Written By Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
The talent level and ability of a team’s walk-ons can often serve as a barometer of the overall health of a college football program. These unsung heroes play a vital role in the team’s weekly preparations for an upcoming opponent. They put in just as much work, if not more in some cases than their teammates on scholarship, but do so without the fanfare and playing time. As a former walk-on at North Carolina, Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson is aware of the value a good group of walk-ons can bring to a team, “As we continue to improve our program with strong recruiting classes, it is also important to continue to develop our walk-on program.”
This morning, as reported on Twitter by Allen Trieu of Scout.com, the Hoosiers took another step towards improving their walk-on pool by inviting Tri-West Hendricks’ Mac Dutra to try out for a spot. As an invited walk-on he would be promised a spot on the roster, but would not receive any financial assistance for school. However, Dutra could earn a scholarship once on campus, as Coach Wilson has shown a willingness to offer open scholarships to deserving walk-ons. In fact, this has occurred over 23 times during Wilson’s time at Indiana.
The talented defensive tackle, brother of current Indiana Safety Chase Dutra, played an integral role in the Bruins run to an IHSAA 3A State Championship in 2014. During his senior season at Tri West Hendricks, Dutra recorded 84 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and forced four fumbles. The 6-foot 1, 270-pound lineman plays with good leverage, disrupts plays in the backfield, and is relentless in pursuit of ball carriers, as seen on his senior highlight film. He currently holds offers from FCS schools Bryant, Delaware, Idaho State, and Western Illinois.
While the addition of walk-ons typically fly under the radar, college football is littered with examples of these unheralded athletes developing into major contributors for their teams. Take Clay Matthews, J.J. Watt, and Jordy Nelson for instance, all started out as walk-ons and left campus as stars. A recent example of a walk-on who ended up playing a significant role for the Hoosiers is offensive lineman Collin Rahrig, the proverbial diamond in the rough. After arriving on campus as a preferred walk-on, Rahrig went on to start in 36 games for the Hoosiers and was named a nominee for the Remington Trophy prior to his senior season.
Now with less than a week left until National Signing Day, Dutra will need to decide rather quickly whether he will be committing to a program where his education will be paid for or accepting the preferred walk-on spot with the Hoosiers.