coaching changes so he has an understanding of what the returning Indiana players are going through.

“As a player, I went through three different head coaching changes,” Shanahan said on Under the Hood with Indiana Football. “I can empathize with all the different feelings and the unknown of what kind of offense we’re gonna run.”

Shanahan emphasized that he wants to make sure his guys know that he has been in their shoes and he understands the difficulties that come with adjusting to a new coach.

As spring ball approaches, Shanahan shared his excitement to work with some of the returning coaches as he and head coach Curt Cignetti implement their offensive scheme.

“We’re looking forward to the process of installing our core offense of what we’re bringing from JMU,” Shanahan said. We are going to make sure we blend it as best we can with what coach (Bob) Bostad is used to as the offensive line coach. He’ll have a big say in the run game and we were really fired up that we were able to keep him.”

When the previous staff brought Bostad to Bloomington from Wisconsin it was a massive hire for a program desperately in need of improvement up front. His track record and proven success made it no surprise when Cignetti elected to keep him in Bloomington.

“Coach Bostad’s reputation as a coach precedes him. When we got here I knew of coach and had a lot of respect for him from a distance,” Shanahan said. “… Just excited to be able to work with a guy of his reputation and resume.”

Shanahan shared his vision for what he wants to see from the offense and the wide receiver core.

“We want to be able to attack all areas of the field. Do it horizontally, vertically,” Shanahan said. “And that is something that whether it’s our slot receiver outside receivers. We’re going to cross-train those guys to do as much as they can out from all areas in spots on the field.”

Shanahan wants to build a high-powered offense that can spread the field, like his offenses at James Madison. In 2023, JMU finished 20th in the FBS in passing yards per game, averaging 284.8 yards per game.

Indiana football has consistently struggled to score points in past years and Shanahan will be looking to change that. His offense at James Madison averaged 34.1 points per game last season which was 23rd in the nation.

A big strength heading into the season is the wide receiver core of Indiana football. Indiana was able to keep Donaven McCulley while also adding key transfers like Elijah Sarratt who followed Shanahan from James Madison to Indiana.

Last season, Sarratt had an explosive season for the Dukes where he finished with 82 receptions for 1,191 yards and eight touchdowns. Sarratt finished the season with four straight 100+ yard games and he was named an All-Sun Belt selection in 2023.

Shanahan had a lot of praise for Donaven McCulley, who chose to come back to Bloomington after entering the portal, despite offers from Michigan, Penn State, Kentucky, Texas A&M, UCLA, Mississippi State, Nebraska and others.

“I just saw a big long guy who can stretch the field vertically. He can make tough catches,” Shanahan said about McCulley. “He has all the ability to run all the different routes. Then you meet the kid. He’s got a big-time smile on his face all the time. He’s got a great personality, just gives off very positive energy and that was like okay this is another reason why we really want this guy to come back.

With McCulley and Sarratt leading the way, Shanahan will be working with a talented and versatile group in his first year with Indiana football, including another trio of wideouts they added from the portal in Myles Price, Miles Cross and Ke’Shawn Williams. That trio adds 4,437 career receiving yards to an already talented group.

“I’ve always kind of viewed our receiver room as a basketball team to some degree. You want to have your point guards or your slots you want to have your power forwards and centers,” Shanahan said. “Some guys who can do a little bit of both, your shooting guards and three-guards. So I feel like we did accomplish that kind of bringing in guys with some different traits that will be able to help us in different ways.”

The talented depth of the position group will mean Shanahan will have some decisions to make regarding the wide receiver depth chart. While he likely has some ideas, he was adamant that the depth chart will work itself out and the guys will solidify themselves in the offense.

“As we continue to work with them on the field, I think that stuff will play itself out. Who’s playing where, how we’re going to move guys around,” Shanahan said about the wide receivers.” But I do think that one of the things that we always take pride in as coaches is utilizing each guy’s skill set to the best of their ability.”

Shanahan also spoke about the quarterback room, which boasts both some new and old faces, as Tayven Jackson returned while Cignetti and Shanahan added freshmen QBs Tyler Cherry and Alberto Mendoza. They also added an experienced transfer as sixth-year quarterback Kurtis Rourke joined the Hoosiers from Ohio University.

“It’s about putting the work in. These guys are all going to study, they are going to be prepared. Just making the most of every rep they have between now and all the way through the season,” Shanahan said about the QB room.”… Every rep is going to count. We obviously have some guys that have some experience that are going to be in the room, then we have some younger guys coming in.”

With the mix of faces both new and old, Shanahan and Cignetti will have their work cut out for them as they work to develop their quarterbacks and choose a starter.

Despite being focused on football and building a strong offense, Shanahan emphasized that he wants to be more than a coach to his players.

“I just want to be someone that’s gonna be a resource for them, from the time we start working together to whenever it ends,” Shanahan said. “That’s kind of why I do it, but competition definitely wakes me up every day. When my feet hit the floor I’m ready to go.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Indiana could shock some in the Big Ten’: Where Indiana football ranks in way-too-early Big Ten standings

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for HoosierIllustrated.com and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew graduated from Indiana University's Sports Media program in 2024.

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