BOZICH | How Indiana football is already a Top 25 team - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | How Indiana football is already a Top 25 team

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Tackle Jason Spriggs is part of an Indiana offensive line considered one of the nation's best. Tackle Jason Spriggs is part of an Indiana offensive line considered one of the nation's best.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Who says Indiana University doesn't have a Top 25 football team?

Not Athlon Sports. The good folks at Athlon have ranked the top 25 offensive lines in college football. There’s Indiana, ranked 24th, ahead of Texas, ahead of Michigan, ahead of 10 Big Ten teams.

There’s more. Phil Steele’s college football yearbook says Athlon is disrespecting the Hoosiers. Steele ranks the IU offensive front 16th in the nation.

Ahead of Notre Dame. Ahead of LSU. Ahead of Oregon. Ahead of Oklahoma.

I’ll stop now before you accuse me of making this up.

I’m not.

In fact, John Lewis and I visited IU football practice Tuesday morning. The only problem IU coach Kevin Wilson and quarterback Nate Sudfeld had with the rankings is they don’t believe the Hoosiers’ Hog earned enough love.

“They’re probably better than that,” Wilson said. “They’re pretty good. If we were a school that’s got a little clout, they’d get a little more notoriety.”

“I think they’re the best,” said Sudfeld, Indiana’s senior quarterback.

If they’re the best, or even better than 16th, Indiana should not have to sweat powering its way to six victories and a bowl game this season, right?

Fourteen of the 15 offensive lines ranked ahead of Indiana on Steele’s list play for teams that made the Associated Press pre-season Top 25. If IU’s offensive line is as formidable as Steele and Athlon argue, the Hoosiers should again score the way they did in 2012 (30.8 points per game) or 2013 (38.4).

IU’s offense lost 13 points from that average last season, stalling after Sudfeld was lost for the season in game six.

Sudfeld is back. Halfback Tevin Coleman, maybe the best runner to ever play at IU, is not.

“We have a lot of prove,” said Jason Spriggs, IU’s left tackle. “We have to prove we can go out and win games and get our team to a bowl game … We have to prove that we can still run the ball without Tevin and that we can still protect the quarterback. We have to prove it just the same way every other O line does.”

Call the roll of the blockers from left to right. You begin with Spriggs, who has started 34 games in three seasons and carries 305 pounds on his solid 6-foot-7 frame. His name will be called in the NFL Draft next spring. Steele rates Spriggs the 18th best offensive tackle in the 2016 draft.

Next to him is Wes Martin, a redshirt freshman who has bench-pressed 500 pounds. At center is Jake Reed, a fifth-year player who came to IU from Columbus East to play tight end.

The right tackle is silo-sized Dimitric Camiel. He’s as tall as Spriggs, but carries (at least) five more points.

I went out of order for a reason. Right guard Dan Feeney has earned the most praise, from Wilson, Sudfeld and Steele, who ranks Feeney the ninth best offensive guard in the 2016 draft.

“Dan Feeney right there is as good a kid as I’ve ever coached,” Wilson said. “There’s a couple of legit, high-end kids (Feeney and Spriggs). Feeney is a great player.”

“Feeney is probably the best player I’ve ever played with, on or off the field,” Sudfeld said. “If you were to create an O-lineman, personality-wise, effort, ability, strength, you would create Dan Feeney.”

Now, what this Indiana offensive line needs to do is create time for Sudfeld to work, without worrying about getting injured the way he did against Iowa last season. They also need to knock open gaps for Jordan Howard and Devine Redding, the halfbacks who will try to replace Coleman and his 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“We’re going to have to open up holes,” Spriggs said. “If we have to open them bigger for somebody, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what we have to do to keep the ball rolling.”

Wilson knows how it works. His teams have won only 14 of 48 games over four seasons. By November, or even mid-September, nobody will be fussing about what Phil Steele thinks about Indiana’s offensive line. They’ll be fussing about how the Hoosiers perform against Southern Illinois, FIU, Western Kentucky and Wake Forest -- their first four games.

“You’re not a good line until the end of the year when you can chalk up what you did,” Wilson said.

“If we have some success, it’s a good line. If not, it’s just a talented line.”

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. 

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