Credit - IU Athletics

IU Football: A position-by-position look at who is returning and new in 2021

With a successful 2020 season in the books, it is time to look forward.  Below is a position-by-position review of who is coming and going in 2021 for the Indiana football program, along with the new names to know.

The 2021 preseason will be a unique one, as we prepare to cover a consensus top-20 team during the spring and into fall camp.

We will leave this under our football drop-down menu and update it as any changes occur.

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(Eligibility status shown below in parenthetical is for 2021 season.  No eligibility was lost in 2020 as a result of a special one-time NCAA rule change due to COVID-19.  Allowable scholarships increased for each player who decided to return for an additional year of eligibility.)

QUARTERBACKS: Head coach Tom Allen has stated that Michael Penix, Jr. should be fully recovered from his season ending ACL injury before the start of the 2021 campaign.  As long as that prognosis holds, Penix is the clear starter and a legitimate candidate for first team All-Big Ten.  Jack Tuttle proved that he can fill in and win games.  He should return for the backup role in 2021.

Leaving:  None.

Key Returning:  Michael Penix (redshirt sophomore), and Jack Tuttle (redshirt sophomore) will return with experience in 2021.  Dexter Williams (freshman) will be back for his second year in the program.  Update:  Williams suffered a torn ACL in the spring.

Noteworthy Freshman:  Donaven McCulley will join the program as a four-star recruit from Indianapolis.  He’ll join a crowded room but has the talent to play early in his career.  McCulley will arrive in Bloomington as one of Indiana’s highest-rated recruits ever during the rankings era.

RUNNING BACKS:  Sampson James, you’re up.  In a somewhat surprising decision, three-year starter Stevie Scott decided to put his name in the NFL Draft.  That move opens the door for James to take on the starting role, and the Hoosiers have a young and fast group behind him.

Leaving:  Stevie Scott declared for the NFL Draft.  Sampson James transferred.  Ahrod Lloyd is also no longer with the team.

Key Returning:  Tim Baldwin, Jr. (freshman).  David Ellis (sophomore) played both wide receiver and running back in 2020.

Transfer:  Former USC 5-star back Stephen Carr has joined the program.

Noteworthy Freshmen:  IU has a pair of high-level recruits coming in.  Trenten Howland (Ill.) is the big-strong bruising type, and David Holloman (Mich.) has elite speed.

WIDE RECEIVERS:  IU has a big loss after Whop Philyor decided to forego his final year of eligibility.  Nevertheless, headlined by the return of Ty Fryfogle, the Hoosiers still have a lot of talent that should continue to make wide receiver a position of strength in 2021.

Leaving:  Whop Philyor (NFL Draft), Jordan Jakes (transfer), Gary Cooper (transfer)

Key Returning:  Ty Fryfogle (senior), Miles Marshall (redshirt sophomore), Jacolby Hewitt (redshirt sophomore), Da’Shaun Brown (redshirt freshman), David Baker (freshman), Javon Swinton (freshman).

Transfer:  Florida State transfer D.J. Matthews is a former 4-star recruit and starter in Tallahassee with one year of eligibility left.  He projects to slide into Philyor’s spot and could make a splash in the return game too.  Texas A&M transfer Camron Buckley was a late May addition.

Noteworthy Freshmen:  Jaquez Smith (Georgia) could be an immediate impact true freshman.  He is IU’s highest rated recruit in the 2021 class.  Jordyn Williams (Georgia) is also highly thought of and should play early in his career.

Credit – IU Athletics

TIGHT ENDS:  Peyton Hendershot continued to be a central part of the passing game in 2020 and that should carry into 2021.  A.J. Barner showed plenty of promise as another pass-game threat, and Kham Taylor should provide needed blocking ability.

Leaving:  T.J. Ivy (transfer)

Key returning:  Peyton Hendershot (redshirt junior), Matt Bjorson (junior), Kham Taylor (redshirt senior), A.J. Barner (freshman)

Noteworthy Freshman:  Aaron Steinfeldt arrives from Bloomington North High School just down the road.  He projects to be a pass-catching weapon in a mold similar to Hendershot.

OFFENSIVE LINE:  Indiana loses its best player from a group that was mediocre at best in 2020.  But they also return six who played extensively and have several young players working their way up the ranks.  The Hoosiers hope another year of experience and a major transfer addition mean this unit makes strides in 2021.

Leaving:  Harry Crider (NFL Draft), Britt Beery (transfer), Mackenzie Nworah (personal decision).

Key returning:  Caleb Jones (redshirt junior), Matthew Bedford (sophomore), Luke Haggard (junior), Dylan Powell (redshirt senior),  Mike Katic (redshirt freshman), Chris Bradberry (redshirt junior), Charlie O’Connor (redshirt sophomore), Aidan Rafferty (redshirt sophomore), Nick Marozas (redshirt sophomore), Tim Weaver (redshirt freshman), Brady Feeney (freshman), Cam Knight (freshman), Kahlil Benson (freshman), Randy Holtz (freshman), Luke Wiginton (freshman).

Transfer:  Zach Carpenter (redshirt freshman) arrives at IU as a starter from Michigan and should play right away.

Noteworthy Freshmen: In-state products Joshua Sales and Vinny Fiacable are a pair of three-stars that project to be long-term contributors at IU, and eventual starters.

DEFENSIVE LINE:  No group made a bigger jump in 2020 than the defensive line.  Under the direction of first-year coach Kevin Peoples, IU was stout up front all year.  Big losses mean development will be needed to maintain the new standard, but the Hoosiers return a lot of experience in 2021.

Leaving:  Jerome Johnson (NFL Draft), Jovan Swann (NFL Draft), Tramar Reece (transfer), Jalen Mayala (transfer), Jeramy Passmore (transfer), Damarjhe Lewis (transfer)

Key Returning:  Michael Ziemba (senior), Demarcus Elliott (junior), James Head (junior), Alfred Bryant (redshirt junior), Jonathan King (redshirt sophomore), Sio Nofoagatoto’a (sophomore), Shamar Jones, (redshirt sophomore), Gavin McCabe (redshirt sophomore), Beau Robbins (redshirt freshman), C.J. Person (redshirt freshman), Antoine Whitner (redshirt freshman), Caleb Murphy (freshman).

Note:  Ziemba and Bryant are listed as outside linebackers on the roster but will play the hybrid OLB/DE “Bull” position.

Transfers:  Ryder Anderson arrives at IU from Ole Miss with one year left and could bring a pass rush impact right away. Weston Kramer transferred in from Northern IllinoisJaren Handy also transferred in from Auburn and has three years remaining.

Noteworthy freshman:   In-state defensive end Cooper Jones is a top-500 recruit who appears likely to crack the rotation as an underclassman.

LINEBACKERS:  As it stands, the Hoosiers lose no one from its high-impact group of linebackers, including All-American Micah McFadden.

Leaving:  None.

Key Returning:  Micah McFadden (junior), Cam Jones (junior), Thomas Allen (redshirt junior), James Miller (redshirt sophomore), D.K. Bonhomme (sophomore), Aaron Casey (redshirt sophomore), Cam Williams (redshirt freshman)

Note:  Bonhomme rotates at times into the bull hybrid linebacker / defensive lineman position.

Image result for micah mcfadden
Photo Credit – IU Athletics

HUSKY: Indiana should be solid once again at its hybrid linebacker/safety position.  The group will get a boost after Marcelino Ball’s decision to return for a sixth season.  He missed 2020 with a torn ACL.

Leaving:  None

Key Returning:  Marcelino Ball (redshirt senior), Bryant Fitzgerald (redshirt junior), Ty Wise (freshman)

CORNERBACKS:  This group might arrive at spring practice as Indiana’s best.

Leaving:  None.

Key Returning:  Reese Taylor (junior), Tiawan Mullen (sophomore), Jaylin Williams (junior), Josh Sanguinetti (redshirt freshman), Larry Tracy III (redshirt freshman), Lem Watley-Neeley (freshman), Christopher Keys (freshman)

Key Freshman:  Larry Smith is a top-500 performer from Florida who should see the field early in his career.

SAFETY:  The Hoosiers lost an All-Big Ten talent but otherwise return most of what was a high-impact group.  Look for freshman Bryson Bonds to make a splash.

Leaving:  Jamar Johnson (NFL Draft)

Key Returning:  Raheem Layne (senior), Devon Matthews (junior), Juwan Burgess (redshirt junior), Jordan Jusevitch (redshirt sophomore), Noah Pierre (redshirt sophomore), Bryson Bonds (freshman).

Key freshman:  Maurice Freeman is a physical top-800 three-star safety from Virginia.  He could end up with the linebackers.  Jordan Grier arrives at IU from Georgia and could play multiple positions as a DB.

Transfers: Jonathan Haynes transferred into the program in August from Ole Miss and adds immediate depth at strong safety.


Leaving:  Haydon Whitehead (P)

Key Returning:  Charles Campbell (redshirt sophomore/placekicker), Jared Smolar (redshirt senior/kickoffs), Sean Wracher (sophomore, LS), David Ellis/D.J. Matthews (KR), Reese Taylor / Matthews (PR)

Key Freshman:  James Evans is a punter from New Zealand.  He is likely to start from day one.

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