Spring Preview- Is This the Year Indiana Takes Advantage of Talent at Tight End?

Peyton Hendershot (86) started 10 games last year  Image: Sammy Jacobs Hoosier Huddle

Peyton Hendershot (86) started 10 games last year Image: Sammy Jacobs Hoosier Huddle

Written by Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)

The tight end position has been talked about a lot over the past few seasons with the Hoosiers. Kevin Wilson’s offense under-utilized the position to the point of non-existence on the stat sheet and Mike DeBord’s offense used the position more, but still left a lot to be desired. So can the new offensive coordinator figure out how to utilize a position that the Hoosiers have both depth and talent? We’ll see soon enough. The Hoosiers do lose Ryan Watercutter to graduation as well as Austin Dorris who transferred to Bowling Green. The Hoosiers do have two young tight ends who project to be very good in TJ Ivy and Matt Bjorson, then Gary Cooper will join the team over the summer as a true freshman.

Peyton Hendershot-Redshirt Sophomore-6’4”/245lbs

Hendershot has the length and athleticism to develop into a matchup problem for many defenses. After redshirting the 2017 season, the young man out of North Salem, Indiana led the tight end group with 15 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He also made an impact on special teams with two tackles, including one to stuff a fake punt for a loss in 11 games (10 starts). Hendershot also blocked a punt. Hendershot also battled poor play down the stretch as he dropped catchable passes in big spots over the last quarter of the season.

The potential with Hendershot is tremendous, but he needs to improve his pass catching and coaches have to put him in position to take advantage of his athleticism, especially in the red zone.

Shaun Bonner-Redshirt Junior-6’3”/253lbs

Bonner’s career began in 2016 as he came to Bloomington after winning back-to-back state titles at Colquitt County H.S. (Ga.). He redshirted the 2016 season and has played in 20 games during his Hoosier career, mainly on special teams and has been named Special Teams Scout Team Player of the Week twice.

There were high expectations for Bonner when he arrived at IU, but he fell out of the tight end rotation early on. With a couple of players who were ahead of him for playing time moving on, Bonner has a chance to showcase his skills this spring, but there is young talent lurking behind that will make it difficult unless Bonner steps up his game.

Matt Bjorson-Sophomore-6’3”/237lbs

Many people, including myself, thought Bjorson would redshirt his freshman year. However, he played in all 12 games and looked as if he could become an impact player over the first couple weeks. As a true freshman, Bjorson made five catches for 53 yards while making four tackles on special teams.

Bjorson doesn’t possess the natural athletic ability of Hendershot nor the bulk of Bonner, but he has shown he can be effective as a blocker and a pass catcher. This spring is a tremendous opportunity for Bjorson to become more involved in the offense and move up the depth chart.

TJ Ivy- Redshirt Freshman- 6’5”/247lbs

Ivy was the safe bet to play as a freshman, but that didn’t happen as the high-regarded recruit redshirted and won Scout Team Player of the Week honors twice. At 6’5” and 247 pounds he’s a big target who could become an Ian Thomas-like tight end, an athletic player who is faster than linebackers, but too big for safeties to cover easily. Ivy is one of the redshirt players that fans will want to keep an eye on this spring as he should have more reps available to him.

Ryan Barnes-Redshirt Freshman- 6’4”/226lbs

Barnes joined the Hoosier football program as a walk-on in 2018. He made an impact on scout team as he won Player of the Week honors three times. A local kid from Noblesville, Barnes has become a value piece on the scout team.