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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

IU wide receivers flourish

When IU decided to switch from the traditional spread offense to the pistol – a scheme used to utilize the running backs – sophomore wide receiver Damarlo Belcher was a little bit worried.

But having caught 11 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown in the first two games, Belcher now has a different mind-set.

“It’s actually pretty nice,” Belcher said. “If we can’t run the ball, we can’t throw the ball.”

In total, IU’s four wide receivers have caught 37 passes for 475 yards in two games. What was seen as an offense that would benefit IU running backs has also been fruitful for the receiving corps.     

Along with Belcher, sophomore wide receiver Tandon Doss and junior wide receiver Terrance Turner have been major contributors to the Hoosiers’ 2-0 start to the season.

Doss leads IU in receptions (14), yards (210) and average yards per catch (15). Turner has seven catches for 75 yards, including 57 yards against Eastern Kentucky.  

Junior wide receiver Mitchell Evans has also made a significant impact for the Hoosiers.

Last week against the Western Michigan, Evans lined up behind the center at different points during the game to alter the defense and run and throw the ball. He finished with a total gain of 66 yards.

IU wide receivers coach Billy Lynch, son of IU coach Bill Lynch, said the players have responded well to the new system.  

“It certainly is set up to be able to run the ball, get downhill and gain yards,” Lynch said. “But the other thing that it does, from a receivers standpoint, is that it creates play action. I think our guys are enjoying the chance to get the home-run ball.”

All four of IU’s top receivers are averaging more than 10 yards per catch, with Turner being the lowest at 10.7 yards. Each player also has a reception of 20 yards or more this season.

And for that deep throw to be completed, a confident and accurate passer is necessary.

Junior quarterback Ben Chappell has been up to the challenge this season.

Chappell has completed 70 percent of his passes for 511 yards and an efficiency rating of 136.3 – compared to last year’s rating of 111.95 – in the Hoosiers’ first two games.   

Although Chappell has been accurate in most instances, he has thrown two
interceptions and only one touchdown. Nonetheless, he has earned respect from the wide receivers in his first stint as IU’s unquestioned starting quarterback.  

“He has stepped up a lot,” Doss said. “He still has a rocket, so there is nothing different there, but he is just a better leader.”

While the wide receivers are appreciative of an improved quarterback, Chappell said the feeling is mutual.

“I think they have played great,” Chappell said. “They have made a ton of plays, caught the ball really well and their yards after the catch has been really impressive as well. We just have to keep doing it.”

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