At times the production can be staggering.
And it has been that way since his freshman season.
On October 28, 2017 at Maryland, college football got its first taste. 13 catches for 127 yards — as a true freshman.
Who is this guy?
Did I hear that right?
Yes, Whop. As in shorthand for the Burger King sandwich.
But you would be forgiven if you thought Mister Elias De’Angelo Philyor’s nickname came from his ability to put together big (whopper?) games on the football field.
Philyor has had four more days with at least 10 receptions since that breakout game in Maryland, including a run of 40 catches over 4 games in 2019.
Despite being just 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds, there have been Saturdays when Philyor has completely take over.
But like any good leader, IU receivers coach Grant Heard believes that there is a next level for his talented pass catcher.
Now a senior entering 2020 with 126 receptions and 1,572 yards for his career, Philyor isn’t sneaking up on anyone. Instead Philyor is the focus of defensive game plans, and that is one area where Heard wants his star receiver to improve.
“If I was playing against us right now, I’d say let’s try to take Whop away, he’s one of their main guys,” Heard said. “He’s probably one of our more explosive guys, as far as making explosive plays.”
In three of Philyor’s last four games in 2019 he had two catches or less. The film told a story to opposing defensive coordinators. If you slow down Philyor, you slow down Indiana.
Now Heard wants Philyor to recognize how defenses are trying to minimize his impact, and find ways to counter those moves.
“I feel comfortable about him knowing our playbook and what we ask him to do from our end,” Heard said. “Now I’m putting pressure on him to know more defenses. What they’re trying to do to take him away, to take certain plays away, why we’re calling certain stuff, just to open his mind up and become a more well-rounded football player.”
Staying healthy has been a challenge for Philyor as well. He missed seven games in 2018 and a critical stretch during his junior campaign.
Before a concussion against Penn State caused him to miss more than a half in a 2019 contest against the Nittany Lions plus the following week against Michigan, Philyor had the IU single season IU receiving records within his sights.
As it turned out Philyor caught 70 passes for 1,002 yards in 2019, the sixth and seventh best seasons in program history, respectively. That production earned the Tampa, Fla. product second-team All-Big Ten honors as voted on by the coaches, and he was named IU’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year.
At this point no one is questioning Philyor’s production between the lines.
But Heard would also like to see Philyor and his fellow senior receiver Ty Fryfogle extend their impact to off the field.
Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale were the leaders in the wide receiver room in 2019, and both have moved on. Heard is looking for someone to step up and take over in 2020.
“I give them (Philyor and Fryfogle) responsibilities to lead meetings sometimes, and I don’t want to be a part of it because if I’m there and something isn’t right, I know I’m going to take charge,” Heard said. “I’m trying to give them freedom to do stuff, to get guys together, to do it on their own and develop them speaking out.
“Ty and Whop don’t like to speak out a whole bunch. I know people think Whop’s personality is outgoing, but he is really a shy person. Ty doesn’t say a word. It’s trying to get those guys to speak out and start being leaders on their own. Hopefully they’ve been doing it. They say its been going good.”
Philyor and Fryfogle are the obvious choices to take the reins. They are the only two upperclassmen receivers on scholarship on the 2020 roster.
At a time when the players have been spread out across the country and holding players accountable is more challenging than ever, Heard is hoping that his seniors are up to the challenge.
But he’ll take anyone.
“Whoever it is, somebody step up. Somebody step up and lead the room,” Heard said. “I don’t truly believe that just because you’re a senior you’re a leader. Leaders can be anybody.”
Leading might be out of character for Philyor, but it might also be in his best interest.
If defenses are going to key on him, he needs others to step up to keep the opposing scheme honest.
IU has talent behind Philyor and Fryfogle, but it is unproven to this point.
Underclassmen Miles Marshall, Jacolby Hewitt, Jordan Jakes and Da’Shaun Brown all have the potential to be the next breakout star for IU.
Sophomore David Ellis is in the running backs room now but will still be featured in the passing attack.
True freshman Rashawn Williams is likely to make a splash like Philyor did right out of the gate.
But someone in the room has to lead the way.
And Heard hopes it is his seniors.
“So hopefully somebody in that room, I would love for it to be Whop or Ty, but somebody needs to step up and fill those roles that Nick left and Donavan left,” Heard said.
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