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Indiana University

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IU bullish on offensive line

Added size, strength, depth have Hoosiers looking for solid year

– Wide receiver Kofi Hughes made a bold statement during Big Ten media days in Chicago.

“We have All-Americans on our line,” he said.

And he said it more than once. The Hoosiers’ offensive line, he said, will be great this season.

IU coach Kevin Wilson thinks so, too. “There’s some really good competition. Peyton Eckert and (Jason) Spriggs are really solid, decent tackles,” Wilson said during IU’s media day Monday. “Maybe better than decent. … And we’ve got good depth inside.”

For a team trying to turn the corner in Wilson’s third season, those players will be crucial.

The Hoosiers were 10th in the conference in rushing offense last year, but second in sacks against. Much of that was because IU was undersized on the line and couldn’t be as physical on runs.

No longer.

Spriggs is a prime example. The 6-foot-7 sophomore went from 268 pounds as a freshman to 297 pounds.

“Mark Hill and our strength guys, they’ve helped me a lot trying to gain weight, and I think it will help a lot, especially in the run game,” Spriggs said. “This year has helped a lot, especially in the offseason.”

Dan Feeney also played as a freshman, and the 6-foot-4 sophomore jumped from 293 to 310 this summer.

He, juniors Bernard Taylor and Collin Rahrig, sophomores David Kaminski and Jake Reed and freshman Jacob Bailey are competing for starting positions on the interior.

“More depth, just having a year of experience helps a lot,” Feeney said.

It helps offensive line coach Greg Frey, who is also the run game coordinator, as well. He has seen growth from all of the players.

“I think if you asked anybody in our room, they would tell you, ‘I’m really not where I want to be,’ ” Frey said. “However, we’re making strides toward getting there, and that’s the important part. And it’s not just five guys, it’s 15.”

The line replaces one starter, center Will Matte, but Rahrig played in eight games, starting the final six at left guard, during Matte’s final season. The Hoosiers have also had a year to grow, physically and mentally.

“Instead of having just one person with a leadership role, we’ve actually spread it out – making it the whole line and some other guys who might not be on the starting lineup,” said Rahrig, who went from 278 to 285. “We’re all kind of accountable instead of one guy trying to get everyone to come in and watch film.”

IU led the Big Ten in passing yards last season, but Wilson said the one missing piece is a 1,000-yard rusher, complemented by a physically dominant offensive line.

“It definitely sets the standards high, and that’s something that we have to reach,” Spriggs said.

Notes: Wilson confirmed the stress fracture linebacker Chase Hoobler suffered before camp will require surgery. Hoobler could be out for four months. … Signee Daryl Chestnut did not meet academic requirements to enroll in the fall and is looking for midyear admittance at IU, Wilson said.

smorrison@jg.net

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