Hoosier linemen author big day with a different look

They’ve reshuffled before and have the depth to do it again.

The men of Indiana’s offensive line weren’t left in a bad position when left tackle Jason Spriggs couldn’t start Saturday’s game against North Texas. Ralston Evans filled his spot on the left side, Dimitric Camiel filled Evans’ slot at right tackle and Jacob Bailey got the start at left guard.

Together, they had one of their best games of the season.

“We practice next to each other all the time,” center Collin Rahrig said of the changes. “Ralston has been kind of going at left tackle for a couple of weeks now anyhow, so we are just trying to see who we want there. We have a long season ahead so we have to be ready for injuries to kind of happen like that.”

The group of linemen are used to such changes after losing guard Dan Feeney and tackle Peyton Eckert to season-ending injuries during the 2013 preseason. That, in part, gave an opening to Bailey, a redshirt sophomore, who was a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection by both ESPN.com and BTN.com last season. He played admirably against the Mean Green.

“Bailey had (three) starts last year,” Rahrig said. “Camiel has also been coming around, too. He’s been getting a lot of reps at tackle. There were younger guys that just needed to get some strength in the offseason, which they did. Now they just have to come up with the rest of us and they know what’s expected.”

Through five games and nearing the halfway point of the regular season, Indiana’s offensive line stands as one of the better statistical units in the Big Ten. The group is tied for third with this week’s opponent, Iowa, and Minnesota with only seven sacks allowed — an average of 1.4 per game.

Against North Texas, which led the nation entering the game with 19 sacks, Indiana did not yield a single sack.

“We thought they performed well Saturday,” offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “With Dimitric Camiel and Jacob Bailey, a couple of those guys (were) making their first starts and they played as hard as anybody we had. When you see that on film, that to me shows their confidence level. When you can play that hard and decisive, that means you know what you’re doing and that’s a credit to those guys.”

Looking ahead, Johns would like to take a similar approach to his linemen as he does to his receivers, rotating a group of them into action regularly throughout games because of IU’s uptempo style.

“The offensive line, you kind of want to do the same thing,” Johns said. “We’d like to keep those guys fresh and we have a lot of depth and experience and we should be able to do that.”