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2013 Illini Previews: Offensive Line

A look at the unit that will be the most important part of the Illini offense in 2013.


Part of the plan on offense now that Bill Cubit is running the show will be how quickly our quarterbacks need to make a decision. The offense isn't just going to be passing more, but the way they pass will change as well. Essentially the quarterback will get the ball from the shotgun or under center, plant his back foot and throw.

Pre-snap reads will be key, as will the accuracy of the throw.

And the speed of the decision is not by accident. The fact is that after the performance of the offensive line last season, it's actually imperative that Illini quarterbacks get the ball out as soon as possible. Let's not forget that the Illini allowed more sacks than any other team in the Big Ten last year. In fact, only seven FBS teams allowed more than the 39 sacks the Illini did last year.

To put that in perspective, the Illini gave up 39 sacks in 393 pass attempts -- and that doesn't include the times the quarterback originally dropped back to pass but then scrambled and picked up yardage -- for a sacks allowed rate of 9.92%. Compare that to Indiana, which threw more passes than any other team in the Big Ten last year (554) and allowed only 17 sacks with a sacks allowed rate of 3.07%.

Now does Indiana seem like the kind of team that would have a lot more talent on its offensive line than the Illini?

No, but the key was how quickly Indiana got rid of the ball. And while the Illini won't be running the same system as Indiana's, the philosophy is essentially the same.

Now, when it comes to the actual members of the offensive line, the first team line has looked pretty good in camp this summer. What we don't know is if it's a byproduct of a poor pass rush or not. Still, the first team of Corey Lewis and Simon Cvijanovic at tackles, guards Michael Heitz and Teddy Karras and center Alex Hill should be all right on one condition.

And that condition is that they stay healthy.

Now, odds are that won't happen and depth will be tested. Unfortunately aside from redshirt freshman Joseph Spencer -- who has been very impressive from most accounts in camp -- and Pat Flavin, I'm not sure how much depth is there. Spencer could step in at guard or center, and Flavin is likely the backup at tackle should Corey Lewis go down. Flavin has taken a lot of snaps with the first team in camp as the coaching staff wants to limit the load of work on Lewis to keep him as fresh and healthy as possible.

Behind them are a lot of question marks. Of the other backups, only Jake Feldmeyer -- who saw some time last season -- is a senior. The rest of the players on the depth chart are sophomores -- though some are redshirt sophomores -- freshman or Dallas Hinkhouse, who may be a junior but just came to Champaign as a juco transfer in the 2013 class. It's an untested group for the most part, and if they find themselves getting tested too often in 2013, odds are the Illini offense will be in trouble.

Position Grade: C-

I gave strong consideration to a D here, but I guess I'm just too damn optimistic to label this unit with that grade. I do have faith in the first team line, and I think the changes on offense will be beneficial to all involved. But the unit is just too thin overall to give it a higher grade than this.

2012 Stats And Big Ten Rankings

3.46 yards per carry (12th), 39 sacks allowed (12th), 9.92% sacks allowed rate (12th), 97 tackles for loss allowed (12th), 34.10% third down conversions (12th),

2013 Goals

4.0 yards per carry, 25 sacks allowed, 6.00% sacks allowed rate, 65 tackles for loss allowed, 40% third down conversions

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