New IU offensive line coach Darrenn Hiller saw some familiar faces when he arrived at Indiana back in February.
During his three years at Cincinnati prior to coming to IU, Hiller recruited current Hoosiers Delroy Baker, Brandon Knight, Tyler Knight, Hunter Littlejohn, Mackenzie Nworah, Grayson Stover and Simon Stepaniak at one point or another. He didn't have ties to the other seven.
"Offensive linemen, they're just different guys," Hiller said. "These guys, they're blue collar guys. I think they were just anxious to see who was coming."
The partial familiarity puts Hiller at an advantage early on as he begins to instill his own style and flair coaching IU's linemen in place of Greg Grey, who left IU for Michigan. That'll also make things smoother when he begins to inject his roster with new prospects from the recruiting trail in the coming years.
Indiana has yet to land an offensive lineman's commitment in its 2018 class, but that's mostly because of how new Hiller is to Bloomington. He's spent the last few weeks extending offers and trying to lay the groundwork for his recruiting board heading out of spring and into the summer.
When he's looking at linemen, Hiller said he wants to find tough players who are long and flexible. He'll look through highlight tape, speak to coaches and talk to folks who train alongside the prospect in question to see if they can fit the mold he's looking for.
"We've got to have tough guys," Hiller said. "They've got to be tough physically, and they've got to be tough mentally.
"Low man wins, and the only way to get low is to be able to bend. It starts at the ankle, goes to the knees and goes up to the hips. If they can't bend, that's going to be a problem."
New IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord added that he wants to find offensive linemen who are "football smart." He wants guys with quick feet, length and the ability to move laterally.
And like Hiller, DeBord wants guys with a certain no-nonsense personality.
"I've never been around a great lineman that wasn't tough," DeBord said. "Physically and mentally tough."
Hiller helped recruit two-star Vince McConnell (Massillon, Ohio), three-star Blake Yager (Council Bluffs, Iowa), three-star Jakari Robinson (Munford, Alabama) and two-star Cody Lamb (Miamisburg, Ohio) to Cincinnati in the last recruiting class.
At Indiana, he expects to land the top offensive linemen from the midwest. It'll be his job to keep local kids local moving forward.
"We don't want to go to California to find an offensive lineman," he said. "We don't want to go to New York to find one...We should be able to recruit geographically, probably within a six-hour radius of us. There's a lot of places that we can touch. I think that's got to be our focus."
Hiller said one of the major pushes he's making to recruits is that Indiana remains a place they can develop into NFL linemen. He's been using current Green Bay Packer Jason Spriggs and future high-end draft pick Dan Feeney as examples.
Both All-Americans went through IU. And while the position coach may have changed, Hiller expects the results to remain the same.
"We've just got to keep putting that out there and making sure young men are seeing that," Hiller said.
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