Needing More: Hoosier Wideouts Look to Step Up

Donavan Hale is looking for a big senior year.  Image: Sammy Jacobs Hoosier Huddle

Donavan Hale is looking for a big senior year. Image: Sammy Jacobs Hoosier Huddle

Written by T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

The 2018 season was a frustrating one for Indiana football. There were several positives but things did not quite click and IU came up just short of a bowl game. One of the primary reasons for that was a lack of production and explosion in the passing game. The Hoosiers did not have a receiver with more than 46 catches (Luke Timian led the way with 46) and no IU player was able to average even 50 yards receiving per contest. The Hoosiers have turned to a new offensive coordinator with hopes of igniting the offensive attack, the quarterback room is talented and there are a number of wide receivers ready to prove they can get the job done.

Nick Westbrook, Donavan Hale and Ty Fryfogle return, dynamic Whop Philyor is back from inury and Miles Marshall is ready to contribute after a redshirt season. Wide receivers coach Grant Heard believes the transition to a new system is going well. “Good. New system, so everyone is kind of back down at ground zero. It’s not one’s here and one’s there. Different verbiage, so we are still trying to learn, myself included. It’s good that they are young, my older guys have a little bit of a disadvantage. This is their third system some of them and stuff starts running together on them. The young guys are doing great, just have to keep working, keep grinding,” Heard told the media after a practice last week.

Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale figure to be the senior leaders of this group and Hale has committed himself to making his senior year count. “He’s lost weight,” Heard said of Hale. “He’s lost some weight. He probably needs to lose another five pounds but he’s lost weight. It’s not all the pounding on his legs and carrying all that heavy weight and he’s an older guy so there is nothing that I can throw at him defensively that he hasn’t seen. He can play fast and not think.”

Indiana needs more than just their seniors if they are to have a good group. They need guys like Ty Fryfogle and redshirt freshman Miles Marshall to begin to assert themselves and show they are ready to help now and prepare to take the reigns at wide receiver next season. Marshall has been particularly impressive in spring practice, showing a unique combination of size and speed and playing both outside and in the slot. “I want to get better on last year,” Marshall said. “I didn’t think I played up to my standards, so I am trying to prove myself with the team and around the country.”

Marshall certainly would have loved to contribute last season but it was not a lost year as he learned the ropes and is now in better position for a successful 2019. “I am more comfortable. I saw how everything works, I traveled every game. So just being in meetings and seeing how gameday works, the day before the games works has really helped me out for this year. I know what to expect.”

New offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer is going to change some things on offense and it is expected the Hoosiers will attempt to use more of the field than we saw in 2018. Marshall is 6’4” but has experience in the slot and IU is going to put him there some this season to create mismatches for the offense to exploit. “I played there (slot) about half of my senior year. I actually like it better than being outside,” Marshall said. “Inside, I get the ball more. It’s just different routes. Outside, it’s pretty much press-man (defense), that’s only about half the time inside. So, it’s easier.”

Indiana has a lot of talent at wide receiver and has a good mix of youth and experience. Wide receivers coach Grant Heard knows this group is capable of producing and he has a high standard for what he expects this season. “Catch the ball and score a touchdown every time we touch it. Just be consistent. When the play comes our way, just make the plays and just do our job consistently over and over and over again. If we do that, we’ll be where we need to be and things will come our way when it’s our time to make a play.”