2015 Positional Preview: Offensive Line

 Redshirt junior Dan Feeney is one of the many talented athletes the hoosiers coaching staff will employ along the offensive line this fall, arguably the best group ever to don the cream and crimson. Image: IUHoosiers.com

Redshirt junior Dan Feeney is one of the many talented athletes the hoosiers coaching staff will employ along the offensive line this fall, arguably the best group ever to don the cream and crimson. Image: IUHoosiers.com

Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)

It’s not really a surprise when I say that the offensive line will be a strength for the Hoosiers, as it has been for the last three seasons. Coach Frey has done a masterful job of molding and making these young men into a formidable force, capable of taking on any defensive front they come up against in the trenches. When injuries attempted to threaten the depth of the group, it was just a case of next man up, the unit barely missing a beat. For the last three seasons the Hoosiers have set numerous offensive records and the guys upfront have been a big reason for that. Whether it was protecting one of the team’s prolific passers or opening up holes for Tevin Coleman, these guys have done it all  and at a high level.

While the team did bid farewell to some talented contributors up front, including senior Ralston Evans, whose career was short due to injuries, the 2015 iteration of the Indiana offensive line has the potential to be the best yet.

2014 Starters
Left TackleLeft GuardCenterRight GuardRight Tackle
10 -Jason Spriggs 6 - Collin Rahrig 6 - Collin Rahrig 12 -Dan Feeney8 - Ralston Evans
1 - Ralston Evans 4 - David Kaminski 4 - Jake Reed4 - Dimitric Camiel
1 - Dimitric Camiel 2 - Jacob Bailey 2 -Wes Rogers

This talented group features at least two NFL prospects, first of which is senior Concord, In. native Jason Spriggs. The talented left tackle has protected the blindside of Hoosier signal callers ever since he first set foot on campus back in 2012. He’s grown up a lot since then, especially physically, as he’s added nearly forty pounds of muscle under the guidance of the Hoosiers excellent strength and conditioning staff. He’s only missed one game in his three seasons at Indiana, starting in 34 and playing 35 of a possible 36 games. During the team’s offseason condition program, Spriggs posted numbers that would have bested many of the top left tackle prospects at this year’s NFL combine in Indianapolis. One of the major keys to this season is keeping senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld clean and that starts with Spriggs. There’s no doubt that he’s up to the task and will once again be standout for the team.

Illinois native Dan Feeney also has future NFL offensive lineman written all over him. In fact, Coach Wilson says he might be the best of the bunch up front. Entering his fourth season with the squad, Feeney looks to continue his excellence at right guard, allowing only one sack in 24 career starts and 1,736 snaps. He’s received numerous accolades as a result of his stellar play, including honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media and coaches (2012) and FoxSportsNext.com/Scout.com Freshman All-America first team member as a true freshman. And after sitting out the 2013 with a foot injury, he rebounded in a big way in 2014 by one again being named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media and coaches. Right guard is once again in good hands with Feeney manning the position.

Outside of Spriggs and Feeney, all the other positions along the offensive line seem to be up for grabs, but fifth-year senior Jake Reed looks to have the inside track at center for the season opener, plugging the hole left by Collin Rarhig. Since last fall Reed has added over 17 pounds, which undoubtedly come in handy when he's lined up across from the likes of Penn State's Anthony Zettel and Ohio State's Adolphus Washington. The Columbus, In. native has also seen action at guard, giving Coach Frey plenty options of where to play this talented, tenured athlete.

The Hoosiers coaching staff toyed around with the idea of playing the mountainous Houston, Texas native Dimitric Camiel at left guard during the spring. The 6’7” 310-pound offensive lineman looked quite comfortable in the role, however, based on what we’ve seen this fall, he is back in the running for the starting right tackle position. He’s played almost exclusively in that position during his time in Bloomington and has proven he is more than capable of excelling in the role.

Left guard, as mentioned, is largely up for grabs and Ohio native Wes Martin looks to be fully entrenched in a battle with a couple other Hoosiers for playing time. Since stepping foot on campus last summer, Martin has continually impressed the staff and his teammates with his performances in the North End Zone weight room. Not a lot is known about Martin other than what we’ve seen in practices and briefly in controlled scrimmages, but I think it’s safe to say he looks to have promising future along the interior of the offensive line for Indiana.

Coming out of spring practice, Indianapolis native Tim Gardner looked to have the inside track at right tackle, as he had seen a majority of the snaps with the first team at the position. However, it looks like he could be in a heated battle with game-tested veteran Camiel. Gardner certainly possesses the necessary size and athleticism to play opposite of Jason Spriggs, but he could very easily slide inside and man the left guard position if the team deems it necessary. His apparent versatility and skill is reason enough to be excited about this athlete’s future in Bloomington.

Providing additional depth at offensive tackle is another redshirt freshman, Delroy Baker. The Florida Native had a plethora of offers to choose from but decided that the Hoosiers were the best fit and was sold on the idea of playing for Coach Frey. Baker added 11 pounds to his 6’6” frame since last fall, now checking in at 306-pounds. In an ideal world Baker is able to grab hold of the number two spot behind Spriggs, allowing the Hoosiers true freshmen an opportunity to redshirt this season. 

DeAndre Herron is another name that we haven’t heard a lot of during the fall, so it will be interesting to see what his role will be this season. He undoubtedly passes the look test of what a Big Ten offensive lineman should look like.  In fact, he actually dropped 17 pounds since last year to increase his flexibility and agility. Entering his fourth season at the collegiate level (two years at Iowa Western and last season redshirting with the Hoosiers), Herron should have a pretty good idea of what it will take to crack the two-deep.

Wes Rogers and Jacob Bailey have logged plenty of snaps for the Hoosiers during their time in Bloomington, as both players are entering their fourth season with the team. Rogers appears to be in contention for the starting position at center, but at the very least will provide experienced depth along the interior of the offensive line. Bailey should also provide depth at both guard positions as long as he can stay healthy this fall.

In addition to the guys mentioned above, the Hoosiers also added four scholarship offensive lineman during this last recruiting cycle. Coach Wilson and Frey have not shied away from playing true freshman in the past if they are physically able to contribute. Both have stated on numerous occasions that Brandon Knight and Simon Stepaniak are candidates for early playing time

Knight, a native of Noblesville, In. checks in at 6’5” and a wiry, by Big Ten standards, 278-pounds. The Hoosiers look to have plenty of options at offensive tackle, but if Knight is one of the top four on the team, there’s a good chance he could see action, especially if there’s an injury early on in the season.

Stepaniak is largely in the same boat. If he cracks the two-deep, he’ll see playing time, otherwise he’s a candidate to redshirt. One thing that the Ohio native has going in his favor is that he already possesses a Big Ten body at 6’4” and 290 pounds.

The Hoosiers other class of 2015 offensive lineman include Hunter Littlejohn and DaVondre Love. The 6’3” 290-pound Littlejohn looks to have future at center for the Hoosiers, but will more than likely redshirt this fall. Love possesses the size a coaching staff would look for at offensive tackle, 6’7” and 305-poounds, but would benefit from a redshirt season to further refine his skills and to continue to develop physically.   

78 Jason Spriggs LT 6-7 305 SR 35 34
67 Dan Feeney OG 6-4 310 RS JR 24 24
77 Dimitric Camiel OT 6-7 310 RS JR 24 5
50 Jake Reed C 6-4 300 RS SR 16 9
70 Jacob Bailey OL 6-5 300 RS JR 12 5
65 Wes Rogers OL 6-4 301 RS JR 11 4
75 DeAndre Herron OL 6-5 308 RS JR Redshirted in 2014
57 Gardner, Tim OL 6-5 300 RS FR Redshirted in 2014
71 Delroy Baker OT 6-6 306 RS FR Redshirted in 2014
76 Martin, Wes OG 6-3 312 RS FR Redshirted in 2014
79 Brandon Knight OT 6-5 278 FR First Season at IU
72 Simon Stapaniak OL 6-4 290 FR First season at IU
52 DaVondre Love OT 6-7 305 FR First season at IU
68 Hunter Littlejohn C 6-3 288 FR First season at IU

As stated above, the Hoosiers have had some outstanding offensive lines the last few seasons, but this group could be the best the team has ever trotted out onto the field, and the drop off between the one’s and the two’s is minimal. Many of the players inline for playing time this fall are versatile and skilled enough to see action along the interior of the offensive line or step outside and play at tackle. Whether they’re focused on keeping the pocket intact for quarterback Nate Sudfeld when he drops back to pass or opening up holes for the Hoosiers running backs, there’s little doubt that this group will go above and beyond the call of duty.