Insider: Why offensive line coach Bob Bostad, not QB, will be key to IU's offensive revival

BLOOMINGTON – The position group perhaps most vital to Indiana’s success or failure in 2023 took its turn through the preseason media gauntlet after the Hoosiers first fall practice Wednesday.
A quarterback was nowhere to be seen.
Bob Bostad, Indiana’s new offensive line coach, comes to Bloomington with tremendous experience and impressive results. His work in the NFL and across multiple stints at Wisconsin acts as his credentials, and his success not just coaching offensive line but also inside linebackers in Madison suggests he’s as skilled at teaching football fundamentals as he is specializing in one position or another.
Indiana will need his best. It is hard to imagine 2023 as the season that puts coach Tom Allen’s program back in bowl contention without significant improvement along an underperforming offensive line.
For Indiana to reach its best, it needs Bostad to be at his.
Allen won’t need much convincing on that front. His belief in Bostad is even spelled out in a contract that pays the Hoosiers’ new offensive line coach and run-game coordinator $650,000 per year, the most of any assistant on staff other than offensive coordinator Walt Bell.
Of course, that number also speaks to Indiana’s need. Let go during Wisconsin's transition from Paul Chryst to Luke Fickell, Bostad would have been in demand among line coaches in the last cycle. After firing Darren Hiller midseason in 2022, Allen needed to find a replacement with rock-solid credentials, and that sort of hire always comes with a price tag.
His players’ estimation of Bostad’s work endorses the price.
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“(Bostad is) extremely detailed in the way we get things done,” redshirt senior tackle Matthew Bedford said. “There’s so much attention to detail it’s crazy. As a leader, you’ve got to make sure the young guys are following along. If one messes up, we all mess up. That’s a big thing for coach Bostad. If one’s wrong, we’re all wrong.”
Back from an ACL tear that cost him virtually all of last season, Bedford will anchor one end of a line that knows it must improve from 2022.
The Hoosiers finished last season among the Big Ten’s worst teams in most key offensive metrics. They struggled to protect the quarterback and to convert third downs, too many of which were more than 4-5 yards because of a lack of efficient productivity on earlier downs.
IU finished 2022 eighth or worse in the four major per-game offensive categories (rushing, passing, total, scoring). The Hoosiers averaged just 4.48 yards per play, third-worst in the league.
Former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, himself once an offensive lineman whose best work as a coach might have come at the same position, was fond of saying, “Your offense is what you can block.” Too often last season, the Hoosiers couldn’t.
Enter Bostad, who got to work with his group throughout spring practice and then again in the limited Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in the summer. Even one day into fall camp, he said he saw encouraging carryover from those periods.
“We had a good spring, and I do think guys did a good job retaining some information,” Bostad said Wednesday. “These guys have been here, they’ve been doing a lot all summer, with the new rules on things like that. There’s a lot of player-led things where they’re able to kind of keep it alive. We were able to install a lot today and I saw some good retention.
“I saw some good things.”
More on the O-line: Who can step up at tackle?
Of course, there will need to be more than recall. Indiana must improve up front, for a starting quarterback with freshman before his name — redshirt or true — no matter who wins the job.
“Whether you have a veteran guy or a young guy, you’ve got to protect the quarterback,” said Bostad, whose NFL experience includes seasons with Tennessee and Tampa Bay. “You’ve got to be productive in the run game, so you’ve got some manageable down and distances, and all those things that go together. We’ve got a really young guy, and I think we could take a lot off his plate if we can be good when we’re trying to run the ball.”
Bostad won’t want for experience in his first season in Bloomington.
Bedford is back as a fifth-year senior following his injury. Kahlil Benson locked down one guard spot by the latter half of last season, and Mike Katic and Zach Carpenter — with 42 career games at Indiana between them — can play guard or center.
“We’ve got some guys that have played a lot of football. I feel like there’s a quiet group that’s confident, that has some good things,” Bostad said. “We just have to put it all together, but I’m not trying to put the cart ahead of the horse right now. We’ve got a lot of other things to do as we slowly build together and get it done. But I like the approach, I like the attitude, I like the willingness. Those things are all there.”
What he and his players collectively do with them will help shape the course of the coming season. Those fine margins and small techniques Bostad preaches in practice could make all the difference across the next four months.
“Details matter,” Benson said. “Small things matter. The small things lead to big things.”

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