The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2019 Indiana University football season on August 31 against Ball State in Indianapolis.
Today we take a look at the wide receivers and tight ends.
Very few teams in the country are able to put experience out on the edge like Indiana in 2019.
New starting quarterback Michael Penix will have veteran weapons in every direction — something that should provide some degree of comfort to the redshirt freshman gunslinger.
Penix also has an emerging star at tight end that appears destined to be more highly utilized in the Hoosiers’ new offensive scheme.
WHO IS GONE
At wide receiver the Hoosiers lost two valuable contributors in Luke Timian and J-Shun Harris. Both players used up their eligibility.
The tight ends group lost Ryan Watercutter to eligibility and Austin Dorris left the program as a graduate transfer.
THE 2019 ROSTER
WHO IS BACK
There are four clear headliners in the wide receiver group.
Nick Westbrook returns for his final season in Bloomington and he is already just the 19th Hoosier to reach 100 catches (102) and 1,500 yards (1,654) in a career.
Donavan Hale provides a big imposing frame. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2018 and finished with 42 receptions (3rd on the team) for 508 yards (2nd) and six touchdowns (1st).
Whop Philyor should play the slot. The explosive playmaker struggled with injuries last year, but his pair of 13 catch games against Michigan State in 2018 and Maryland in 2017 highlight how impactful the Tampa product can be when healthy.
Ty Fryfogle is flying a bit under the radar but has all of the tools to thrive in the Big Ten. As a sophomore in 2018 he had 29 receptions for 381 yards with three touchdowns.
For the tight ends, the primary returning contributor is Peyton Hendershot. Still just a redshirt sophomore, he got a lot of experience in 2018 and led the tight ends with 15 receptions, 163 yards and two touchdowns.
NAMES ON THE RISE / IMPACT NEWCOMERS
It won’t be easy for anyone to break through and see playing time over the veterans, but Miles Marshall is someone that has caught the eye of the coaches. He should see the field plenty as he rotates in and when Indiana goes with five receivers.
True freshman Jordan Jakes is very long with a stride that brings to mind IU great James Hardy. Jakes could see action this year and is a name to know for the future.
Although he is not listed on the roster as a wide receiver, true freshman David Ellis has been working with that group and could see some action with the offense in year one.
Matt Bjorson saw action in all 12 games as a freshman last year and hauled in five passes. His role in the offense could expand this year.
TJ Ivy is an impressive physical specimen that could become a factor this year.
True freshman Gary Cooper is a great athlete and should eventually be a solid Big Ten tight end.
(Note: Jacolby Hewitt suffered a knee injury and is expected to miss the season)
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Wide receiver coach Grant Heard and tight ends coach Nick Sheridan met with the media during fall camp.
(Video credit – Indiana University Athletics)
With a running game that opposing defenses will likely need to respect, and a new strong-armed quarterback, the potential is there for IU’s veteran receivers to put up big numbers.
Health has been an issue with this group in the past, but if the Westbrook-Hale-Philyor-Fryfogle contingent can stay on the field, Indiana is going to be difficult to line up against with the specter of Stevie Scott and others looming in the backfield.
One of the more interesting things to watch for in 2019 is how new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer utilizes the tight ends in his scheme. Increased involvement is something that has been speculated, but we won’t know for sure until we see DeBoer’s offense in action.
In any event, this seems like the year that the athletic Hendershot will break out and realize his potential.
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