Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
I’ve often felt that redshirt freshmen are the forgotten members of a football team. Many fans (myself included) read up on high school seniors when they sign with the Indiana Hoosiers and then then wait for those players to make an impact on the field. If the recruit ends up redshirting during his first year on campus, it can be difficult to remember him when it comes time to preview the coming football season. What does the player offer? If he came in as an athlete, what position is he going to play after practicing for a full year? How does he fit in on the depth chart? How much progress has there been in his game during his time away from the watchful eyes of fans?
We at Hoosier Huddle thought it would be beneficial to take a look at each of the redshirt freshmen that didn’t see any game action during the 2015 season. Austin Dorris is the first redshirt freshman we’ll take under the microscope in this new regular feature: The Redshirts Are Coming!
6’5”/240 lbs./TE from Shadyside, OH
Austin Dorris signed with Indiana as a member of the 2015 class after a prolific high school career at Shadyside High School in Ohio. Dorris was ranked as the 51st best tight end in the class and he chose the Hoosiers over offers from several high mid-major programs. Dorris’ high school career was interesting because he excelled as a quarterback for the Shadyside Tigers. During his senior season, he ran for 1,400 yards, threw for more than 1,000 passing yards and accumulated 31 total touchdowns. His high school tape makes it very clear he is not afraid of contact and has surprising athleticism and mobility for a young man of his size.
Why Did He Redshirt?
Dorris likely redshirted in order to improve as a pass catcher, route runner and (most importantly) as a blocker. It’s also important to remember that the Hoosiers had a quite a few capable bodies at tight end during the 2015 season. IU entered the 2015 season with Michael Cooper, Anthony Corsaro, Danny Friend and Jordan Fuchs all ahead of Dorris on the depth chart so it made sense to give him time to develop his body and his understanding of what it means to be a tight end in Kevin Wilson’s offense. Eventually, the tight end position was decimated by injuries but the coaching staff opted to slide true freshman left tackle Brandon Knight to tight end (with great success) and wisely kept the redshirt on Dorris. During his redshirt season, the large tight end earned “Scout Team Player of the Week” for the Michigan game.
What Can We Expect in 2016 and Beyond?
As Sammy Jacobs wrote in his Tight End Spring Preview, the tight end position was a major key to IU having the best offense in the B1G in 2015. Many only think of this position in terms of pass catching but catching passes is only a part of what is required of this position in Kevin Wilson’s system. Tight ends have to be good run blockers in order for the offense to click. The Hoosiers must replace Michael Cooper and Anthony Corsaro while Danny Friend and Jordan Fuchs are the only returning members of the position with playing experience. Brandon Knight appears to be the left tackle of the future (perhaps as early as this season) so keeping Danny Friend healthy is critical. Friend is the best blocking tight end and his presence in the lineup would allow Knight to return to his more natural position of left tackle. Jordan Fuchs will likely begin the season as the top receiving tight end. Indiana will welcome Ian Thomas, a 6’5” JUCO transfer and Shaun Bonner, a 6’3” freshman from Georgia to the depth chart. It’s unclear what role those two will play but they will not be participating in Spring ball and I’d expect Bonner to redshirt if the other guys in the group are healthy entering the season.
So where does that leave Dorris? Spring practice will be very important for Dorris to stake his claim to playing time before Thomas and Bonner arrive on campus. He is a big body that is appears to be more of a pass-catcher than he is a blocker but he seemed to enjoy contact in high school and the redshirt season could have allowed him to develop greatly as a blocker. Dorris has been compared to recent IU tight end Ted Bolser and while it is unlikely that he will immediately produce the same type of red zone production that Bolser did during his career, it seems that a Bolser-like role could be in the cards for Austin Dorris. I think he’ll see plenty of playing time in 2016 and his intriguing combination of size and athleticism make it seem very possible that, with development, he could become a full-time starter for two or three years of his IU career.
Check Hoosier Huddle often as we continue to preview Spring football and take a look at each member of the 2015 class that will be seeing his first action in 2016.