BLOOMINGTON – Six-foot-seven, 375-pound Dennis Zeigler isn't an easy man to move, but IU offensive line coach Bobby Johnson found a way.
All he had to do was ask.
One day before the start of spring practice, Johnson told the mountainous freshman offensive lineman that he'd be moving from guard to tackle for the three weeks of spring ball. It was a move made for a couple different reasons.
First of all, Johnson was in desperate need of some bodies to line up at the position. With tackles Mike Stark, James Brewer and Josh Hager all out due to off-season surgeries, Johnson needed someone to plug in at the spot. Moving Zeigler over temporarily would give him the opportunity to get some much needed reps with the No. 1 unit.
"I knew for him being as big as he is, it would be a challenge form him to be a tackle because I'd ask him to rely on some athleticism, which he does have," Johnson said. "If I didn't think he had it I wouldn't have put him out there."
Secondly, Johnson knew that spending some time at a different position could prove valuable once Zeigler returned to guard in the fall. By then Hager, Stark and Brewer will all be back on the field, and Zeigler will slide back to the interior of the offensive line.
"What it will do is when he moves back inside the game will slow down immensely," Johnson said. "It's going to get constricted, the space will be reduced, and he'll be able to use his size."
It's a move that's paid off. Zeigler has spent the entire spring practice season with the No. 1 unit at right tackle. After being a scout team player in the fall and getting limited opportunity to work closely with Johnson, he's been one of Johnson's focal points this spring.
He's piled up the reps and gained an understanding of what it's going to take to play on the Big Ten level.
"I've been getting a lot of work, and that's the most important thing," Zeigler said. "It's all about learning and memorizing and drilling it and drilled it until you get it.
I'm getting used to the offense so heading into the summer I know what I have to work on so when the fall arrives I'll be ready to play."
One of the things Zeigler wants to work on is continuing to get in better shape. He said he'd like to get down to 335 or 340 pounds, and he'd also like to add some more muscle in the off-season.
While he still has a little work to do in that area, Johnson has been impressed with what he's seen from the Indianapolis native.
"Without question he's exceeded my expectations (this spring)," Johnson said. "Here's a guy who is 375 pounds stark ass naked, and in pads he's probably about 400 pounds, and he has amazing feet. He has amazing agility for guy that size.
"He's shown me that in the fall I have to put him in a position to contribute, and that means moving him back inside."
Zeigler has proven his value by sliding outside to tackle, where he's been tested this spring going against the quickness of defensive ends such as Greg Middleton, Jammie Kirlew and Ryan Marando. That can be frustrating at times, but Johnson thinks the value will soon be apparent to Zeigler.
"I think sometimes they struggle to see (the value of playing another position), but I think they'll realize it once fall arrives," Johnson said.
IU's Zeigler A Man on the Move
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