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Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Wide receivers continue to improve

IU-Wisconsin Football

Late in the second quarter against Wisconsin, IU’s offense was struggling with only 55 yards the entire half.

So it turned to a group that’s paced the offense all season – the wide receivers.
Three pass plays and 80 yards later, sophomore receiver Tandon Doss was celebrating with his teammates in the end zone after scoring on a 46-yard touchdown pass.
 
In some sense, that’s been the nature of IU’s offensive production. With nagging injuries that have limited freshman running back Darius Willis, IU’s healthy, youthful wide receiving corps has set the pace for the Hoosiers’ all season.

Doss doesn’t hold back praise when evaluating the team’s wideouts.

“We have a great group of receivers,” Doss said. “They’re all very talented – we all bring something to the table.”

For Doss and fellow sophomore wideout Damarlo Belcher, their production places them among the Big Ten’s top receivers. Doss ranks third in the conference – and 25th in the nation – with 843 receiving yards, while Belcher is tenth in the Big Ten with 611 yards.

The Hoosiers don’t just rely on Doss and Belcher. IU ranks fourth in the Big Ten in passing offense, as juniors Terrance Turner and Mitchell Evans each have more than 200 receiving yards.

IU wide receivers coach Billy Lynch said the depth makes it impossible for defenses to key on a “go-to”  receiver.

“If people gear up to stop (Doss), then Damarlo, Terrance, Mitchell or (sophomore receiver Matt) Ernest will make them pay,” Lynch said.

Turner said the depth provides competition in practice, which in turn makes each receiver better.

“We’re just helping each other out,” Turner said. “If we can get 100 percent out of (Belcher), it makes me give 100 percent, then that goes to Tandon, Mitch and so on.”

In the past two games against top Big Ten defenses in Iowa and Wisconsin, IU junior quarterback Ben Chappell has connected with the receivers for 550 yards and five touchdowns.

“Coach told us it’s going to be our job to make plays,” Turner said. “If we want to win those games, it’s going to be the receivers’ job to make plays and really put the team on our back.”

Lynch said he’s seen development from all the receivers since the first day of fall practice. The most encouraging aspect, he said, is the improvement is noticeable.

“We’ve improved as blockers, we’ve improved as route runners, we’ve improved in catching the football and in taking care the football,” Lynch said. “I think they have really improved across the board.”

One reason the wide receivers have succeeded is because they have stayed healthy, Lynch said. Doss missed four games last season due to shoulder and knee injuries.

This season, no wide receiver has missed a game due to injury.

And none of the receivers are seniors. Turner and Evans are juniors, while Doss and Belcher are sophomores.

In that, Doss said he’s excited for the future.

“We’re all young,” Doss said. “Terrance is a little old – we kind of make fun of him for that. Other than that, we’re all very young. And we’ll all be back next year.”

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