Peegs.com spoke to Indiana offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak after practice number three of spring ball for the Hoosiers. Here is the question and answer with the IU redshirt sophomore about how spring practice has started for him and his teammates.
Q – How nice is it to be back out on the football field with your teammates after several weeks of just doing strength and conditioning?
SIMON STEPANIAK: It’s been great and I’m feeling good. The O-line has some work to do, but it’s been a good start.
Q – You have a new position coach working with you and the other O-linemen in Coach (Darren) Hiller. Did you have a relationship with him prior to him coming to IU?
SIMON STEPANIAK: He was actually one of the main guys that recruited me (at Cincinnati) along with Coach (Tommy) Tuberville. It was really between here and UC because UC was so close to home, but things just feel into place and it ends up with him coaching me here. He’s a good coach and I love him. He’s a guy you can get behind and learn from.
Q – How much does it help that Coach Hiller is someone you have a relationship with and not someone that is a total stranger that you had never met until now?
SIMON STEPANIAK: It definitely helps. During the recruiting process him and Coach (Greg) Frey showed me how they coach and how they teach their zone (blocking) schemes and all that. So on his first day when he came in I already had a pretty good feel for how he was going to coach us and how he was going to approach it.
Q – At the end of last season you got some playing time and got a couple starts. How beneficial was that for your development?
SIMON STEPANIAK: I played the 4th quarter at Michigan which was pretty wild because of the snowstorm. That was something to remember up there. And I started the last two games against Purdue and against Utah in the Bowl game. It was not as many starts as I wanted last year, but those reps were valuable for coming in this year and already knowing what it’s going to be like out there on the field on game days.
Q – How much did playing behind a guy like Dan Feeney help you as a player, not only on the field but off the field as well with your preparation?
SIMON STEPANIAK: Dan was a great role model. He is a good dude and I was happy to see him kill it at the (NFL) Combine. Learning from him was the best person you could learn from. He really knows what he is doing and he attacks every day. A lot of what he taught me was the mental part of things because that’s what wears on you. He was a great mentor, and I really just tried to get as much as I could from him while he was here.
Q – It is still early but how do you feel the O-line is coming along so far in spring practice? Do you feel like you guys are starting to gel a little bit?
SIMON STEPANIAK: I feel like so far with all the run schemes we are meshing pretty well. We are all coming off the ball at the same time, and the combo blocks feel pretty good. I think the biggest thing we’ve got to work on is our pass protection and making sure we are on the same levels and getting a feel for each other’s sets and where we’re going to be and where we have help.
Q – How much different is the offense and what you guys were doing the last few years compared to what you are doing now with the new offensive staff?
SIMON STEPANIAK: It is very similar and that is why we all feel comfortable in it. The biggest thing is we just have to learn all these new code words they want us to learn, but for the most part it is the same.
Q – What position have you been at after playing right guard last year and also having worked some at center in practice?
SIMON STEPANIAK: Right now Coach Hiller has me solely at right guard. Last year I practiced a lot at center and left guard too, but right now I am only getting reps at right guard and that is where I feel most comfortable.
Q – How much does that position versatility help you as a player, not only in getting on the field but also just having a better understanding of what the guy next to you is doing?
SIMON STEPANIAK: Being a utility guy as an interior lineman is what they want. If someone goes down at center or left guard I can pop right in there and be okay. It is just a great trait to have.
Q – What is your biggest goal or objective for this spring? What do you want to get out of these practices individually?
SIMON STEPANIAK: I think the biggest thing I am focusing on is my hand play, and that is something that will be a focus going into the summer and into fall camp. On run plays and pass protection your hands are key and it is something I need to keep working on.