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Breaking down the 2018 IU football depth chart

Despite many question marks in the offseason regarding the IU football depth chart, week one is this Saturday as the team heads to Florida International University. 

Although depth charts change all throughout the season due to injuries, player performance and more, here is a breakdown of starters, backups, and potential breakout players at each position.Quarterbacks

Week 1 Starter: Peyton Ramsey

Notable: Michael Penix Jr., Reese Taylor

Breakout Candidate: Peyton Ramsey

Vivek Rao Buy Photos

Peyton Ramsey may not have been the boldest or most exciting choice, but he was chosen for a reason. Ramsey’s had an impressive offseason and showed Tom Allen he had real control of the offense in fall camp. 

He also worked on his arm strength over the summer, and, if Ramsey can become a more consistent deep passer, he could give the Hoosiers another dimension to their offense. 

Freshman Michael Penix Jr. also had a strong fall camp, and Allen mentioned that he expects Penix Jr. to see the field at some point, especially with the NCAA’s new redshirt rule. 

2017 Indiana Mr. Football Reese Taylor moves to quarterback after the departure of Brandon Dawkins, and his dual-threat ability could warrant some time in the quarterback spot this year.

Running Backs

Week 1 Starter: Cole Gest

Notable: Mike Majette, Ricky Brookins Jr., Stevie Scott, Ronnie Walker Jr.

Breakout Candidate: Ronnie Walker Jr.

After Morgan Ellison’s suspension, the depth chart at running back looked pretty murky. Now, it appears redshirt sophomore Cole Gest will start next to Ramsey in the Hoosiers’ backfield. Gest carried the ball 93 times for 440 yards in 10 games last season, reaching the end zone once. 

Senior Mike Majette, who started opening night last season, slips down the depth chart after missing seven games last season with a hamstring injury.

This is a running back group without a clear No. 1 option, which leaves the door open for freshman Ronnie Walker Jr., who was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and was the sixth-ranked prospect in the state of Virginia. If more experienced runners like Majette and Gest fail to seize the starting spot, Walker could prove to be a breakout player this fall.

Wide Receivers

Week 1 Starters: Luke Timian, Nick Westbrook, Ty Fryfogle

Notables: Donavan Hale, Whop Philyor, Ty Fryfogle, Chris Gajcack

Breakout Candidate: Ty Fryfogle

Nick Westbrook returns after missing the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL. The redshirt junior, who led IU in receiving yards two years ago, headlines a receiving core that could be one of the most explosive in the Big Ten. 

Sure-handed Luke Timian, who finished second on the team in receptions last year, will surely be one of Ramsey’s most reliable targets. 

Ty Fryfogle looks to be the third receiver, which is a bit of a surprise considering Whop Philyor was returning from a strong freshman campaign. Depth should be no issue, as redshirt junior Donavan Hale returns after missing the majority of last season with a knee injury.

Then-sophomore wide receiver Nick Westbrook grabs a pass in midair at Michigan Stadium during a Nov. 2016 game. Westbrook is listed as one of IU's starting wide receivers for 2018. Michael Williams Buy Photos

Tight Ends

Week 1 Starter: Peyton Hendershot

Notable: Austin Dorris, Matt Bjorson, T.J. Ivy, Shaun Bonner

Breakout Candidate: Peyton Hendershot

With Ryan Watercutter on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, Mike DeBord and Co. will call upon Peyton Hendershot to take over at tight end. The redshirt freshman, who played in four games before suffering a season-ending injury, was an all-state caliber tight end at Tri-West High School but did not catch a pass in his four appearances last year. 

Redshirt junior Austin Dorris also expects to see some playing time during Watercutter’s absence, but much like Hendershot, he has little college experience. Don't be surprised to see a number of players at the position, including freshmen like Matt Bjorson and T.J. Ivy.

Offensive Line

Week 1 Starters (LT to RT): Coy Cronk, Wes Martin, Hunter Littlejohn, Simon Stepaniak, Brandon Knight

Notables: Nick Linder, Delroy Baker, Mackenzie Nworah, Caleb Jones

Breakout Candidate: Delroy Baker

The IU offensive line has experience on its side, led by redshirt senior guard Wes Martin and junior tackle Coy Cronk. This group will be looking to improve upon a season in which the Hoosiers struggled to run the ball at times and failed to protect the quarterback in some crucial situations. 

However, the experience factor will be a big help, as all five starters saw game action last season. Graduate transfer Nick Linder will provide some experience in the interior, and Coach Darren Hiller has said that Linder could see time at center and both guard spots. 

Redshirt senior Delroy Baker’s versatility makes him a valuable asset, and Hiller has mentioned the possibility of Baker appearing at both guard and tackle this season.

Then-freshman offensive lineman Coy Cronk, 54, congratulates wide receiver Nick Westbrook, then a sophomore, after scoring against Wake Forest in 2016. Cronk and Westbrook are both listed as starters for IU heading into 2018. Noble Guyon Buy Photos

Defensive Line

Listed Week 1 Starters: DE Gavin Everett, DT Jacob Robinson, DT Ja’merez Bowen, DE Nile Sykes

Notable Players: DT Mike Barwick Jr., DE Allen Stallings IV, DT Jerome Johnson, DT Kayton Samuels, DE Alfred Bryant

Breakout Candidate: Allen Stallings IV

It will definitely be a defensive line by committee in 2018. A lot of different guys are going to see snaps this year.

Robinson is the veteran of the group and the unquestioned leader. He and Everett, who just earned a scholarship, are steady, reliable options. Meanwhile, after impressing coaches this offseason, Bowen is at the top of the week-one depth chart alongside Robinson at defensive tackle, but he and Barwick Jr. will split time there.

Sykes is more of a wild card. The senior is wildly talented, but is coming off a 2017 season in which he never played a regular season game, due to an offseason injury. If Stallings IV can take the next step in his development and Sykes can stay healthy, they could provide a dangerous and disruptive one-two punch at defensive end.

The Hoosiers have plenty of other options ranging from younger players like Johnson and Bryant to more experienced guys like Samuels, who is a graduate transfer from Syracuse.

Also, depending on what decisions are made regarding redshirts, don’t be surprised to see some of the members of IU’s talented freshman class on the line like Madison Norris, James Head Jr. or Tramar Reece.


Listed Week 1 Starters: Dameon Willis Jr., Reakwon Jones

Notable Players: T.D. Roof, Thomas Allen, Micah McFadden, Mo Burnam

Breakout Candidates: Reakwon Jones, Micah McFadden

Linebacker is a hard position to pinpoint for IU heading into this season. The Hoosiers lost both of their starters from last year, Tegray Scales and Chris Covington, to the NFL, leaving some question marks at the top of the depth chart.

Things are starting to shape up a bit as the offseason winds down, though. When Willis Jr. decided to come back for a fifth season, it provided IU with some much-needed experience and reliability. 

However, it’s Jones who could prove to be the most important player here. At Big Ten Media Day, senior safety Jonathan Crawford said Jones has made the biggest strides as a player on the Hoosiers’ defense this offseason. He could be the guy to carry the torch at the position after Scales and Covington have moved on.

Roof and Allen will both see plenty of time here too and Burnam will get some snaps after he serves a one-game suspension. Meanwhile, McFadden, a true freshman, has impressed coaches this offseason and could be a surprise breakout candidate.


Listed Week 1 Starter: Marcelino Ball

Notable Players: Cam Jones

Breakout Candidate: None

The Husky position is pretty simple. Ball is the unquestioned starter and has proven himself to be one of IU’s most productive players on defense since he’s been in Bloomington. He suffered a season-ending injury last year, cutting his would-be sophomore season short after just three games. However, he received a medical redshirt and seems to be healthy heading into 2018, so expect Ball to be one the Hoosiers’ leaders on defense once again.

Ball said he’s been working with Jones, a freshman, to get him used to playing the Husky position, but if Ball stays healthy, don’t expect to see a lot of Jones at the position this year.

Then freshman Marcelino Ball, now a sophomore, and then junior Tegray Scales tackle Michigan wide receiver Grant Perry in the first half of the Nov. 19, 2016, game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ball is heading into his redshirt sophomore season at IU. Tribune News Service Buy Photos


Listed Week 1 Starters: A’Shon Riggins, Andre Brown Jr.

Notable Players: Raheem Layne, Jaylin Williams, Reese Taylor

Breakout Candidates: Raheem Layne, Jaylin Williams

On the official week one depth chart, the starter alongside Brown Jr. is listed as Riggins or Layne but we predict Riggins will be the guy throughout the season. He could be the one to take over the now-graduated Rashard Fant’s production. 

However, Layne could be a decent breakout candidate this year after playing in all 12 games last year and being named IU’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a freshman in 2017. 

The bad news is there isn’t a lot of depth after those three, so somebody like Williams will have to step up and be thrown into the fire as a true freshman. Taylor’s role at the position remains to be seen after being moved to quarterback earlier this week.

Then-sophomore defensive back Andre Brown Jr. defends against Purdue at the Old Oaken Bucket game Nov. 27, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. IU's defense will take on junior quarterback Bryce Perkins and the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. Ty Vinson Buy Photos


Listed Week 1 Starters: Jonathan Crawford, Khalil Bryant

Notable Players: Bryant Fitzgerald, Juwan Burgess, Devon Matthews, Isaac James

Breakout Candidate: Bryant Fitzgerald

There’s no doubt Crawford is a big name among IU safeties. He’s consistently been one of IU’s best defensive players throughout his career, and 2018 will be no different. He and Marcelino Ball are the defensive leaders.

Bryant beat out Fitzgerald for the other starting spot, which means he must have done something right this offseason.

Yet, fans haven’t seen what Fitzgerald or Burgess can bring to the table after both sat out their freshman seasons last year. Fitzgerald in particular will probably see some important snaps all season. Along with a talented true freshman in Matthews and a highly athletic junior in James, the Hoosiers actually have pretty good depth at the position.

Then-junior defensive back Jonathan Crawford tackles a Purdue player during the Old Oaken Bucket game Nov. 27, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Crawford, now a senior, scored his first collegiate touchdown Saturday night during IU's 38-28 win at Florida International. Ty Vinson Buy Photos


Listed Week 1 starter: Logan Justus 

Notables: Charles Campbell, Jared Smolar

Breakout Candidate: Charles Campbell

The battle for the starting kicker job has officially gone to Justus, a left-footed kicker who joined the Hoosiers as a walk-on in 2015 and has never played in a college game. 

However, Coach Tom Allen said Campbell, a right-footed kicker and a U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant, is close and the possibility exists for IU to use different kickers depending on which hash the ball is placed on. Furthermore, IU may use redshirt sophomore Jared Smolar for longer field goal attempts


Listed Week 1 starter: Jared Smolar 

Notables: Logan Justus 

Breakout Candidate: None

Smolar is the only kicker on IU's roster with prior collegiate game experience, having played three games while at Rutgers as a freshman in 2016. That experience was limited to 21 kickoffs, which averaged a distance of 55.1 yards. 

Former kicker Griffin Oakes handled both field goal and kickoff duties for the Hoosiers in recent seasons, so using different kickers for the two tasks will be new for a special teams unit led by Coach William Inge for the first season.


Listed Week 1 starter: Haydon Whitehead 

Notables: Drew Conrad

Breakout Candidate: None

A former Australian rules football player, Whitehead had a remarkable 2017 season. He landed 33 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line and opposing teams only averaged five yards per punt return against IU. Whitehead, a left-footed kicker, uses a short, rugby-style punting motion, which has proven successful so far, as he was named to the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list this summer.

Then-junior punter Haydon Whitehead punts the ball against Michigan on Oct. 14 at Memorial Stadium. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos


Listed Week 1 starter: Dan Godsil 

Notables: Shaun Bonner 

Breakout Candidate: None

Compared to most long snappers around the country, Godsil has received sizable attention for both his long, flowing hair and his consistency. 

Godsil has been IU's long snapper in all 38 games since he came to Bloomington, and also gained national fame recently with viral trick-shot videos in which he snaps a ball from an elevated platform into a trash can at IU's practice fields and knocks a gatorade bottle off the head of Conrad inside Memorial Stadium. 


Listed Week 1 starter: Drew Conrad

Notables: Haydon Whitehead 

Breakout Candidate: None

A punter at Center Grove High School, Conrad joined IU as a walk-on in 2016 before serving as the holder on field goals and extra points last season. 

After a 2016 season which featured several breakdowns in the kicking game, Conrad was part of a unit that missed just one field goal and one extra point last season. Along with Godsil, Conrad was part of an IU trick-shot video in which he performs the "Double Hold Gatorade Shot." 


Listed Week 1 starter: J-Shun Harris II

Notables: Luke Timian, Whop Philyor 

Breakout Candidate: None

There is no better comeback story on the IU team than Harris. The fifth-year senior is back after suffering his third torn ACL during his IU career last season at Maryland. When healthy, Harris has proven to be an electric punt returner, scoring touchdowns against Virginia and Georgia Southern, as well as posting a key return in the fourth quarter against Michigan last season. 

If Harris' unfortunate injury history rears its head, though, expect a veteran like Timian to take over return duties.

Senior wide receiver J-Shun Harris II runs up to catch a punt against Michigan Oct. 14 at Memorial Stadium.  Bobby Goddin Buy Photos


Listed Week 1 starter: Mike Majette

Notables: Cole Gest

Breakout Candidate: Mike Majette 

IU was ineffective in the kick return department last season. The Hoosiers' longest kickoff return of the 2017 season was 31 yards, and creating more from this unit will be a key focus for Inge. 

Devonte Williams, who handled kick return duties last season, transferred to Southeastern Louisiana, leaving several players to try and take over the job. 

IU will likely cycle through a couple options from the running back and wide receiver position groups during nonconference play.

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