Matt Weaver/Peegs.com

Spring Practice Primer: Offensive Line

Peegs.com examines the O-line for the Hoosiers with spring practice getting underway last week.

For the 2017 season IU has a number of offensive linemen that they must replace in the two-deep, but they do return a trio of players who have seen a good deal of playing time in their careers. In this position primer Peegs.com takes a look at the offensive line position for the Hoosiers.

RETURNING STARTERS

http://www.scout.com/player/179115-wes-martin?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Junior

STATS: In 2016 Martin started all 13 games at left guard.

NOTES: Wes Martin is the most experienced lineman on the IU roster as he has played in 26 games with 19 starts in his career. The West Milton, Ohio native was not highly ranked or heavily recruited out of high school, but he has turned into a very solid lineman for the Hoosiers. Martin is not going to talk a lot, but he has become a better leader as the elder statesman on the O-line. After his redshirt freshman season in 2015 he named as an Honorable Mention on the Campus Insiders Freshman All-America team, and he was also a BTN.com All-Freshman team selection.

http://www.scout.com/player/201017-coy-cronk?s=170

CLASS: Sophomore

STATS: In 2016 Cronk started all 13 games at left tackle.

NOTES: Coy Cronk set an Indiana record last fall with 13 starts as a true freshman at left tackle. The Lafayette, Indiana native had a good first season for the Hoosiers as he was named to the ESPN.com and BTN.com All-Freshman Teams. There were times when Cronk’s lack of experience was evident, but he was able to play well despite being undersized because he is a good athlete with really good feet. A year of adding size and strength should make a big difference this fall for Cronk. With him and Martin as starters next to each other the left side of the Indiana offensive line is really solid.

http://www.scout.com/player/185150-brandon-knight?s=170

CLASS: Junior

STATS: In 2016 Knight played in eight games and started six games at right tackle.

NOTES: Brandon Knight took over as the starter at right tackle early in the 2016 season after Dimitric Camiel went down with a back injury. The IU junior played in eight games and started six before he also suffered an injury that ended his season. The Noblesville, Indiana native doesn’t have prototypical size for the tackle position, but because he is a good athlete with great feet he is still able to be an effective player at that spot. Knight could also slide inside and play at guard or even center if he was asked to. After his freshman season in 2015 he was named as an Honorable Mention on BTN.com All-Freshman Team.

TOP RETURNEES

http://www.scout.com/player/181092-simon-stepaniak?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: In 2016 Stepaniak played in 12 games and started two for the Hoosiers.

NOTES: Simon Stepaniak was able to get a little taste of what college football is like when he played late in the game at Michigan last fall before starting the final two games against Purdue and against Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl. The Hamilton, Ohio native was inserted into the line-up at right guard when the staff decided to play Dan Feeney at right tackle after they had a couple of their regular tackles go down because of injuries. Stepaniak is a player the former offensive coaches were very high on. He has a high ceiling as a lineman, but he just needs lack a ton of actual game experience. He is penciled in as the starter at right guard for 2017.

http://www.scout.com/player/179338-delroy-baker?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Junior

STATS: In 2016 Baker played in nine games at right tackle for the Hoosiers.

NOTES: Delroy Baker got a decent amount of playing time last fall at right tackle for IU as he saw action in nine games. The Florida native gives the Indiana staff a lineman with good size and length who is a solid athlete. If he isn’t the starter at right tackle look for him to be the top back-up there. He could also be in the mix for playing time at guard because he has the ability to move inside and play either guard spot.

http://www.scout.com/player/182243-hunter-littlejohn?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: In 2016 Littlejohn saw action in one game for the Hoosiers.

NOTES: The center spot is completely up for grabs this fall and one of the top contenders to man that position is Hunter Littlejohn. The Powell, Ohio native was recruited by the former IU coaches with the idea that he would eventually be the starting center. He played guard and tackle in high school, but with his build and his athleticism he seems like a great fit for center.

http://www.scout.com/player/180372-davondre-love?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: In 2016 Love played in three games for the Hoosiers.

NOTES: DaVondre Love was starting to get in the mix more for playing time last fall when he suffered a season ending knee injury. It was a tough break for the St. Louis native because not only did it end his season, but it happened so late in the year that it limits what he can do on the practice field this spring. Love has great size at 6’7 and around 310 pounds. He has practiced at both right tackle and at guard so he could provide depth at either position.

http://www.scout.com/player/196089-mackenzie-nworah?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Freshman

STATS: Nworah spent the 2016 season as a redshirt.

NOTES: In the 2016 recruiting class one of the top commits for the Hoosiers was O-lineman Mackenzie Nworah. The Manvel, Texas native had a number of big offers, and he was a prospect the former offensive coaches were very high on. The biggest issue for Nworah last fall was his weight. He came in a little too heavy and that really hindered any chance he had of possibly getting on the field early. He has dropped over 20 pounds since last fall and that should help his chances of cracking the two-deep this fall.

http://www.scout.com/player/196560-grayson-stover?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Freshman

STATS: Stover spent the 2016 season as a redshirt.

NOTES: Grayson Stover redshirted as a true freshman season in 2016. The Florida native needed to get bigger and stronger, but he also needed to refine his technique and that is what he was able to do last fall in his first season with the Hoosiers. He has good upside but with guys like Coy Cronk and Brandon Knight ahead of him he is probably a back-up at the tackle position this fall.

http://www.scout.com/player/210245-nick-ramacca?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: In 2016 Ramacca saw action in one game for the Hoosiers.

NOTES: Nick Ramacca is a former walk-on that has played in one game so far in his IU career, and that was last fall when the Hoosiers played at Rutgers. He is an interior O-lineman that provides depth for the Indiana offense at center, but he could also probably fill in at guard if needed. Ramacca was named offensive scout team player of the week for his performance on the practice field the week leading up to the game against Wake Forest.

http://www.scout.com/player/191449-jack-trainor?s=170

CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore

STATS: Did not see any game action in 2016.

NOTES: Jack Trainor is a former walk-on that has yet to get on the field in the two years he has been at Indiana. He was named offensive scout team player of the week last fall for his performance on the practice field during the week leading up to the Michigan State game. The Georgia native gives the IU staff deep depth as an interior O-linemen.

NEWCOMERS

http://www.scout.com/player/201308-tyler-knight?s=170

CLASS: Freshman

NOTES: Tyler Knight is an early enrollee for the Hoosiers from the 2017 recruiting class. The Florida native played tackle and guard in high school, but in college he most likely will be a guard. The ideal scenario would be for him to redshirt this fall, but he is a talented player who could work his way into the two-deep.

http://www.scout.com/player/190943-ryan-smith?s=170

CLASS: Freshman

NOTES: Ryan Smith actually signed with the Hoosiers as a member of the 2016 class, but because of an injury he was grey-shirted last fall and did not join the team until this semester. He projects as an interior lineman at either guard spot. Getting these reps this spring should give him a great shot to get in the two-deep this fall.

KEY LOSSES

Dan Feeney – In his career Feeney started all 46 games that he played in at IU. He had 41 starts at right guard and five at right tackle. The Illinois native became just the fourth player in program history to earn First Team All-America status twice, and he was just the third Hoosier to earn First Team honors in back-to-back seasons. In his Indiana career Feeney allowed just two sacks in 3,355 snaps.

Dimitric Camiel – In his career Camiel played in 39 total games with 20 starts. 19 of his starts came at right tackle and one was at left tackle.

Jacob Bailey – In his career Bailey played in 31 games with 19 starts. He made starts at both guard spots in his time with the Hoosiers.

Wes Rogers – In his career Rogers played in 29 total games with 17 starts at center.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

Left Tackle:

Starter: Coy Cronk

Back-up: Grayson Stover

Left Guard:

Starter: Wes Martin

Back-up: Ryan Smith

Center:

Starter: Hunter Littlejohn

Back-up: Simon Stepaniak

Right Guard:

Starter: Simon Stepaniak

Back-up: Mackenzie Nworah

Right Tackle:

Starter: Brandon Knight

Back-up: Delroy Baker

ANALYSIS

There may be no more interesting position group this spring and fall for the Hoosiers than the offensive line. After losing four fifth-year seniors from last year’s team, including two-time All-American Dan Feeney, there will be several new faces in the two-deep for the Indiana O-line. The good news is the talent level appears to be as high as it has been in years at this spot, but for a couple of them they will have to get up to speed quickly with a tough opener this fall against Ohio State, followed by a sneaky tough game at Virginia in week two.

The leader of the group is redshirt junior Wes Martin. Over his first two years of game action he has started 19 times and played in 26 games. Martin is just a solid, dependable, steady guy that you know what you will get week in and week out. Next to him at left tackle is sophomore Coy Cronk. Last fall Cronk stepped in at left tackle as a true freshman and went on to start all 13 games for the Hoosiers. He needs to get bigger and stronger, but that shouldn’t be a problem with an entire off-season in which to work on that. The third O-lineman that has some experience is Brandon Knight. The IU junior came in as a tackle prospect but played primarily tight end as true freshman in 2015 when the Hoosiers had some injuries there. He started six games last fall at right tackle and looks to be the starter at that spot for 2017, but he could also be in the mix at center if needed. The other top candidates to round out the starting O-line are Simon Stepaniak and Hunter Littlejohn. Stepaniak started the final two games last year after getting some playing time throughout the season. He has the ability to be an All-Conference type player, but he has yet to prove it because he hasn’t played much. Littlejohn is another talented guy but he has even less experience than Stepaniak, and he could be the starter at center, which is arguably the most critical spot on the entire O-line.

Behind what appears to be the top five are several youngsters that are short on experience but do bring a good deal of talent to the table. The back-ups at tackle are most likely redshirt freshman Grayson Stover and redshirt junior Delroy Baker. Stover impressed the former offensive coaches last fall on the scout team with his play. He brings size and athleticism to the tackle spot. Baker is an older player but he does not have a ton of playing experience. He looks to be the top back-up at right tackle, but he could also see time at guard if needed. True freshman Ryan Smith and redshirt freshman Mackenzie Nworah should be in the mix to be the back-ups at guard. Smith joined the program this semester after grey-shirting last fall, while Nworah redshirted last fall. Tyler Knight is also joining the program this spring, and while the ideal scenario would be for him to redshirt this fall, it would not be shocking to see him in the mix at guard if he shows he handle it. Another option for the Hoosiers is DaVondre Love. The redshirt sophomore saw a little playing time last fall before having his season end because of an ACL injury. Because of the timing of the injury he will be limited this spring, but he should be ready for Fall Camp and he could be a factor at that time. Former walk-ons Nick Ramacca and Jack Trainor provide depth at the interior line spots. Ramacca is more of a center type, while Trainor projects as a guard.


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