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2017 Indiana Football: Will the offensive line continue to be a strength of the team?

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The Hoosiers lose All-American Dan Feeney, but have experience across the board.

NCAA Football: Foster Farms Bowl-Indiana vs Utah Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few seasons, the offensive line has been a strength for Indiana whenever they take the field. Last year, Devine Redding followed in the footsteps of Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard and became the third Hoosier running back to rush for 1000 yards behind an offensive line that was one of the best in the Big Ten.

However, the departure of two-time All-American guard Dan Feeney, along with Dimitric Camiel and Wes Rogers leaves Indiana looking for a few players to step up. Add in the fact that offensive line coach Greg Frey departed to join Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan, and that means the offensive line will be one of the most scrutinized groups during the upcoming season.

Taking Frey’s place will be Darren Hiller, who joins Tom Allen’s staff from the University of South Florida. Hiller will be looking for tackles Brandon Knight and Coy Cronk to set the tone as two of the more experienced players on the line. Cronk started a freshman-record 13 games at left tackle last season and was also named to ESPN and 247Sports’ Freshman All-American teams. Knight started six games and played in eight before suffering a season-ending leg injury, which derailed a solid sophomore campaign.

Joining Cronk and Knight on the offensive line will be redshirt junior Wes Martin, who started all 13 games last season at right guard. Hunter Littlejohn will most likely step into the center role, and Simon Stepaniak will have the unenviable task of replacing Dan Feeney at left guard.

One of the biggest questions for the offensive line coming in to the 2017 season is who will take over the leadership void left by Dan Feeney. Feeney was one of the team captains during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, and his departure will leave the need for someone to become the unquestioned leader along the offensive line. The most likely candidates are Wes Martin and Brandon Knight, who are the two most experienced players on the line with a combined 45 appearances over the last two seasons. Martin and Knight, along with Cronk, should be counted on to lead by committee as the three returning starters on the offensive line.

Overall, it should be a pretty solid year for the o-line in Tom Allen’s first full season as head coach. The group has its fair share of experience, which should help Camion Patrick who, barring extraordinary circumstances, should be set for his first full season as IU’s starting running back. The Indiana running game has been a strength for the past few years, and that should continue for the 2017-18 season.