A few days after freshman tackle Joshua Sales stepped onto Indiana’s campus earlier this year, he received an invitation to hang out with one of his new teammates.
Fellow tackle Matthew Bedford was eager to host Sales and get to know him. After all, they’d be spending quite a bit of time together over the coming months and years studying blocking assignments in the IU O-line room and working out together in the bowels of the North End Zone complex. But when they got together at Bedford’s place, the two Hoosiers didn’t merely pass the time with idle chit-chat. They talked ball and watched film — anything to get the newcomer Sales up to speed with his new team. Consider it the LEO mantra in action.
Sales recognizes the situation he’s stepping into this year in Bloomington. Bedford and Caleb Jones are returning starters at the tackle spots, which means it’s probable that the Brownsburg product won’t be needed for regular snaps inside IU’s offense just yet. But Sales isn’t taking anything for granted. Since arriving as a spring enrollee in January, Sales has worked to prepare himself as if he’ll be playing a major role on position coach Darren Hiller’s offensive line in the months to come.
“Coach Hiller, himself, let’s me know that it’s definitely a next-man-up mentality (at IU),” Sales recently told reporters. “So I definitely have to get myself ready to play on game day, regardless of what happens because football is a very unpredictable game.”
Sales’ teammates, too, seem willing to pull him along and get him where he needs to be. Bedford, for example, played in nine contests as a freshman, learning the Big Ten game through trial by fire. So he knows what the youngster is going through. Sales, meanwhile, appreciates the empathy from the rising junior.
In a lot of ways, Bedford has served as a role model for Sales early in his college career. During his first six months on campus, Sales has taken time to study film from Bedford’s first two seasons to learn about the transition to major college football and assess where he stands entering his first fall at the Power 5 level.
“I see the things he did his freshman year,” Sales said. “He was very physical. He wasn’t afraid to hit anybody. (I’m picking up on) small bits and pieces like that, just seeing what (my teammates) did to get themselves on the field and how I can apply that to myself.”
Regardless of whether Sales sees meaningful snaps this season, IU has high hopes for the former three-star prospect that 247 Sports considered the fifth-best overall player in the state of Indiana last year. Sales was a priority recruit for IU coach Tom Allen and his staff, ultimately picking the Hoosiers over offers from Arizona State, Cincinnati, Michigan State, Maryland, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers and Missouri, among others. The 6-foot-6, 319-pound South Bend native did not allow a sack last season while posting 72 knockdowns across eight games en route to all-state honors.
Sales, like the rest of his teammates, was a very good high school player. But since arriving in Bloomington, he’s learned that his natural strength and raw skills alone won’t allow him to coast. Sales knows he has to work on his technique before he can become a reliable option up front for the Hoosiers. Acclimating to college football during spring practice was “rocky” at times, Sales says, but he’s glad he got the initial growing pains out of the way before fall camp starts later this summer.
“The most difficult part was just realizing that everybody’s good, to some extent,” Sales said. “There’s nobody that doesn’t have any skill. Everyone’s here for a reason. So stuff you could get away with in high school, you definitely can’t get away with at this level.”
But Sales appreciates the help he’s received from new friends like Bedford, Jones and Khalil Benson, each of them going out of their way to assist the new guy in his transition to a new level.
“They all took me under their wing,” Sales said. “... Those guys really helped me make the adjustment.”