When Wisconsin blitzed Indiana with 338 rushing yards, and a still difficult to process 83 points in 2010, much of the damage was done by the Badgers’ offensive line.
It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.
The turnaround of Wisconsin football began in the late 90s with a dominant offensive line, and that position group was peaking from 2008 to 2011 when Bob Bostad was in charge of the room.
During Bostad’s four-year tenure as the Wisconsin offensive line coach, the Badgers averaged 57 points per game in four wins over IU, along with 351 net rushing yards per contest. The Badgers averaged at least 200 rushing yards per game in each of Bostad’s five seasons as run game coordinator, leading the Big Ten in rushing three times.
Under Bostad’s watch the Badgers had nine offensive linemen who went on to become NFL draft picks, including three first-round selections in Gabe Carimi (2010 Outland Trophy winner), Kevin Zeitler and Travis Frederick. In addition, eight of Bostad’s players would go on to be named first-team All-America.
Back in Bloomington, it isn’t a stretch to say poor offensive line play has been the root cause of a 6-18 record over the last two seasons.
Indiana made what most believe was a belated move when Tom Allen fired offensive line coach Darren Hiller during the 2022 season. IU alumnus Rod Carey stepped in on an interim basis, and then Allen got an early Christmas gift when Bostad, who was coming off a second stint in Madison after spending time in the NFL, became available amid a coaching change at Wisconsin.
IU announced Bostad as its offensive line coach three weeks ago.
“I tell you what, so excited to have Bob join our staff,” Allen said earlier this week. “Coach Bostad is an unbelievably highly-regarded offensive line coach in this country. Many would say he is the best O-line coach in the country. I would have to tend to agree with that the short time we’ve been around each other.”
Allen was well aware of Bostad’s success at Wisconsin, and had crossed paths with him on the recruiting trail where Bostad had success plucking talent from the state of Indiana.
Indiana had the good fortune to land Bostad from a timing standpoint as well, as Indiana looks to round out its 2023 high school class and address needs up front in the transfer portal.
“As some things unfolded there (at Wisconsin), it allowed us to get Coach Bostad here with us pretty efficiently,” Allen said. “The goal was to get him here and get to head out to recruit.”
Job one was to retain the three offensive linemen Indiana already had as verbal commits in its 2023 class — Austin Barrett, William Larkins and Bubba Jeffries. When Bostad was hired he became the third offensive line coach at Indiana since their verbal commitments to the program. All three signed with IU earlier this week.
It took some heavy lifting from Allen’s part before Bostad arrived to keep the trio in tact over the last few months since Hiller was let go.
“I personally called them all as things transpired in each development along the way and had communications with them and their families,” Allen said.
Indiana also added veteran Max Longman out of the transfer portal from UMass, and they’ll get four-year starter Matthew Bedford back at tackle in 2023 after a season-ending knee injury in week one.
At this point the only significant loss along the offensive line is starting left tackle Luke Haggard, who used up his eligibility following the 2022 season.
So while Bostad has his work cut out retooling the group, he will have some viable components to work with, and the offensive line did begin to play better as the 2022 season wore on.
Allen believes he’s found the right guy to foster the much needed turnaround in the trenches. And he says those recruits were thrilled with the turn of events as well.
“We found I feel like the very, very best person for the job,” Allen said.
“So excited about having him here and the job that he is already doing with our guys in regards to recruiting and evaluation. Then when I had a chance to tell our recruits that we had hired him, man, they were so fired up. They know the track record and the history that he has been able to produce everywhere he has been.”
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