Hoosier Scoop Sage Take of the Day, Oct. 30, 2012

It’s a sight to warm the heart of an old wishbone fullback like me, who believes offensive line play is as big a key to successful football as anything else.
The Indiana football two-deep chart released Monday looks much the same as it has most of the season, including the listings for offensive line.
Stalwart center Will Matte, who now has 41 career starts, is the only offensive lineman in his final season of eligibility. Every other starter is due back next year.
And the year after that.
That’s right. All the other starters are sophomores and freshmen. And that goes for all the backups, too, except for Charlie Chapman, a junior currently listed as the backup to starting left tackle and true freshman Jason Spriggs.
Think about that for a second. Indiana’s starting offensive line in the fall of 2014 might still include Spriggs, classmate Dan Feeney (right guard) and current sophomores Bernard Taylor (left guard) and Peyton Eckert (right tackle).
Not that it necessarily will of course, given further recruiting and other circumstances that might intervene. But consider that four starters on IU’s present offensive line could still be in place two autumns from now — two years older, two years stronger, two years more experienced under the tutelage of coach Greg Frey.
I felt Frey worked wonders last fall, cobbling together a functional line out of disparate, unproven parts during what was a very daunting first season in Bloomington for Kevin Wilson’s staff.
Then I saw what I felt was the best-looking group of offensive linemen I’ve seen matriculate in Bloomington for many a moon arrive this fall.
Spriggs and Feeney pretty much moved right into the starting lineup and have both mostly shined, given their tender years. And IU fans haven’t yet gotten to see freshman classmates Dimitric Camiel, Jacob Bailey and Wes Rogers in action, but they will. All five freshmen o-line guys, including the three guys currently redshirting, are big, rangy, athletic dudes.
Add to them sophomore reserves who have already seen some snaps, such as Cody Evers, Pete Bachman, Bill Ivan and Jake Reed and redshirt freshmen Ralston Evans, David Kaminski and Greg Lewis.
And, well, you get the idea. That amounts to more than a dozen young linemen on scholarship with whom Frey can work presumably through the end of this season and the following two seasons, not counting the recruits who will subsequently arrive in the interim. And there is already some real talent in that group.
Indiana is currently averaging a decent 4.4-yard average per rush, a figure that would be enhanced a bit if Tre Roberson had been quarterbacking past the second game of the season, given his ability to avoid sacks and make plays with his feet.
But even with current quarterbacks Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld not possessing that sort of elusiveness and “escapability,” IU has surrendered just 11 sacks all season (while Hoosier defenders have sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times.)
Such stats speaks volumes. IU’s offensive line perhaps isn’t yet playing dominant football, and has a lot of improving to do, but is already providing some pretty adequate performance at a very young collective age. It benefits immensely from the leadership of Matte, who most certainly will be missed when his Indiana career concludes, but a lot of the pieces already in place seem foundational for future seasons.
And while there are a lot of optimistic signs to cite regarding Wilson’s program right now, none looms larger to me than the status and promise of the offensive line.
A good offensive line means a team can run. It means it can protect its passer. Which means it can control the ball. Which means it can rest its defense. And so on. The ramifications are far-reaching. To say it all starts up front with that center snap is more than just literally true. Take it from this old fullback. The team with the better offensive line usually wins.
Indiana has pretty much always been able to recruit adequate “skill position” talent on offense, but historically hasn’t always had the material or wherewithal to win in the trenches.
That could be changing right before our eyes.


  1. With all the good work CKW has done this year, any rumblings of a bigger football school looking to hire him away from IU?

  2. Great article Andy, many good points that many people fail to acknowledge. IU is really really young football team and the future seems brighter than ever. As for other schools looking at CKW Aruss? I doubt it, he’s only on his second year of his contract and still has a lot to prove. Not to knock him down since he has done a remarkable job up to this point, but there’s still plenty of work to do in Bloomington and I believe other schools won’t start looking anytime soon or at least until he gets us to a couple bowl games.

  3. I agree with HoosierFan12 in that it is a bit early to worry about another school looking at Coach Wilson. That said, once IU begins to win on a consistant basis, watch out because, at that point, Wilson will have pulled off one of the greatest turn arounds in NCAA football history!

  4. Excellent article, Mr. Graham. I couldn’t agree more, so much of the game is dictated on how the o-line plays. The big uglies up front do an awful lot of work and get hardly any accolades.

  5. Great opinion piece Andy. Beginning with the revelation and conclusion that you were a wishbone fullback; I would have been absolutely overjoyed and giddy- they would have had to call a time-out to control me- to see you line up at the position on the other side of the line… I was a linebacker! …(just poking fun).

    Every word you write is true and really well reasoned. I had that ”feeling’ about Coach Wilson and his staff. When I read his comments (from the beginning through the truths he told about a very mediocre performance against Illinois, which we won), it really does make me feel that it is how the coach ‘sees’ the game, how he develops his philosophy and adapts his system to that philosophy, his ability to transmit his leadership and, most important, his consistency in everything he does; from the way he handled establishing himself with a hard-to-manage program by accepting the initial loss of players to his outright determination that the Hoosier program would have to strike at the heart of the culture with his vision or fail.

    More than anything, the great thing about this year is not just that we will have these men back for 2-3 years, but that as a group they have changed the rest of us and are doing the same with the ‘culture of losing’ we had grown to accept.

    That said, not enough can be said for the incredible leadership provided by Matte and Repogle. Matte will forever stand out in Hoosier lore as players that gave us back our dignity.

    Getting there is really a major part of the fun, isn’t it? Some of us who believed would not have it any other way…and, we know there is still a good ways to go. That’s the beauty of it.

  6. Aruss, respecfully speaking, is out of his mind. Wilson has won a conf. game. That’s supposed to get ADs all over the USA salivating over him?

    As to the O-line, they are indeed young. Which means that the same guys will be back next year. I’m always amused when I read that a team that was 3-8 last year should be expecting improvement because 15/22 players returning this year. It’s the same not-so-good guys coming back!

    That said, KW deserves big praise for what the offense is doing- scoring points! Imagine what he can do two years from now when he’s filled the huge defensive wants and can recruit some offensive players.

  7. davis, yeah, that’s pretty optimistic to think anyone is stealing CKW away. I do think he’s making a massive paradigm shift.

    While I would normally agree that there’s nothing great about mediocre players returning, I don’t think that’s the case. It might be true if the rest of the cast was a solid junior and senior class, but the fact of the matter is these guys are playing pretty decent and there are ONLY freshmen and sophomores. That is very, very different.

    I’m no DI coach or player, and don’t claim to be, but I have been in that situation, both as a player and a simpleton coach. Coming off a losing season knowing that you are loaded with talented players with a ton of game experience gives you a mindset that you can be kicking people’s asses.

    At least that’s the way it worked out for me as a lowly high school player and, later, coach. We went from 1-9 to 9-1 and we were disappointed that we lost that one game (by a field goal). We had everybody back and spent the whole season getting revenge. We thrived on it.

    I’m hoping this is gonna come to roost and, really, I think it is. I’m listening to these guys and watching them play and I think they are gonna be takin’ names

    Time will tell.

  8. Call me a rebel without a clue, but I’ve always refused to accept the “culture of losing” that’s been here for…30 years more or less. That’s why I was so pissed off, & then pissed on,(I did get myself in to trouble, calling the team losers after all, my bad) after the Navy game-the way we lost that game, & the excuses & “that’s okay we’re geting better” that I heard after that game, THAT’S accepting a culture of losing, & I wish we as fans would change that attitiude as well, it really can affect the program, as it does in Basketball. Not that I’m some guru of fandom, but I refuse to become comfortable with defeat damnitt!!
    I think the program should actually be turned around before people come to snipe Wilson away from us, that’s premature, but don’t worry, they’ll be here soon enough if he keeps us on the right track, which I think he will. I see a pattern in the players he’s recruiting, not just the highly rated ones. He’s getting players that fit his schemes, instead of simply the most talented athletes available like many schools do. Clearly has a plan & is executing it. When is the last time we saw a football coach do that at IU? Besides Hoeppner, ofcourse.

  9. AD Glass will extend and add $ to Coach Wilson’s contract long before any suitor would come calling.

  10. Chris K., I on board, but if you’re thinking the time frame is 30 years I’m guessing you just got here.

  11. Chris K, Clarion, etal… I’ve always found it interesting how we ‘expect’ the bad to come to us. Good things can not happen to us?

    That’s why I think we wallow in a “culture of losing”.

    Take this exchange. Folks, Davis is absolutely right…we’ve one one (B1G)game in two years! That’s it, one…uno! And we have fans going suicidal…because those ‘big other schools’ may come ‘lure’ and ‘take’ CKW away?

    First, let’s win a ahhh…second game…

    Second, lets go win three and actually go do it. Then, we’ll deal with the 2013 season and bringing in great kids and put together a team that really gets people looking at how the Hoosiers put the program together. My, my…those Hoosiers!

    Most important…I get the sense that CKW, all things being equal, likes it here, understands it will be his statue we’ll build outside Memorial Stadium, likes the town as does the family (who wouldn’t…Bloomington is a great place and IU truly a top school). CKW will want to continue to live in Bloomington, where he is obviously happy. We can make him feel appreciated…And I think Glass has a good sense of that…

    And,know this… since we want to be winners we can get ready to put together offers that show CKW we appreciate his giving us respectability and self-respect… For instance, by actually filling the stadium and increasing demand on tickets and make us feel ‘lucky’ we have one…

    Plus, don’t act like rubes. Yes, that will mean we are willing to pay what it takes to hold on to our new level as ‘winners’, self-respecting, capable… pay CKW what he will be worth because we want to be the best, which will be quite a bit but that’s the price of being a winner…which we are. And, none of that “ohhhh god, $2.5 million dollars!(or thereabout-whatever) you can’t spend that much money!…”

    In other words, we need to ‘act like we’ve ridden in the limo before!’.

  12. AD Glass will extend and add $ to Coach Wilson’s contract long before any suitor would come calling.

    If there’s someone who knows what AD Glass will do that is you. You knew it with Bill Lynch and you know it now.

  13. Clarion- You are right. AD Glass knew what he was doing when he hired Wilson. (Go back and read his account of their first meeting).

    He knows much of our athletic program rests on football and Wilson has the vision and the leadership skills. He and Glass are capable professionals who know how to get outcomes and reach goals. It’s not for amateurs, it takes professionals like Glass and Wilson.

  14. Well, we haven’t ridden in the limo before, but we need to act like want to,& believe that we can. The best thing we can do, is fill up Memorial Stadium. It CAN happen. I’ve had to sit back & watch Northwestern, NORTHWESTERN of all teams, Wisconsin, Purdue, all go the the Rose Bowl in my lifetime, but not us. It isn’t fair, but if they can do it, it SURE AS HELL can be done here.

  15. I should explain to the youngsters that Wisconsin used to be a doormat, under us even in football. For many years. It took just 1 man, Barry Alvarez, to turn that place into a football school, Ithink they can be called that at this point. No reason the same can’t happen here.They have no advantages over us in terms of building a football program, well they do now in recruiting due to their reputaion of winning, but they didn’t start out that way. 20 years ago, if anything, we had a better platform than they did. `

  16. Chris K, NU has indeed turned it’s program around, but don’t equate that with filling the stadium. Game day tix are easy to score below face value in the parking lot almost every game. The ‘Cats sell out about once every other year. And the place isn’t even that big.

  17. davis, that’s a valid point but keep in mind that Northwestern is a small school and they are competing with the entire Chicago area for entertainment dollars. By and large, it’s the rural state universities that can pack enormous stadiums. Even USC can’t put butts in the seats if they are not winning. You can walk up ad get a great seat at a Miami game easily.

    I remember brief periods of semi success at IU and fans will come.

    I also think the Barry Alvarez comparison is what we might see if our dreams come true. Actually, the comparisons thus far are striking. Long time assistant under great mentors at traditional football powers. Takes over perennial Big Ten doormat with no history of success. He went 1-10 his first season followed by a couple of 5-6 campaigns.

    Also, he knows the history of the game. If he can build it in Bloomington there is little reason to leave as long as the money is there…and it will be.

    He has an ego, just like the rest of us. As noted before, if he makes Indiana a power there will be a statue in front of Wilson Stadium. There’s no better place to live. If they are winning IU will be easy to recruit kids to.

    Or…he could be one of a half dozen guys that returned a stumbling major program back to glory.

    Who casts a longer shadow, Barry Alvarez or Brian Kelly? Alvarez IS Wisconsin football. Kelly is the flavor of the day.

  18. If you have not been to Madison November through March you have no way of realizing how much easier it is to recruit to places like Bloomington with the exception being for ice sculpturing. If you do not like Winter it is the pits. Alvarez did an outstanding job there from the standpoint of that obstacle alone.

  19. I said Northwestern went to a Rose Bowl, not that they turned their program around, although they kinda’ have. Which is remarkable since noone has more disadvantages than they do. Smallest stadium in the cond=ference, although it’s much bigger than the last one they had, most of all their academic standards are NOT conducive to athletic success, but yet here they are.

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