Hoosiers O-Line Seeking Consistency, Moving in Right Direction

With everyone back along the offensive line, consistency still remains the big key for Indiana in that position group.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - When offensive line coach Darren Hiller evaluates his players, he still sees too much inconsistency across Indiana's three games this season.

Hiller thought the O-line made progress from the Iowa game to the Idaho game, and he thought the Hoosiers did some good things against Cincinnati, but ultimately, it hasn't been enough.

"I still think we have inconsistencies," Hiller said Wednesday. "I think we made progress in the Idaho game and I thought there were some good things in the Cincinnati game, but inconsistencies are showing up, and it's not at one position, it's unit wide."

The things Hiller mentioned were a lot of fundamentals, such as footwork, hand placement, and it's been happening in both the running and passing game.

The players know it, too. Consistency was the word both Caleb Jones and Matthew Bedford used on Monday to describe what Indiana needs to get better at.

For Jones, as one of the seniors on the team, he's taken it upon himself to get the offensive line together before and after practices to continue to work on technique.

He said since Hiller only has a certain amount of time with the players each week, it's his job to make sure that he's getting the guys together before or after practice to work on those things.

It's been a welcome sight for Hiller, who wanted more leadership from his group after the Iowa loss.

"I think it's been good," Hiller said. "I think the kids are doing some extra stuff. They are doing extra things outside the time we get with them, and it's been positive."

Jones was around 415 pounds during the Outback Bowl in January, and now, he's down to around 355 pounds, which he said has made it easier to be quicker and stay in games longer.

Lining up right next to Jones at guard this season is Bedford. Bedford used to play tackle on the opposite side from Jones, but now the two are lined up next to one another.

The decision was talked about toward the end of last season, and Bedford said one day he came to practice and Hiller said, "Hey, we're moving you to guard."

"I felt like it was a great change," Bedford said. "I feel like I'm able to bring more to the run game. It makes it easier to me because I don't have to make as many calls as I was at tackle. So I'm just executing the calls."

Hiller said with Luke Haggard buffing up, it was down to either Jones, Haggard or Bedford to move inside to guard this season, and they thought Bedford was the best option.

"He's doing a nice job," Hiller said. "Matt is an explosive guy, so we felt like that was the move."

"It's always been a lot of fun having Matt on the line," Jones said. "We've worked our way through all of our struggles becoming players together. Having him right next to me helps me because I'm comfortable with him. The communication between us is good now and it needs to continue to improve."

Indiana is getting set to play a high-flying Western Kentucky team on Saturday under the lights in Bowling Green, Kentucky. 

The Hilltoppers are bringing back some experience along their defensive line. 

"Western Kentucky is a really good defensive team," Jones said. "They got a lot of older guys that are returning. We're gonna go out there, execute our game plan. I don't know what plays we'll be calling, but I know when we get out there, we'll be able to do whatever it is that we need to do to get this win."

The Hoosiers' offensive line is putting in that extra work to try to get better every single day, eliminate those inconsistencies and do everything possible to make life easier for Michael Penix Jr. and the running backs.

Jones believes they have done some good things this season, but they haven't played up to their standard just yet.

That's been the theme for Indiana's team as a whole this season. There have been flashes of what everyone thought the Hoosiers would be, but the inconsistency has left the Hoosiers below the standard Tom Allen expected them to be at.

But the season isn't lost. At 1-2, Indiana has two tough, night road games ahead the next two weeks. Even though the start hasn't been ideal, the confidence hasn't been lost in the locker room.

"Our confidence level is still at an all-time high," Bedford said. "We know who we are. We know how we play. We just need to focus on executing and playing the way that we play because when we do, we make yards, we make touchdowns, so we just need to keep our confidence at an all-time high, keep each other together as a family and execute."

  • WHAT MICHAEL PENIX HAD TO SAY TUESDAY NIGHT: Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. faced the music on Tuesday night, answering questions for 30 minutes on the Sports Illustrated Indiana podcast Mike & Micah at Yogi's Bar & Grill in Bloomington. CLICK HERE
  • GAME TIME SET FOR PENN STATE: Indiana will take on No. 6 Penn State under the lights at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 2. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ABC. CLICK HERE
  • BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS: Indiana tumbles in the conference rankings, but how far did they go? Tom Brew ranks the league, No. 1 through No. 14. CLICK HERE
  • REPORT CARD: Mistakes continue to derail the Hoosiers in their 38-24 loss to Cincinnati, and it's reflected in our weekly report card. CLICK HERE