Newly named starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey is going to have a solid core of experienced receivers to choose from when the Hoosiers take the field at Florida International on Saturday.
While IU isn’t particularly deep at the position, if the Hoosiers can stay healthy here this should be a position of strength throughout the season. Today we take a closer look at the wide receivers with the opening kickoff now only two days away.
WHO IS GONE
The big loss from 2017 is all-Big Ten performer Simmie Cobbs, Jr. Now on the Redskins preseason roster, Cobbs led the team with 72 catches for 841 yards and 8 touchdowns. That’s a lot of production to replace.
Another productive wide receiver left the program under the radar. Taysir Mack had 23 catches for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. He has transferred to Pittsburgh.
Phil Benker has also transferred.
WHO IS BACK
While Cobbs’ early exit leaves a big void, the good news is that the top receiver from 2016 is back after missing all of 2017 with an injury.
Nick Westbrook led the Hoosiers in catches, yards and touchdowns in 2016 and returns by all accounts at 100 percent health after a torn ACL that occurred on the opening kickoff of the 2017 season.
IU has an interesting situation in the slot, with two highly capable and productive returning players.
Luke Timian was second on the team with 68 catches last year. The former walk-on and Texas native should be a reliable option for Peyton Ramsey. He has reportedly added speed in the offseason and may be able to get behind the coverage from his slot position.
Whop Philyor is also thought of as a slot receiver, but he and Timian are too talented to keep off the field. They will both be on the field often according to head coach Tom Allen. Philyor had a strong freshman season with 33 catches and 3 touchdowns, and he also has sneaky speed from his position.
Ty Fryfogle is listed on the two deep week one depth chart as the starting No. 3 wideout. He played in 8 games last year and had one catch. With a style similar to Westbrook, his name has been mentioned regularly throughout the offseason as someone who has made big strides.
Donovan Hale is a big target at 6-foot-4 that has always been an intriguing prospect but has struggled with injuries. He is reportedly healthy now and could emerge as the season progresses. He had 7 catches and a touchdown last year.
Chris Gajcak played in five games last year and has worked his way up the depth chart. He should see considerably more action in 2017.
J-Shun Harris is locked in as the punt returner. It isn’t clear to what extent he’ll have a receiving role, but he’s always a threat if he sees action — which he did throughout fall camp.
WHO IS NEW
The primary freshman names to know are Jacolby Hewitt and Miles Marshall. Both could end up seeing the field extensively this year. With the four game redshirt rule, injuries above them may ultimately dictate whether they lose or keep a year of eligibility.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
IU receivers coach Grant Heard spoke to Don Fischer about the receivers group during fall camp.
The Timian and Philyor dynamic is really interesting, but stylistically the duo may just pair up really nicely with an efficient quarterback like Ramsey. Indiana might be able to methodically frustrate opposing defenses with possession passing.
If Westbrook is back to his 2016 form or better he can provide a great deep ball threat when defenses start to cheat up on the run and the slot receivers.
Health is going to be key, as IU gets really inexperienced fast. Big production from one or both of Hale and Fryfogle would be a really nice bonus, as would occassional splash plays from Harris.
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