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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Belcher, the new face of IU

Make no mistake about it: This is Damarlo Belcher’s team.

It has to be.

While it is true that few teams without a quarterback as their leader make it very far, these young Hoosiers have no other option. They have to turn to the most talented and productive player on the team — and that, without a doubt, is Belcher.

Belcher has to be the face of the Hoosiers in the same way Larry Fitzgerald is the face of the Arizona Cardinals and Andre Johnson is the face of the Houston Texans. He has to become a vocal leader who can help a young quarterback — whoever that may be — to learn and grow in Kevin Wilson’s new offense. 

“Oh yeah, definitely I can do that,” Belcher said of leading from the wide receiver position. “We can get the job done with me as the leader but by bringing the young guys along at the same time.”

Whether we like it or not, the starting quarterback — be it Edward Wright-Baker, Dusty Kiel or Tre Roberson — is going to struggle at times this season. None are great right now or they would have the job already.

In trying times this season, when the starter can’t complete a pass, he’ll need a receiver to make a spectacular catch on a poor throw. He’ll need a teammate to pat him on the back and calm him down. He’ll need somebody to tell him, “Just throw it up and let me go get it.”

If the Hoosiers want to win more than five games and go to a bowl game, the leader has to be Belcher.

“I tell them to just throw it around me, and if it’s near me and it can touch my hands, I’m going to catch it,” Belcher said. “It’s my job to make the quarterback look good.”

There are two problems with handing the keys of the team to Belcher:

1. He’s never been a rah-rah guy. He let Terrance Turner and Tandon Doss control the leadership role.

Can he become a vocal guy who lets others know when they do something wrong, or is he incapable of it?

“He’s doing better,” sophomore wide receiver Kofi Hughes said. “He’s being more of a leader instead of just playing well.

“It starts in the film room. After every play, Damarlo always has something to say about everybody’s route. On the field, it’s just little comments here and there — ‘Let’s go, let’s go’ — when we’re tired that keep the energy up.”

2. He dropped perhaps the most important pass last season — a potential game-winning touchdown against Iowa — then skipped out on the media afterward. Can his teammates look up to a guy who came up so small in such a big moment?

That is perhaps the biggest question entering this season.

Hughes and Belcher’s other teammates have said the right things — that they’ve moved past it and they trust him — but is that how they really feel? In another pressure moment this season, will the quarterback trust Belcher to make a play?

If he wants to be ‘The Guy’ for the Hoosiers, Belcher will have to prove early that he can perform not only on the first play of the first quarter but the last play of the fourth.

“He has an understanding that he’s a senior, it’s his last year and he needs to step up and take control of our room,” Johns said. “He’s putting in extra time, and he’s working hard. He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do.”

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