It was something he’s worked on, something he’s done before.
But even an All-American like Dan Feeney felt a tinge of awkwardness Saturday as he shifted between right guard and right tackle.
The former is a spot where Feeney has grown into one of the top linemen nationally, a reliable and effective puller who makes Indiana’s run game go. The latter is a position he played throughout high school, albeit on the opposite side of the line.
Feeney returned to his roots on Saturday at Rutgers, starting his first game at right tackle as IU played without injured sophomore Brandon Knight. Although it required an adjustment period for Feeney, who also spent some time at guard, it’s a move that the Hoosiers could deploy more often during the final three games of the season.
Knight is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a leg injury, and IU coach Kevin Wilson is more comfortable building up sophomore tackle Delroy Baker with a small set of reps rather than a full load.
Because Feeney is Indiana’s best all-around lineman — Wilson teased this summer that he could play Feeney at all five spots — it was up to him to shore up a right side that has dealt with injuries and absences all season long.
“It was a little bit different, kind of a new twist on the game, but I liked it,” Feeney said. “It kind of needed to be done to help Brandon Knight out since he went down. It helped Delroy get in, but not every kind of rep. Just mixing and matching to do what we can to make this O-line great.”
It helps, too, that Indiana likes Feeney’s backup, Jacob Bailey, enough to trust him at the home of an All-American. Bailey played well while Feeney missed four games with a concussion earlier this season. But he, too, is a much more effective player when he’s tasked with only a portion of the available reps and not the entire game.
So the plan moving forward calls for utilizing Feeney’s flexibility and bouncing him between the positions.
At guard, it gives Bailey an acceptable amount of snaps where he can be reliable. At tackle, it allows Baker to work himself into the mix without becoming overexposed.
In the middle of it all is Feeney, who can add one more feature to his resume as one of the best offensive line productive Indiana has ever seen.
“It just gets our best five on the floor,” Wilson said. “Dan is mature enough and he’s long enough that he can play the tackle spot. He can play all five spots at the college level. I mean, he’ll play a little bit of both this week, I’m sure. We didn’t think that was wrong.
“… I don’t know if he plays (tackle) all the game, but he can play a lot of it. Then it takes a little bit off of Jake Bailey’s plate and a little bit off of Delroy’s plate. Collectively, those three guys will handle those two spots on the right if we stay healthy and fortunate there.”
Admittedly, Feeney felt a bit rusty shifting over one spot to his right.
He still played a good game, finishing with six knockdows against the Scarlet Knights. But in the game and in the film room, he could see and feel that his approach needs work.
That’s where his focus is approaching Saturday’s tilt with Penn State.
“There aren’t a whole lot of 300-pound D-ends out there, so it’s definitely a little bit different of a game,” Feeney said. “Just adjusting to the speed and how everything works with the hips and stuff like that. I think I practiced pretty well for the week, and this week I’ll keep developing.”