Written By Alex Compton (@alexncompton)
After a redshirt year and two years serving as a depth guy, Austin Dorris is now one of just two upperclassmen at tight end, joining Ryan Watercutter at the position. After Mike DeBord was hired, he emphasized getting the tight ends more involved in Indiana’s passing game, and it was met with mixed results. Probable NFL Draft selection Ian Thomas was a solid asset in the passing game last year catching 25 balls for 376 yards and 5 touchdowns, but no other tight end caught a ball last year besides Watercutter, who tallied 12 of them for a total of 69 yards. Tight end has been an overlooked position at Indiana for a while now, as no guy has gone over 400 yards in a year since Ted Bolser in 2012.
To really point this out, take a look at the last 3 seasons of production from tight ends. In 2016, Danny Friend and Ian Thomas caught 10 passes combined. In 2015, Anthony Corsaro, Jordan Fuchs, and Danny Friend caught 17 passes combined. In 2014, Anthony Corsaro and Jordan Fuchs combined for 8 catches. You have to go back to the 2013 season to find another guy that caught at least 15 balls, and that was former Hoosier Ted Bolser, who caught 35 passes for 320 yards and 6 scores. Even in that 2013 season, the #2 tight end Anthony Corsaro only caught one pass behind him. So essentially, the tight end position has been somewhat of an afterthought since 2013 for IU.
Dorris and company are out to change that this year however, and believe the second year of the offense under Mike DeBord will make it much, much easier for the tight ends to produce.
“Last year being the first year with Coach DeBord, everyone was learning his terminology, learning how he talked about things. This year, we all know it, we’re a lot more comfortable with it, and everyone just seems to be playing faster in my opinion.”
With Ian Thomas gone, Dorris will be a key factor in the week-to-week preparation of the offense. Turning into a consistent weapon in the passing game would be a huge plus for the offense as a whole, and Dorris said he feels “absolutely” ready to make that jump and start to be a major contributor.
“I’ve always wanted to play very badly, it just hasn’t worked out, and that’s no one’s fault but mine. This year, I think I did enough, but I have to keep going and keep getting better. Have to keep getting these plays down, working with the team, coming together, keep going.”
I asked him why. Why will he be able to make that jump, and what he attributes that jump to. He gave a great answer:
“I think I’ve just gotten faster, overall, completely. Our new strength guys, Coach Ballou, they’re making everyone’s numbers go through the roof. I’m just playing faster and not thinking as much when I’m playing.”
The Cream and Crimson spring game and the conclusion of spring ball is fast approaching, and will be here before we know it. The players will be drafted again like last year, and Dorris is very excited about the game overall.
“Very exciting, very exciting. Especially for the semester to be over, everyone gets a break. I mean the intensity is going through the roof, everyone is very excited.”
In the spring game, the hope is to see Austin Dorris and the other tight ends really make an imprint on the game by catching some passes over the middle of the field. Quarterback play will obviously be another topic of discussion during the game, but Ramsey, Penix, and Tronti could all benefit by having some dudes like Dorris running over the middle of the field softening up coverages.
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