Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Spring Expectations- Tight Ends
While most of Hoosier Nation is either on Spring Break or anxiously waiting for the selection committee to announce their field of 68 teams, Hoosier Huddle is pushing forward with our spring football previews. Next up on the agenda is what should the IU football fans expect to see and what should they want to see out of the tight end position before the Hoosiers break spring camp.
2014 was a lost year for the Hoosier passing game and the absence of Ted Bolser at the tight end position was clear to anyone who watched an IU football game last fall. A lack of production, only 10 catches for 95 yards and one touchdown does not mean that the Cream and Crimson are absent of talent though.
What to Look For
When Indiana starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld went down with a shoulder injury the IU aerial attack was dead in the water. The Hoosiers just could not get anything going with out their star. The good news for Hoosier fans is that Sudfeld is returning, albeit in a limited role, this spring. Now is the time for Sudfeld to continue building a working relationship on the field with the players who are going to be catching his passes, mainly his big, athletic tight ends. (We will cover the receivers in a separate article later on). The Hoosiers have four returning tight ends that all can be a factor in 2015. The spring is a perfect time for offensive coordinator Kevin Johns to focus on the expanding the passing game and start featuring the tight end in the offense more. The Hoosiers should have all three tight ends who caught passes last year ready for spring ball in Anthony Corsaro, Michael Cooper, and barring a long NCAA run by the Hoosiers on the hardwood, Jordan Fuchs. Add in Danny Friend and the Hoosiers are locked and loaded at the position.
|Danny Friend||Redshirted in 2014|
One of the many areas in which IU struggled in the passing game was with size. While the Hoosiers addressed this issue signing some taller receivers back in February, the easiest solution for IU could be to utilize the bigger tight ends. It is the missing link to IU’s offense being great. While the passes to the tight ends may not be as explosive as throwing to a speedy receiver the results could be potent. The mid-range passing game needs to be improved and if the Hoosiers finally figure out how to consistently work the tight ends into the offense they will be very hard to stop.
What We Need to See
The spring game is not the best way to judge improvement, which is best seen on the field in the fall, it is an opportunity to see what has gotten better. Having only 10 catches in 12 games is atrocious even with the circumstances being as they were in 2014. Personally, I would like to see the Hoosiers’ tight ends catch at least that many balls combined in the spring game, whether it be in goal line situations or between the 20’s. There is too much talent there not to take advantage of it. In the last decade, in the NFL, many of the elite teams have great playmakers at the tight end position and while IU’s players will not be mistaken for Gronk or Jimmy Graham, they are definitely better than just 10 catches in 12 games.
With all the glory of catching touchdown passes, there is a price to pay at the position. That price is that a tight end has to be able to block in the run game and protect the quarterback if the offensive line is struggling. For the most part IU’s tight ends blocked well in 2014 as running back Tevin Coleman ran for more than 2,000 yards in a season for the history books.
Questions to Keep In Mind
Heading into spring practice here are some questions that Hoosier fans should want cleared up after the spring game.
1. Who is going to be the starter at the position?
2. Can Jordan Fuchs become the impact player that he could be?
3. Will the role of the tight end be expanded in the red zone and in the overall offensive scheme?
4. If nobody stands out will the door be open for Austin Dorris to steal playing time?
5. Finally, can they catch the ball better this year than in 2014?