IU has the best wide receiver duo in the Big Ten.
Junior Simmie Cobbs Jr. and sophomore Nick Westbrook have the preeminent skills and past production to anchor IU’s offense this season.
Scan the rosters of the teams in the Big Ten, and the lack of returning superstars at the wide receiver position is glaring. It’s not a stretch to say that Cobbs and Westbrook can develop into that after flashing that potential in previous seasons.
Westbrook says the entire receiving core can be extraordinary even after it lost Ricky Jones and Mitchell Paige to graduation.
“It can be something really special,” Westbrook said. “I believe it’s going to be the best in the Big Ten. We have playmakers all around.”
With Cobbs coming off a season-ending ankle surgery last year, Westbrook and Cobbs are a formidable wide receiver duo that should provide serious problems for opposing defenses. Both have burner speed coupled with impressive size and length.
The pair could prove to be uncoverable.
“It’s really going to be a matchup thing where if they only have one good corner, they can’t cover both sides basically,” Westbrook said. “The plan is to be dominant big men, big wide receivers, go make plays.”
Both come in boasting impressive single-season résumés.
Westbrook led the Hoosiers in receiving last season with 995 yards. He was IU’s best deep threat and averaged 18.4 yards per catch while scoring six touchdowns.
Following that campaign, he said he’s working on getting more open and making competitive plays as the game has slowed down for him.
In 2015, Cobbs had a monster season, with 1,035 yards and 60 catches. However, he was suspended for the 2016 opening game and in the next game suffered a season-ending injury on the first offensive drive he played against Ball State. The injury allowed Cobbs to take time to study the game.
“I got to learn from the guys playing,” Cobbs said. “I got to watch from an outside perspective, learn more from the coaches. I got to study film more.”
He said he also added weight and improved his strength.
If that newly acquired knowledge translates, Cobbs could emerge as the best wide receiver in the league.
Where this duo’s presence will be felt is in the red zone, where IU struggled last season.
The Hoosiers scored only 3.57 points per trip inside the 40-yard line, which was 124th in the country, per Football Study Hall.
IU Coach Tom Allen said it’s huge to have two players like Westbrook and Cobbs at that end of the field.
“It’s about ball placement there for us and giving that receiver a chance,” Allen said. “And if the quarterback does his job, with those kinds of guys, it’s really difficult for the defense for sure.”
Questions remain at many of the key offensive positions as to who is going to replace offensive linemen Dan Feeney and Dimitric Camiel, along with running back Devine Redding.
The offensive line and running back positions have talent, but are less proven than the receiving core.
That is why having a duo like Cobbs and Westbrook is so important for IU. They will be something IU’s offense can lean on and turn to when the game is on the line.
Both are more than ready for that.
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