The offensive line is a major reason behind the success of the Indiana Hoosier running game last season. They look to continue that in 2015 and the X-factor to that continued success is the tight end group, which has the praise of head coach Kevin Wilson as the best TE group he’s coached in Bloomington.
“I think the line,” Wilson said. “I think the thing that a lot of guys missed, too, is the tight end play.”
“It’s good to see tight ends getting some love because they’ve been a little repressed the last couple years,” offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “We’ve got some good tight ends. There’s a whole lot of athletes out there and I know they’re eager to get move involved in the passing game this year.”
“We have a lot of talent,” senior tight end Anthony Corsaro said. “I think we have a lot of potential of being a big part of the offense this year.”
Last season, the Hoosiers had their most prolific rushing seasons in history. Tevin Coleman became the program’s first 2,000-yard rusher with a school record 2,032 yards. He’s now in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons but they now have Jordan Howard, a transfer from UAB who rushed for 1,587 yards.
What helped Coleman and what will help Howard is the stability in the offensive line provided by tight ends like Corsaro and Michael Cooper.
“Michael Cooper is a guy who is dependable,” tight end coach James Patton said. “There’s no substitution for toughness in this league, and he demonstrated that.”
Wilson’s tight ends have normally been used as extra blockers for the run game, which is why they don’t pop in the stat sheet but make the running back’s life easier.
“We got a really good group of four guys that are 6’4″, 6’5″, 250 to 265,” Wilson said. “They complement. If you don’t have a great tight end presence to run the ball in college, you need a running quarterback. If not, you’re going to be a one dimensional (indiscernible) that can try to run it.
“You need reach blockers, you need down blockers. Those guys are at the point of attack. They help a ton in protection. And I’m excited about Corsaro and Cooper as seniors.”
Having senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld back from injury helps with the balancing of the offense as well as give it some credibility. That being said, the Hoosiers will still look to run first and heavy and use their big guys to their advantage.
“When guys like that were making huge gains and buy in, that makes Spriggs and Feeney better because it’s a group,” Wilson said, “it’s a group with depth.”
An offensive line with depth is the kind of line Wilson likes, that, and experience. In a league known for size and strength up front, Indiana’s ability to go in with six big bodies, almost all of them being seniors, definitely gives the Hoosiers a chance in the top heavy Big Ten.
“I would say Coach [Greg] Frey has the hardest job on the team just because coach Wilson’s an O-line guy,” Corsaro said. “He’s probably watching him harder than anyone else.”
“This is a line of scrimmage league and game, and that is the strength of this team,” Wilson said. “That’s why we have a lot of confidence we can be a solid team.”
These guys at the O-line are also large and in charge. The Hoosier coaching staff raved about how much stronger they have become – coming into camp with more guys who can bench over 400lb than ever before in the Wilson era.
They’re also seen as the leaders of the Indiana offense, which is crucial in games against Michigan and defending National Champion Ohio State.
“Our size is a big advantage for us as a unit,” Redshirt junior Dimitric Camiel said. “It’s good for the pass block, the run block and just ranging out. It helps us in a lot of ways, and you can’t teach it either. We’ve just got it.
“I don’t think we could be the best,” he said. “I know so.”
The offensive line normally doesn’t get much credit for the team’s success, but if Indiana starts winning, you’ll know why.