July 26, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Will Matte talks to reporters during the Big Ten media day at the McCormick Place Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE
Well, Indiana football had a tough year last season, and as we all are well aware, a big part of the problem was youth. Although things are a little better across the board, the offensive line is filled with freshmen and sophomores. Simply no other area of the Hoosier line-up is as unexperienced. In fact, outside of Will Matte, the O-Line brings the experience of a mere 34 games started, all from last season. Still, that was the majority of the starts available, so the Hoosiers are building forward. It's a little tough to judge Offensive Linemen, as they don't really accumulate stats other than games played, games started, and the rushing results for the team. In general, although the rushing numbers were generally decent, a quick look at the team stats shows many areas for improvement, as the Hoosiers were (overall) out-sacked by opponents, out-possessioned, and whistled for more penalties. This is not to single out the O-Line for all of these gaps, but certainly the work by these linemen could do a lot to close these disparities.
Positional projections based on the official depth chart are after the jump:
Eckert as a true freshman started six games last season, and should be set to be the full-time starter at RT. His back-up this season is Texan Dimitric Camiel, who is also a true frosh. Camiel took evidently took first place in the Houston Linemen Strong Man Challenge, whatever that is, so that's something, I suppose.
True freshman Jason Spriggs, out of Elkhart, Indiana, is perhaps a bit of a surprise starter. It's not like he comes unheralded, he was Indiana class 5A all-state (albeit on defense). Back-up Pete Bachman was originally a defensive lineman, and has a nice record in the classroom and on the scout team, but not so much on his limited time on the field (one appearance vs. MSU). I'm hiping for an impact from Spriggs, but I'm also watchful for this position as perhaps the weak link in the O-line.
Right Guards: #64 Colin Rahrig, 6-2, 278, So. OR #67 Cody Evers, 6-4, 304, So.
Both of the players listed at Right Guard are redshirt Sophomores, they're so relatively experienced! Unfortunately, I'm serious. Cody Evers appeared in all twelve games last season, but only started at Virginia. Colin Rahrig was Indiana's Outstanding Walk-On last season, and recorded eight starts, although at least two of those were due to an injury at the center position. If Will Matte is healthy, I have to think Rahrig has the starting nod here. Outside of Center, this looks like the O-line's most experienced position. Both guard position have 'OR' listed between the candidates, so hopefully this means Cody Evers is improving as well.
Bernie Taylor started the final 10 games of the season last year, and made a number of All-Big Ten freshmen teams, including BTN.com and ESPN. The fact that true freshman Dan Feeney is pushing Taylor probably says good things about team depth. Feeney was named second-team all-state, although Rivals.com did put him as the #16 recruit coming out Illinois.
Centers: #62, Will Matte, 6-2, 292, Sr.-5th, #64 Colin Rahrig, 6-2, 278, So.
The only upperclassmen listed here is starting center (and former All-Big Ten freshman) Will Matte. Matte's already had most a year working with Roberson in real-game experience (9 starts before his injury at Wisconsin, which ended his streak of 32 straight starts). He was also a game captain seven times last season, and the Hoosiers actually posted pretty decent rushing stats on his watch. Matte is the clear strength of the line, and simply must stay healthy, not only for his own position, but also as Rahrig is the main back-up listed, and he is the probable starter at Right Guard.
Outside of Matte, this group has a lot of question marks. Taylor and Rahrig look to build on their relative success last year, and I'm sure Coach Wilson is counting on progression from Evers and Eckert. If newbies Spriggs or Feeney can post All-Big-Ten-freshman worthy seasons, IU's offensive line might be solid enough to help the team balance the above-mentioned deficiencies like possession time, etc. Still, noone's going to confuse these guys for Michigan this season.There's definitely legitimate reason to expect improvement. How much improvement, and how that translates into wins and losses, remains to be seen.