Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The Indiana Hoosiers sported two All-Americans along the offensive line in 2015 and return one of them, Dan Feeney, as well as some other veterans like Jacob Bailey and Dimitric Camiel in 2016. But it is the young talent and the job that coach Greg Frey does on and off the field and the line will be a strength for years to come. Young talent, who just a year ago were, "playing XBox, or running track or playing intramural basketball." Frey said, "now you have coach Frey, It’s new for them. You’re seeing them acclimate. Its really the finish of the first college year, but the beginning of next season."
Spring practice is a great chance for players like Hunter Littlejohn, Simon Stepaniak, Brandon Knight, and DeVondre Love to get the reps they did not see during the season. So what does coach Frey want to see out of his young players as they finish up spring practice on April 15th?
"Right know we’re focusing on how to practice. Trying to be sound, trying to do the right things, but trying to figure out how to approach a practice, how to practice. You know, the way we approach it, this is the beginning of the season. What we’re doing is trying to figure out where we are where we need to get to, what are strengths and weaknesses are, and attack it in the summer. Were still in the finding phase, where we are like hey, some guys are stronger than they were in the fall, some guys are better than they were in the fall. Were still trying to figure out what the right chemistry is."
One player that Indiana saw on the field last season, as a freshman, was Brandon Knight. While played mostly tight end and even caught a touchdown in the Old Oaken Bucket Game. he has a firm hold on the left tackle position on this year's squad. Frey joked, that like any young player Knight has been inconsistent. "He does some really good things, he does some things that make you miss Jason." He also added that despite being so young Knight has, "the mentality of the room that Jason and Dan and Dimitric, Jacob Bailey and Will Matte before him, that’s there. Brandon is part of that culture."
Another young offensive lineman, who has played all over the line is Tim Gardner. Frey said, "Timmy is an athletic player. He’s still learning our system. He's capable of playing left tackle, right tackle, played some right guard today. He’s an important part of our group. We’re really trying to accelerate him and get him to develop into the player that we want him to be." Gardner played in 11 games last fall came to IU from the Milford Academy where he was teammates with tight end Jordan Fuchs after originally signing with Ohio State.
The two other highly anticipated freshman coming into spring ball was Simon Stepniak and Hunter Littlejohn, both of whom got reps at center on Tuesday. The coaching staff cannot have enough depth at the position. "They worked in there. Really, Wes Rogers and Dan Feeney, Jacob Bailey, are guys that could snap." Frey said. "You got five guys for next year, and we’ll teach some of the signees as well. You really want handful of guys for that position, because you gotta get the ball to the quarterback. If injuries happen or a bomb goes off, you better have an answer. Try to get as many ready and you can."
Once again the Indiana offensive line will be a strength on which they could lean on. The last five practices of the spring will be focused on what the line needs to work on heading into summer workouts and fall camp.
Indiana plays its annual spring game on April 15th at 7pm in Memorial Stadium. You can follow us on Twitter @Hoosier_Huddle for all your Indiana Football updates.