BLOOMINGTON, IN - MARCH 11, 2021 - offensive lineman Zach Carpenter #50 of the Indiana Hoosiers during practice at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. Photo by Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

IU football looking for improvement on the offensive line: A look at the PFF grades of the starters

The quarterbacks have shouldered much of the blame for Indiana’s dismal offensive performance to this point in what has been a highly disappointing 2021 campaign.

And there is good reason for that.

IU quarterbacks have thrown 10 interceptions this season, a figure that places the program at No. 117 out of 130 teams nationally.  The Hoosiers are also No. 99 with just 196 passing yards per game despite needing to throw the football throughout six of seven games.  They are also No. 122 in completion percentage (52.6) and No. 127 in passer rating.

But the picture is not much prettier in the running game where IU sits at No. 107 in rushing yards per game and No. 117 in yards per carry (3.2).

While the so-called skill position players are the face of the program, and their successes and failures on the field easier to measure statistically, the collective dumpster fire that is this Indiana offense points to a bigger problem.

Head coach Tom Allen was asked prior to the season which position groups kept him up at night, and he pointed to the trenches on both sides of the football.  His summer concerns about the offensive line have proven to be well founded.

“It’s been frustrating and disappointing without question up front,” Allen said earlier this week.

Indiana has started the same five players for much of the season unless there have been injuries.  The preferred quintet has been Luke Haggard at left tackle, Mike Katic at left guard, Dylan Powell at center, Matthew Bedford at right guard, and Caleb Jones at right tackle.

One thing to keep an eye on when the IU offense takes the field on Saturday at Maryland will be whether this group starts once again.  Allen at least hinted that a shakeup is possible.

“We’ll make some adjustments if we need to here this week to get the result we want,” Allen said on Monday, and later in the week, Allen was more definitive — changes will be made.  “They’ll be some adjustments, yes,” Allen said on Thursday, although it wasn’t entirely clear if that comment pertained to personnel, scheme, or both.

Overall PFF has graded IU as having the No. 71 pass blocking and No. 90 run blocking in the country.  There is some logic in those numbers being better than the offense as a whole when factoring in turnovers that weren’t their fault and long drives that resulted in red zone inefficiency.

Let’s take a look at each of the starting five’s PFF grades for clues as to where the problems are and what changes might be made.  It is worth noting that the rankings below include reserves with relatively limited sample-sizes.  That’s also why someone who appears to have a good grade doesn’t rank high in the context of just 130 teams.

Luke Haggard has played in 435 out of 520 snaps at left tackle and he has a 67.7 run blocking grade and 62.0 pass blocking grade.  He ranks as the No. 162 overall run blocker and No. 318 pass blocker out of 595 tackles graded.  The other players who have taken snaps at left tackle include Caleb Jones, Aidan Rafferty and Joshua Sales, Jr.

Mike Katic has played in 468 out of 520 snaps at left guard and he has a 51.9 run blocking grade and 60.7 pass blocking grade.  He ranks as the No. 545 overall run blocker and No. 345 pass blocker out of 618 guards graded.  The only other player who has seen time at left guard is Team Weaver.

Dylan Powell has played in 484 out of 520 snaps at center and he has a 60.0 run blocking grade and 72.5 pass blocking grade.  He ranks as the No. 147 overall run blocker and the No. 57 overall pass blocker out of 280 centers graded.  Zach Carpenter and Charlie O’Connor have taken the remaining snaps at center.

Matthew Bedford has played in 429 snaps at right guard out of 520, and another 75 at right tackle where he started as a true freshman in 2019.  Bedford has a 63.2 run blocking grade and 63.4 pass blocking grade.  Out of 618 guards graded he ranks No. 286 in run blocking and No. 314 in pass blocking.  Tim Weaver, Randy Holtz, Charlie O’Connor and Zach Carpenter have also taken snaps at right guard.

Caleb Jones has played in 488 snaps out of 520 at tackle with 421 coming at right tackle.  He has a 54.8 run blocking grade and 56.4 pass blocking grade.  Out of the 595 tackles graded he comes in at No. 485 in run blocking and No. 375 in pass blocking.  Bedford, Weaver, Cam Knight and Rafferty have all seen time at right tackle.

A few other stats were noting:  Jones leads in total pressures (sacks + hits + hurries) allowed with 23, followed by Haggard (18), Katic (16), Bedford (12) and Powell (9).

Carpenter, a Michigan transfer, has the best pass blocking grade on the team at 80.2 along with a 61.4 mark on runs in just 33 total snaps.  O’Connor comes in at 75.0 and 83.7, respectively, although those figures were largely established against Idaho.

In 117 total snaps Weaver grades out at just 47.8 against the pass and 56.2 against the run.

Rafferty seems to be the preferred back-up tackle, but he has achieved just a 32.9 grade against the pass to go with 69.2 in the running game.

Knight, Holtz and Sales all have less than 10 total snaps on the season, and they all came against Idaho.

So where might Indiana turn for adjustments?

One possibility could be to plug in Carpenter for Bedford and then move Bedford back out to right tackle where the data seems to suggest Jones is struggling more than anyone.  The other would seem to be Carpenter for Katic and hope that Jones will do better now that IU won’t face as many elite defensive ends like they’ve seen to this point in the season.  Jones tends to struggle against quickness on the edge.

It would seem like one of those moves is likely if anything happens, or perhaps one of the up-and-comers has been developing behind the scenes and is ready to take on a bigger role.

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