Indiana has major talent at wide receiver and running back this year.
But to feature their potential at the skill positions, the Hoosiers need time to throw and holes to run through.
The offensive line has been a major problem over the last two seasons. Can the veteran group turn a corner under a highly qualified position coach?
Here’s our outlook for the offensive line, with roster turnover, the projected depth chart, quotes, and more.
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S GONE
- Luke Haggard (out of eligibility),
- Caleb Murphy (graduated),
- Tim Weaver (graduated),
- Parker Hanna (out of eligibility),
- Chris Bradberry (out of eligibility),
- Randy Holtz (transfer),
- Luke Wiginton (transfer — Ball State),
- Cameron Knight (graduated/retired)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S BACK
- Matthew Bedford (redshirt senior),
- Zach Carpenter (redshirt senior),
- Mike Katic (redshirt senior),
- Kahlil Benson (redshirt junior),
- Joshua Sales Jr. (redshirt sophomore),
- Cooper Jones (redshirt sophomore),
- Vinny Fiacable (redshirt sophomore),
- Carter Smith (redshirt freshman),
- DJ Moore (redshirt freshman),
- Bray Lynch (redshirt freshman)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S NEW
- Max Longman (transfer, UMass),
- Noah Bolticoff (transfer, TCU),
- Drew Evans (transfer, Wisconsin),
- William Larkins (3-star, Hollywood, Fla.),
- Austin Barrett (3-star, St. Charles, Ill.),
- Bubba Jeffries (3-star, Alcoa, Tenn.)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Here’s our best estimate of the starting five up front on the offensive line:
- Right tackle –Matthew Bedford, 6-foot-6, 305 (28 career starts)
- Right guard –Kahlil Benson, 6-foot-6, 310, (5 career starts)
- Center –Zach Carpenter, 6-foot-5, 295 (15 career starts)
- Left guard –Mike Katic, 6-foot-4, 315 (25 career starts)
- Left tackle –Carter Smith, 6-foot-5, 305 (0 career starts)
Indiana hasn’t done a lot of rotating along the offensive line beyond the first five under Allen. But new coach Bob Bostad could take a different approach. Here are some other players who are in the mix for snaps, or at least in the next man up category: Max Longman, 6-foot-4, 315 (inside or out), Josh Sales, 6-foot-6, 305 (tackle), Vinny Fiacable, 6-foot-4, 305 (interior), Noah Bolticoff, 6-foot-5, 300 (interior), Bray Lynch, 6-foot-5, 310 (inside or out).
It’s really new offensive line coach Bob Bostad. After two disastrous seasons of offensive line play, Indiana invested heavily in the long-time Wisconsin and NFL assistant. He’s the second-highest paid member of Tom Allen’s staff, and the return on that investment could make or break the offense.
Also, if IU does indeed start redshirt freshman Smith at left tackle — protecting the blind spot for all of IU’s quarterbacks — his success or failure there will be a major storyline to follow. He did see action against Ohio State a year ago.
Tom Allen on what is different under Bostad:
“The relentless attention to detail, the absolute just bulldog focus on technique and fundamentals. It’s just the same things over, and over, and over again, which develops toughness, consistency, and confidence in your guys. He’s brought a different attitude, a different edge about him, and he’s all business.”
Mike Katic on what is different under Bostad:
“Definitely the intensity he brings to the group. When he walks into the room, it’s go time, pen and paper out, get ready to go, lock in. He also has that NFL experience, so he has a lot of experience coaching good offensive lines.”
Kahlil Benson on the line getting criticized publicly:
“Most definitely (we take it personally). The thing about last year is we noticed what we were doing wrong. You can kind of see towards the end (of the season) we started to catch on with it a lot. And what we knew from the end of last season to what we know now, the o-line has made a big jump. And everybody is wanting it, they’re hungry, and it’s time for us to step up.”
WHY IT WILL WORK
The truth is the offensive line turned a corner last year when Indiana parted ways with Darren Hiller midseason. That came along with the realization that they didn’t have the personnel on the line or elsewhere to wait for long pass plays to develop. This year IU enters the season with that knowledge, more mobile quarterbacks, and more talent at the skill positions.
This is a veteran group under the direction of a highly respected position coach. It’s reasonable to expect improvement.
Indiana also lost arguably its best lineman, Bedford, in the first half of the first game last year. He’s back and 100 percent healthy. They had to turn to Parker Hanna at tackle, someone who had never played Division I. The line is deeper this year, and if they can avoid multiple injuries, IU won’t be in scramble mode up front like they were a year ago.
WHY IT WON’T
Meet the new line. Same as the old line.
Yes they are experienced, and yes the staff has changed, but these are many of the same players who struggled over the last two years.
How much can they really improve? We’ll find out in week one against one of the best defensive lines in the country.
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