Spring Preview-Hoosiers Must Replace Key Pieces Along the Offensive Line

image: Sammy Jacobs Hoosier Huddle

image: Sammy Jacobs Hoosier Huddle

Written by Nathan Comp

We are under two months away from the Indiana Football spring game and just a week away from the first spring practice. It is time for Hoosier Huddle’s preview coverage to ramp up after a couple month break following the season-ending loss to Purdue.

With a new offensive coordinator in town, the expectations are already heightened for Indiana’s 2019 offense. But no matter how good Kalen DeBoer is, games are won in the trenches. After losing Wes Martin, Brandon Knight, and Nick Linder to graduation, Indiana will be looking to these players to open up holes for the running game and protect the winner of the starting quarterback job.

Coy Cronk Senior 6’5” 309 One Word: Not Published

For the fourth straight year, expect to see Coy Cronk manning the left tackle position. Cronk has only missed one game at the position in his entire career. His reliability, along with his skill at the position, make him so valuable on Indiana’s offensive line. This year, he will be the leader of the offensive line. What is yet to be determined is if he will be leading by blocking the quarterback’s blindside (Ramsey, Tuttle), or not (Penix).

Simon Stepaniak Redshirt Senior 6’4” 311 One Word: Patience

After making headlines for his dirty (read: completely clean, undeserving of death threats) play on the road against Michigan, Stepaniak proved himself for the final four games of the season. He has tallied starts since his redshirt freshman season, including all twelve games last season at right guard. Coach Hiller especially relied on him throughout these final games though, as Stepaniak saw the field in 44 of the last 48 offensive possessions.

Hunter Littlejohn Redshirt Senior 6’3” 304 One Word: Peace

Littlejohn started all 12 games as a sophomore in Indiana’s 2017 season, before Coach Allen looked to the grad transfer market in 2018 and finding Miami’s Nick Linder. Though Littlejohn still started the first four games and saw time in the final eight behind Linder, Littlejohn should once again have the center position to himself in 2019. Littlejohn should be another strong senior on the line, having only allowed 3 sacks in 904 snaps in 2018.

Harry Crider Junior 6’4” 306 One Word: Fearless

Crider has experience in both of his two seasons with Indiana, playing in eight games as a freshman at center and six games at guard last season. The Academic All-Big Ten selection has improved physically each year and his experience at multiple positions along the line should make him a valuable piece to fill in where Wes Martin, Brandon Knight, and Nick Linder will be missed.

Caleb Jones Redshirt Sophomore 6’8” 360 One Word: Not Published

Clearly already equipped with a Big Ten offensive lineman frame, Jones continues to work on the lateral quickness and agility necessary to play at the tackle position. After redshirting his first season on campus, Jones saw playing time in eleven games last season at tackle. He was notably improved but will need to continue this progress and show that he is ready for a full 60 minutes.

Britt Beery Redshirt Sophomore 6’6” 306 One Word: Strike

Beery is an interesting prospect along the offensive line. After being recruited as a defensive lineman, Beery moved to the opposite side of the ball during the preseason of his first year in Bloomington. The Carmel native played in 4 games last season, including his collegiate debut in the win against Ball State. He sacrifices about 60 pounds to Caleb Jones but could find himself battling against him for playing time this season.

Mackenzie Nworah Redshirt Junior 6’4” 300 One Word: Not Published

In Nworah’s third year on campus he battled injury the majority of the season. After earning six starts and ten appearances at right guard in 2017, Nworah only saw action in the win against Maryland last season. He was named an Academic All-Big Ten selection, but in terms of athletic ability he is a bit of a wildcard having not seen much game action in over a year.

Aidan Rafferty Redshirt Freshman 6’6” 280 One Word: Finish

Rafferty redshirted his first season on campus but did earn scout team player of the week two times against Michigan State and Michigan. When originally recruited, Rafferty was praised for his strong hands and footwork. The Washington DC native held numerous power five offers, and a fair share of Ivy League offers, showcasing his intelligence off the field.

Davondre Love Redshirt Senior 6’7” 300 One Word: Not Published

After appearing to have retired from football at the end of the 2018 season, Love later decided that he would return for his final season as a Hoosier. Love has seen action in all seasons in which he did not redshirt but has never found himself a perfect fit in the rotation. Most recently, he saw four games of action last season.

Matthew Bedford Freshman 6’5” 260 One Word: Sacrifice

Bedford is a member of the most recent recruiting class. He turned down offers from SEC schools Mississippi State and South Carolina in favor of the Hoosiers and enrolled right away. This will help greatly, as he has the talent to see playing time early in his career but will need to add some size before he can compete at a Big Ten level. He projects at the tackle position, and with Cronk at left tackle, Bedford would draw the assignment of protecting the blindside if Penix earns the starting quarterback spot.

Michael Katic Freshman 6’4” 270 One Word: Prove

Katic is another member of the most recent recruiting class. The 3 star prospect will likely only serve as depth in his freshman season, but is getting a chance to prove himself early on having already enrolled at IU.