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Written by Amanda Pavelka (@amandapavelka3)
The Hoosier Huddle team will be ranking the position groups for each one of Indiana’s opponents. Today we will outline each one of the offensive lines that the Hoosiers will face in the upcoming season.
Michigan- Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines have stolen Big Ten headlines all preseason long and it is no question they will be the toughest offensive line Indiana will face in the 2019 season. Known for developing multiple offensive linemen who are now in the pros, offensive line coach Ed Warinner will begin his second year at Michigan alongside new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Gattis brings to Ann Arbor a “pro-spread no huddle” system he ran as co-offensive coordinator in his sole 2018 season at Alabama. Last year all five offensive line starters earned all-conference recognition. With four of five offensive lineman returning, experience is not lacking as all four started in all 13 games in the 2018 season. Michigan’s 6’5’’, 320-pound star offensive guard Ben Bredeson is listed on Phil Steele’s Preseason first All-American offensive team and Athlon’s second. All four returning starters are recognized on either first or second Big Ten teams in Steele’s preseason preview. The average size of the starting OL, with 6’7’ 323-pound sophomore Andrew Steuber expected to fill Juwan Bushnell-Beatty’s cleats is 6’5’’, 324 pounds. Phil Steele thinks the Wolverine offensive line is No. 4 in the country and predicts they will defeat Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame at home this year and finally snag the Big Ten title.
Penn State- Even with the loss of two starters to the draft, Penn State looks to be one of the toughest offensive lines Indiana will play against in 2019. James Franklin and the Nittany Lions, with offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, have done an incredible job recruiting talent to University Park the past few years. Their dedication to developing the young players looks like it could pay off with redshirt freshman Rasheed Walker. Walker packed on 19 pounds to his 6’6’’ sturdy frame in the offseason and looks primed to take over the empty left tackle spot last owned by two-time third Big Ten team honoree Ryan Bates. Returning starters in junior center Michal Menet and junior right tackle Will Fries will be led by 6’4’’ 349-pound senior left guard Steven Gonzalez, who made Steele’s preseason second Big Ten team. Assuming sophomore Mike Miranda will start at right guard, the average size of the Lions’ offensive line is 6’5”, 320 pounds. Though a rather young starting offensive line, Steele has Penn State in the top 30 offensive lines in the nation, coming in at No. 28.
Ohio State- Ohio State’s new head coach Ryan Day and a familiar face in offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will come to Memorial Stadium this September being Indiana’s first true test of the 2019 season. Day has a lot of rebuilding to be done on the offensive line, and in his own words, “a lot to prove.” With only one starting offensive lineman returning, a rebuilding efforts are the top priority for offensive line coach Greg Studrawa in Columbus. The Buckeye offensive line boasts leaders in Thayer Munford who is returning to the starting left tackle spot for his junior season, and senior right tackle Branden Bowen who sat out much of 2017 and all of 2018 battling injuries. Having graduate transfer Jonah Jackson at right guard lessens the blow of last season’s key O-line losses. The average size of the Buckeyes’ O-line starters is 6’5’’, 308 pounds. In a year of rebuild, Steele still ranks OSU’s offensive line at 38th in the nation and Athlon has them at No. 4 O-line in the Big Ten, finishing in second in the Big Ten East behind Michigan.
Nebraska- The Huskers have gotten a lot of preseason attention with their improvements made last season in Scott Frost’s first year as head coach of Nebraska. The bar has been set high for sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, who had a monster freshman year, throwing 2,617 yards with 17 touchdowns and another 629 rushing yards, even having to sit out a game with a knee injury. It’s not a question Martinez will come back even better with a year of experience under his belt, and although missing three players, has a returning offensive line that with time, is capable of playing at the same level to back him up. With the loss of RG/C Tanner Farmer, LG Jerald Foster, and C Cole Conrad, the Huskers will rely on LT Brenden Jaimes and RT Matt Farnicok to lead the O-line in an upward fashion. The average size of Nebraska’s offensive linemen is 6’4’’ and 304 pounds. Steele has them at the 40th toughest O-line in the nation.
Michigan State- Head coach Mark Dantonio’s leads the Spartans’ offensive line alongside Brad Salem in his first year as offensive coordinator after being promoted to fix Michigan State’s offensive woes. Injuries plagued last year’s team that landed the Spartans the second worst record (7-6) in the last eight seasons. Luckily for the offensive line, all but one man is headed back to East Lansing more experienced as upperclassmen. Two seniors and three juniors are projected to start in Sparty’s O-line— Jordan Reid begin the only one of the five that was able to start all 13 games in the 2018 season. Steering clear from injuries will be a top priority for Jim Bollman in his first year as offensive line coach. The average size of a Sparty starting offensive lineman is 6’5’’, 306 pounds. Steele has MSU as No. 32 offensive line unit in the country. Expect a more improved offensive line this season, and expect Sparty’s OL to be anything but a cakewalk.
Maryland- Mike Locksley was called to College Park to save the Maryland football program, a tough task after the loss of one of their own last season. The offensive line suffered the worst after the death of one of their own, Jordan McNair, while working out with the team. An entire staff change and is just the beginning of the Terrapins’ journey in rebuilding the program, something that is not expected to happen quickly. The Terps were hit hard with the loss of three starting offensive linemen as well. RG Terrance Davis and LG Sean Christie are the only returning starters, but Jaelyn Duncan did not waste time in his redshirt season— he packed on 32 pounds. Weighing in at 6’5”, 335 pounds the left tackle spots seems to a have filled the position with his young talent and massive frame. The average Maryland OL’s size is 6’3’’, 310 pounds. Steele has faith in the UM O-line rebuild and has them at No. 42 in his top national unit ranks.
Purdue- Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers are at a huge loss on offense going into the 2019 season, and the biggest problem lies in the inexperienced offensive line. The loss of Kirk Barron after three years at Purdue’s center was perhaps their largest loss, and the only players with any real experience are junior LT Grant Hermans and senior RT Matt McCann. The average size of a starting Boiler offensive lineman is 6’5’’ and just under 300 pounds. There’s work to be done on the offensive line in West Lafayette, but do not underestimate the Purdue coaching staff by any means.
Rutgers- Rutgers has struggled with recruiting, talent, and success overall the past few years. It’s no secret that the quarterback position needs the biggest improvement for Rutgers offense to be successful. The undersized offensive line averaging less than 6’4’’, 302 pounds is not to the Knights’ advantage, and neither is losing two in their starting guys. It’s only up from 1-11. Rutgers will be a good home matchup for Indiana coming off their bye week.
Northwestern- Wildcat offense was not at all hot last year, and the offensive line was their weakest link. Kurt Anderson was promoted from quality control analyst to offensive line coach to turn it around in January 2019. Time will tell what Anderson can do with the O-line that is less experienced this year, center Jared Thomas and LT Rashwan Slater being the only starting returners for 2019– Slater being the strongest OL, as he was named first Big Ten team in Steele’s preseason preview. The average size of Northwestern’s OL is 6’4’’ and 294 pounds. Athlon ranks the Wildcats at the very bottom of the Big Ten, while Steele has them tied with Purdue for the weakest offensive line in the conference.
Connecticut- Despite a 1-11 record, Randy Edsall and the Huskies saw overall improvement on the offensive line that they hope to build on with four starters returning from last season. Even with the loss of their starting center, the Huskies are have the second-most experienced offensive line in the American Athletic Conference, only behind USF. With another year of experience under their belt, Connecticut will serve Indiana an easy home matchup before they head to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.
Ball State- The Ball State offense made significant improvements last year coming off of the 2017 injury-plagued season. With all five starters returning, the Cardinals hope to stay healthy and have a crack at a bowl game— an urgent goal to reach with ten of their starting players having maxed out their eligibility by the end of the year. The Cardinals average offensive lineman measures up at 6’4” and 293 pounds. Steele has Ball State’s O-line at No. 4 in the Mid-American conference.
Eastern Illinois- Eastern Illinois’ offensive line is in complete rebuild mode after losing all but one offensive lineman last year. The only returning player on the O-line is redshirt junior Travis Buckwalter. As if it couldn’t be worse, only three starters total will return to EIU this fall. One offensive lineman, Luther Harris, weighs in at 6’6’’ 370 pounds. That being said, the majority of offensive line guys are less than 300 pounds. If Indiana does not dominate EIU, there are major problems.