Crider and IU’s offensive line settling into new roles

Indiana offensive line coach Darren Hiller doesn’t expect certain things from Harry Crider.

The senior center isn’t going to give his teammates a rah-rah speech. That’s just not his nature. It would be going overboard to call Crider shy, but he’s not exactly a social butterfly, either.

He’s not pulling a ton of teammates aside, giving pointers. At least not as many as offensive tackles Caleb Jones or Matt Bedford, in Hiller’s estimation. That’s just not Crider’s personality. He stays in his lane.

But the new leader of IU’s offensive line does show his teammates the way. It’s just about watching more than listening.

“The great thing is,” Hiller said, “I can just put the film on and I say, ‘Hey, you young guys, if want to see how to do it, just watch Harry Crider.'”

Crider, that model of consistency, finds himself back at the center of IU’s offense, which is actually a comfortable place. He was a center for his entire high school career at Columbus East. The eight games he played as a freshman at IU were all at center. Last season, he started 12 of his 13 games at left guard.

One game, versus Maryland, he shifted back to center in place of an injured Hunter Littlejohn.

“I am thankful for the challenge. It’s so natural,” Crider said. “As a leader, I know, everybody says I’m not the big talker. But … guys have figured out, if they need answers, if they want a real conversation, I’m always there for it.

“I’m happy guys are coming to me with questions, I’ve been excited about speaking up more on the field. Especially being at center, you have to do that.”

Crider has plenty of intangibles in his favor. He’s smart, graduating from IU in just two and a half years. He’s resilient, having lived with diabetes since the age of 10. He not only accepted his diagnosis — he used his senior project in high school to organize a fundraising event for the Riley Children’s Foundation. Just this week, it was announced Crider is a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which honors senior athletes for “combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.”

His leadership on the field in 2020, in the middle of IU’s offensive line, will be as important as ever. IU has some experience returning at tackle, though Bedford is flipping to the right side and Jones to the left. At the same time, there is still a battle underway to figure out who will start at the guard positions.

Stanford grad transfer Dylan Powell would appear to be a favorite to flank Crider, while redshirt senior Mackenzie Nworah, who started multiple games in 2019, could play on the other side. Redshirt freshman Michael Katic is also in the mix.

The Hoosier line just hasn’t had a ton of time together. The spring was cut short, and padded practices started again Wednesday. And now the season is just weeks away.

“We’ve been able to be in meetings, been able to work together,” Hiller said. “The hard part is the physicality portion of playing offensive line … running those combination blocks, whether they are double-teams, or zone combinations, or whatever, from the physical standpoint of just matching up and doing things.

“These next seven practices, which get us through the end of next week, will be very critical, because then we’ll be two weeks from game time. At that point, there will have to be some decisions that will be made.”

There is a sense of urgency about the season as it nears. Jones and Bedford, in particular, have been standouts in taking less-experienced players under their wing and offering advice.

That’s not to say Crider hasn’t chipped in.

“I think a common misconception about Harry is that he hates to talk. Harry, he’ll talk when he has to,” Jones said. “He’s a pretty funny guy, you just kind of have to hear him because he’s not the most loud. He’ll never be the guy that’s the most noisy in the room, but when he has something to say, you gotta make sure it’s heard, because nine out of 10 times, it’s pretty important.

“A lot of guys in our room have a lot of respect for him, because he honestly has the most experience in our room right now.”

In terms of calls at the line, Bedford doesn’t believe there is much difference between Littlejohn and Crider vocally. In fact, Bedford feels like Crider may even be better at calling out blitzes.

He’s really smart.

“Sometimes he’ll be able to give me a ‘gut’ call,” Bedford said. “When we have ‘gut’ and linebackers are on different levels, he’s able to see that a little bit quicker. He’s a huge help in that aspect.”

It shouldn’t be hard for the Hoosier offensive line to hear him on Saturdays, either. Though some crowd noise may be pumped in, stadiums are going to be mostly empty at Big Ten games this fall.

“There won’t be any outside distractions. That’s why our communication has to be so locked in,” Crider said. “We have the ability to communicate, so we want to make the most of it and really take advantage of the opportunities we have and make sure we are on the same page.”

It’s not too long before that first opportunity arrives.

We’re just a few weeks out. It’s getting a lot more real and people are starting to realize that,” Crider said. “The sense of urgency is there. Guys are locked in. We’re really optimistic about it.”

11 comments

  1. It is good to hear about the OL and what is going on with that group. I read in another article that Feeney is back full time once again as he is healthy now. IU is setting up the OL so far to have Jones as left tackle and Bedford at right tackle; it makes sense with Penix being a lefty QB. Bedford stated that Crider picks up blitz for the OL better than last year’s center. If that is true we should see an improvement in the OL. I am sure that Powell’s experience will help the OL out seeing what the defense is doing before the ball is snapped.

    For IU to improve this year the OL will be a big part of that because we need a better running game this year along with a great passing game. It will be interesting to see how coach Sheridan does a an OC as I hope he is as talented as previous and current coaches think he is. He certainly has the background as a previous QB and working with QBs at two major schools.

    I hope to see an article soon on the receivers and how the young guys are doing. We know about the returning players at WR, slot, and TE but we have 4 star WR & slot, I wonder how they are performing and if we will see much of them this season.

    Our RB situation is in good shape with experience and talent along with a young RB getting noticed already. I hope to see the RBs make more tacklers miss them with some wiggle in the running. It doesn’t take a big move to make tacklers miss and learning the nuances can help RBs make defenses miss them. I wouldn’t complain either to see more power like James showed in the PU game.

    The offense is primed for coach Sheridan and the other offensive coaches to unleash this offense on the B1G defenses. Let’s hope coach Sheridan can be an offensive coach that is raved about this year.

    1. The O line is the biggest concern of the coaches. It’s a think group. Losing Cronk hurt as he was their best, most experienced guy up there, so they have a ways to go. Depth is also a huge concern, as they’re short on bodies who can play at this level. A shortened season will help this unit, but they need to stay injury free and have some luck if they’re to be very good. The biggest key that will take some pressure off the OL will be Penix getting the ball out quickly, which is what the offense is designed to do.

      1. I was at the Ball State game last year. I watched Cronk very closely. He was good but not great as I expected him to be. Bedford made freshman mistakes last season, but his talent is off the charts. Much better than Cronk!

        1. He wasn’t much better than Cronk in the eyes of the coaches, and he was much better than Bedford. Not really a close call on that at all.

  2. v I thought that observation by Bedford was really a sign of awareness not only by Crider but of Bedford to recognize it. As we keep progressing with this roster we really see how smart these OL players are. To evaluate blitzes more quickly than in the past is an advantage not to be minimized. As to the offense I can’t recall an IUFB team where the run game will advantage the pass game and vice versa as does the potential this team holds. To me the OL prospects are exciting. Early on I was critical of Hiller. I now tip my hat to him.

    1. Too early, for that, HC. Every coach for every program, everywhere right now “likes what he sees” and every player on every team is “really making progress.” We’ll start to find out in three weeks. Woo-Hoo!

      1. Oh, there was a reason for it. I think most people have a good idea what happened. It wasn’t exactly a secret.

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