Spring Preview: Offensive Line

Despite the loss of a couple of key contributors, the offensive line should once again be an area of strength for the Hoosiers offense in 2015. Photo Credit - Nick Holmes

Despite the loss of a couple of key contributors, the offensive line should once again be an area of strength for the Hoosiers offense in 2015. Photo Credit - Nick Holmes

Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)

The oft overlooked and unheralded heroes that labor in the trenches, the offensive line is tasked with opening up running lanes and keeping the quarterback upright. They perform their duties in near obscurity, typically only drawing attention to themselves when a play falls apart or if they commit a penalty. During Kevin Wilson’s time in Bloomington the Hoosiers offensive line has been one of the more consistent groups on the team, despite injuries challenging its depth.

The big guys up front, who are coached by Greg Frey, opened up holes for a ground game that set a single-season school record in 2014 with 3,163 rushing yards. The offensive line has also been more than adequate in pass protection, only allowing a sack every 26.1 pass attempts in 2013 and 31.8 in 2012, which was best in the Big Ten that season. Coach Frey has been successful with players that were mostly unheralded out of high school. Take for example the 2011 recruiting class that included Peyton Eckert, Ralston Evans, David Kaminski, and Bernard Taylor . All four players contributed considerably when not sidelined by injuries, however, between them just had two other Power Five offers coming out of high school.

Now with just 10 days until spring practice, we will take a closer look at who the Hoosiers will have to replace and who they have returning on the offensive line.

The Departed

Collin Rahrig C 6-2 285 40 36
Bernard Taylor OG 6-2 300 27 25
Peyton Eckert OT 6-6 290 24 18
David Kaminski OG 6-4 295 17 9

The Hoosiers see the departure of four contributors along the offensive line, mostly notably former walk-on Collin Rahrig. The South Bend, Indiana native was a stalwart along the interior of the offensive line during his time in Bloomington, starting at center 19 times, at left guard 12 times, and at right guard five times, while appearing in 40 games overall. After a strong senior campaign Rahrig was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by both the media and the coaches. Prior to his senior season he was named to the Rimington Trophy Watchlist and was selected a team captain, so his absence will be felt both on and off the field.

In addition to Rahrig, the Hoosiers bid farewell to three members of the 2011 class, Eckert, Kaminski, and Taylor. All three leave with a year of eligibility remaining, deciding to forgo their final seasons for various reasons. Each contributed to the Hoosiers offensive success when not sidelined by injuries, each starting and playing in multiple games.

Future Outlook

The good news for the Hoosiers entering 2015 is that they return 44 of 60 starts along the offensive line, including all 12 at left tackle, right tackle, and right guard. That leaves both left guard and center up for grabs entering the spring. The competition will be heated, as the Hoosiers return multiple, experienced options at those positions, in addition to bringing the talented 2014 class into the fold.

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

Senior-to-be Jason Spriggs has been a constant at left tackle for the Hoosiers the last three seasons, starting in 34 and playing in 35 games during that time. He recorded 45 knockdowns, allowed just two sacks in 689 snaps and was honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media in 2014. During his first season on campus he led the team in knockdowns with 80 while only giving up two sacks in 961 snaps, and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches. He earned the same accolade after a strong sophomore season in 2013. His combination of size, 6-foot-7, 300-pounds, and athleticism has landed him on the radar of many NFL scouts.

The Hoosiers received some good news when offensive tackle Ralston Evans announced the he would be returning for his fifth season. The Indianapolis native has spent a majority of his playing career starting opposite of Spriggs. In 2014 he played in nine games, starting at right tackle eight times and left tackle once. In 2013 he started at right tackle in all 12 games. And while his contributions on the gridiron are noteworthy, its the intangibles he brings to the team that might be even more impressive. In 2013 he received Indiana's Ted Verlihay Mental Attitude Award and this past season he earned the team's Harold Mauro "Loyalty to Indiana" Award. Evans likely has the inside track on the position, but will be pushed by some of his younger teammates for playing time.

I'm sure you're familiar with the old adage, "Everything's Bigger in Texas," well offensive tackle Dimitric Camiel is certainly no exception. At 6-foot-7, 308 pounds, the native of the Lone Star State is one of the Hoosiers largest athletes. He put his size to use in 2014, playing in all 12 of the Hoosiers' games, starting at right tackle in four and once on the blindside. He saw action in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2013. Starting or providing depth off the bench, Camiel should get ample opportunity to contribute at tackle the next couple of seasons.

After missing the entire 2013 season due to an injury suffered during the preseason, Dan Feeney bounced back in a big way in 2014 by being named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches and the media after starting in all 12 games at right guard and allowing just one sack in 801 snaps. His freshman season in 2012 was equally as impressive, not surrendering a sack in 935 snaps and was second on the team with 54 knockdowns.The Illinois native received numerous accolades, including FoxSportsNext.com/Scout.com All-America first team member and ESPN.com Big Ten All-Freshman team. Now entering his redshirt junior season, expect the right guard position to be a strength for the Hoosiers offensive line once again in 2015.

Junior Jacob Bailey is another potential option to plug up the hole at left guard. At the very least, Bailey will provide experienced depth to the guard positions after playing in six games in 2014 and starting at left guard twice. The 6-foot-5, 303-pound Carmel, Indiana native also had a productive freshman season in 2013, appearing in six games, starting in three, and being named to the All-Freshman teams by ESPN.com and BTN.com.

The battle at center will be an interesting one, as the Hoosiers return two players with experience at the position. One of the options includes fifth-year senior Jake Reed. The Columbus, Indiana native started his career out on special teams and at tightend before becoming a member of the offensive line. In 2014 he started in four games at center and played in seven games total for the year. As a sophomore he saw action in nine games and started five at guard. At 6-foot-4, 283 pounds, Reed possesses the size to play anywhere along the interior of the line.

Junior-to-be Wes Rogers is the other contender for playing time at center, as he started at the position twice as both a sophomore and a freshman. The 6-foot-4, 300 pound Indianapolis native has played in 11 games total during his time in Bloomington, after redshirting his first season on campus in 2012. He's another player that even if not penciled in as a starter, will still provide experienced depth.

Jason Spriggs has been protecting Indiana quarterbacks' blindside for the last three season, don't look for that to change in 2015 as he looks like a sure-fire NFL prospect. Photo Credit - Indystar.com

Jason Spriggs has been protecting Indiana quarterbacks' blindside for the last three season, don't look for that to change in 2015 as he looks like a sure-fire NFL prospect. Photo Credit - Indystar.com

A former member of Louisville's 2012 recruiting class, DeAndre Herron came to Bloomington as a mid-year enrollee in 2014 by way of Iowa Western Community College. The talented offensive lineman was able to redshirt during his first season with the Hoosiers, due to the team's established depth up front. At 6-foot-5, 325-pounds, Herron possesses the size to play anywhere along the line, however, where he ends up depends largely on his footwork and flexibility. During his two seasons in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Reivers compiled a 23-1 record and won the 2012 NJCAA National Championship. He also earned First Team All-Conference Honors in 2013. Entering his second spring practice with the Hoosiers, Herron will get ample opportunity to show off his ability, serving as an audition for playing time next fall.

Indianapolis native Tim Gardner will also be participating in his second spring session with the Hoosiers, as he too was a mid-year enrollee. Originally a member of Ohio State's 2013 class, Gardner ended up attending New York's Milford Academy for a semester where he was teammates with current Hoosier tightend Jordan Fuchs. Prior to that, he attended Lawrence Central High School where he was teammates with Rogers and Hoosier running back Alex Rodriguez. At 6-foot-5, 301-pounds, Gardner is another versatile option Coach Frey could have slide inside and play guard or push out and play tackle. Either way, look for Gardner to make his presence known this spring as he pushes for playing time at either left guard or right tackle.

After redshirting his first season with the Hoosiers, Delroy Baker is another player who will be in contention for playing time at tackle. The Ocala, Florida offensive lineman was heavily recruited out of high school, holding offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami, and Missouri, among many others. Like Herron and Gardner, this too will be his second spring practice with the Hoosiers as he also joined the team in January 2014. At 6-foot-6, 295-pounds, Baker possesses the prototypical size a coach would look for as a future bookend at offensive tackle. While left tackle is well-manned with Spriggs, Baker should be in play for the back-up blindside spot or right tackle.

The fourth and final offensive lineman in the 2014 class, Wes Martin also redshirted his first season in Bloomington. While not as highly-touted out of high school, Martin quickly impressed the upperclassmen on the team by benching 440 pounds during summer workouts. At 6-foot-3, 295-pounds, the Ohio native has a future along the interior of the offensive line.

Jason Spriggs LT 6-7 300 SR 35 34
Dan Feeney OG 6-4 305 RS JR 24 24
Dimitric Camiel OT 6-7 308 RS JR 24 5
Ralston Evans OT 6-4 290 RS SR 22 21
Jake Reed C 6-4 283 RS SR 16 9
Jacob Bailey OL 6-5 303 RS JR 12 5
Wes Rogers C 6-4 300 RS JR 11 4
DeAndre Herron OL 6-5 325 RS JR Redshirted in 2014
Gardner, Tim OL 6-5 301 RS FR Redshirted in 2014
Delroy Baker OT 6-6 295 RS FR Redshirted in 2014
Martin, Wes OG 6-3 295 RS FR Redshirted in 2014

The next few weeks will be a golden opportunity for multiple members of the offensive line to carve out roles for the upcoming season. With the returning starters, backups, and the inclusion of the 2014 class, the Hoosiers offensive line should once again be a strength of the team.

Questions to Consider

Who will start opposite of Spriggs at right tackle?

Who will win the battle between Reed and Rogers for center, or will someone else step into the role?

How will the offensive line adapt to the running style of UAB transfer Jordan Howard?

How will the 2014 guys factor into the rotation this season?