Written By Avery Jones
2016 Spring Preview - Offensive Line
Coming into the 2016 season, Indiana University will be missing some of it’s strongest players from this past season. The offensive line is no exception, taking a hard hit from losing key player Jason Spriggs, who has gone from a good three-star high school athlete to a stellar All-American offensive linemen. Spriggs graduated at the end of the 2015 season and will enter the NFL draft expecting to be a possible second round draft pick. However, despite losing Spriggs, we will see the return of Spriggs counterpart, Dan Feeney.
Feeney has started 37 games over the course of his career and only allowed one sack. He earned several honors after the 2015 season, including All-American offensive lineman along with Spriggs. He was a leader to the team both on and off the field, being named a team captain last season and will continue to be a leader into the next season. Feeney was given the option to declare for the NFL draft but decided to stay for his final year. Pete DiPrimio of News Sentinel quoted Feeney saying, “I came to Indiana trying to turn the program around, and I don’t think we’ve got it quite there, yet. We’ve definitely got the work aspect and the standards raised, but we have to get the wins, now. We need to change it around and I think that this year is the year.” Alongside Feeney will be other returning players, some talented redshirt freshmen, and new, promising recruits.
Other returning players (class reflects on start of 2016 season) who will more than likely be seen on the field next year include redshirt senior Dimitric Camiel (77), redshirt junior Wes Rogers (65), redshirt senior Jacob Bailey (70), redshirt sophomore Tim Gardner (57), redshirt sophomore Wes Martin (76), and sophomore Brandon Knight (89). All of these players appeared on the field last season and contributed to Indiana’s total offense which ranked first in the Big Ten.
Dimitric Camiel started all thirteen games last season as right tackle and made a name for himself during big games like Michigan State when he went up against Shalique Calhoun, a star end in the Big Ten. Camiel kept him to just one sack. Tim Gardner may be tough competition for the spot at right tackle and Camiel will have to fight to maintain his position, just as he did last year. Wes Rogers has started at center in the past and appeared in five games last season. Jacob Bailey proved to be a strong left guard last season, starting in the first seven games. He has a shot at being seen again next season beside Feeney if he can prove himself in spring practices. However, Bailey has some tough competition against Wes Martin who started in the first six games last season and then appeared in all thirteen games as a left guard. As for Brandon Knight, while he may have the potential of being moved to tight end, he will be at left tackle in the spring and will be one of the stronger players up front.
In addition to these returning players, we’ll see the return of some strong redshirts who may get the chance to make their debut next season. These players include DaVondre Love (52) — a three star tackle, Hunter Littlejohn (68) — a three-star guard, and Simon Stepaniak (72) — a three star guard. The tackle positions are seemingly deep so Love may struggle to find his way to the field. However, if given the chance he has the size to be a remarkable addition.
Although the line is already deep with the return of most of the players, Indiana football is fortunate to add four strong recruits to their lineup. One key recruit to be on the lookout for is Grayson Stover. Stover is a three-star tackle from Hudson, Florida and happens to be the biggest recruit of the ’16 class, standing at 6’6” and 300 pounds. In addition to his size, Stover shows excellent speed and athleticism that could be the key to his ability to play next season.
Overall, the offensive line is in excellent shape and has every capability to produce the same way it did last season. The line is going to be increasingly important this season due to loss of quarterback Nate Sudfeld and the adjustment of a new quarterback. In order for the offense to have a shot at the yardage they were able to accomplish last season, this line will have to fill in the gap of Spriggs and continue working hard.