TERRE HAUTE —
The Indiana State offensive line is a lot like some of the Sycamores’ other units. Experience with a mix of youth that will get its first chance this season.
Unlike some of ISU’s other units that share the same experience and youth mix, the number of available bodies in the offensive line isn’t as plentiful as, say, the secondary or wide receiver corps.
Health is always a concern for an offensive line and ISU is no different.
“I would say I’m happy with the depth at a few positions where we have competition, but I’m concerned about our overall depth at offensive line. It’s hard for us to put together a complete two-deep group. Depth is a huge concern,” ISU coach Mike Sanford.
Depth is evident at the tackle spots and at left guard where competition for starting spots is ongoing. Junior Paul Patrick has started parts of two seasons at left tackle, but he could move over to right tackle, where redshirt freshman Nick Dachota is vying for a spot at either of the tackle positions.
Fellow redshirt freshman Dakota Vermillion has been with the No. 1 unit and could play at left tackle.
“It’s a great opportunity to start as a redshirt freshman. Hopefully I’ll be a four-year starter. The bonding with the front five and the rest of the guys has been great,” said Vermillion, a former Terre Haute North standout.
Junior college transfer Aaron Jelovic, who transferred to ISU from Foothill College in California, is currently including on the No. 1 unit as the left guard. Competing with Jelovic is sophomore Evan Goebel.
“We have a lot of competition going on. Dakota Vermillion is a young, local player who has a tremendous future ahead of him. We feel very good about him. Paul Patrick and Nick Dachota are competing for the tackle job. We’ll see what happens there. Evan Goebel and Aaron Jelovic are competing for one of the guard spots. Clyde Ignont is the other guy,” Sanford said.
That’s a lot of competition, but the race for those starting spots swirls around the certainty that is center FN Lutz and right guard Adam Masters. Both are stalwarts on the offensive line.
Lutz, who is returning to action after sitting out 2012 with a knee injury, will be a four-year starter. Masters, a junior, will be a three-year starter.
Lutz, one of the most visible and popular ISU athletes on-campus, demonstrated his talents as a leader in 2012 when he helped run ISU’s scout teams. Sanford said that Masters’ leadership abilities aren’t to be underestimated either.
“FN and Adam are the leaders, especially, but Adam Masters has taken on more of a leadership role. He was elected to the leadership committee and he is doing a good job of that,” Sanford said.
Jelovic is Lutz’s roommate and he said the time he spends with Lutz is invaluable.
“He’s the best introduction I could get. We call him The Governor Of Indiana because he knows all of the back roads around here. He knows everybody. You go out with FN and he’s saying hi to every person there is,” Jelovic said. “He’s brought me into Indiana State and made me feel like home. He’s the leader. He brings us all together.”
A challenge everyone on the line faces is the new offense and a new position coach. Vince Natali came with Sanford from the 2012 Utah State staff to coach ISU’s offensive line.
“There’s a big learning curve. We expect our offensive line to be very intelligent. They have to identify fronts. They have to get their blocking scheme to the right guys. That’s probably the biggest adjustment they’ve had is everybody going the same way,” Sanford said.
Lutz noted that some of the difficulties in learning Sanford’s spread offense can be mitigated by spending time together and have an open dialogue among each other on how to iron out problems. Lutz said the linemen had several cookouts and went on a float trip at Turkey Run.
Of course, bonding is always an important part of a successful line anyway.
“The offense is quite a bit different, but we’re learning it together. There were things I didn’t get at first, but that the guards or tackles would get and pass it on,” said Lutz, who said his knee is doing well in his return to action.
“The biggest thing is their willingness to learn. They all want to learn and get better. I see a lot of myself in those guys who are trying to learn and put the pieces together,” he added.