UPDATE: Junior running back Stevie Scott III has declared for the NFL Draft. This story has been updated to reflect his decision.
The 2020 IU football season saw it earn its highest ranking since 1967, lose in the Outback Bowl 26-20 to the University of Mississippi and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack and running backs coach Mike Hart leaving for other jobs.
IU’s seniors have a big decision to make: stay in school or go pro. All seniors are eligible to return for one more season under the NCAA’s blanket waiver to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time of publication, no other players had declared for the NFL Draft.
Whop Philyor, declared
Philyor declared for the NFL Draft on Saturday following a season that earned the senior receiver honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. His 9.2 average yards per catch in 2020 was the lowest of his career, but he did pull in 54 catches, including an IU record 17 in the Outback Bowl. In 2019, Philyor had 70 receptions for 1,002 yards, becoming the seventh Hoosier to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Philyor finished his career with 2,067 receiving yards, ninth all time at IU.
Losing a top receiver is never ideal, but IU’s offense has alternative options for the 2021 season. Targets like senior receiver Ty Fryfogle and junior tight end Peyton Hendershot are returning. Sophomore receiver Miles Marshall was effective as the No. 3 receiver this season and the Hoosiers added Florida State University transfer D.J. Matthews on Nov. 12. Matthews had 36 receptions for 355 yards in 2019. Philyor’s visible on-field leadership and persona were defining traits of his time with the program.
Stevie Scott III, declared
Scott announced he would forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft on Friday, becoming IU's second junior to enter the draft. In 2020, Scott led the Hoosiers with 561 rushing yards and scored 10 of the team's 12 rushing touchdowns. Scott will leave IU fourth in total rushing touchdowns, fifth in touchdowns and ninth in rushing yards. Scott has been named second-team All-Big Ten the last two seasons.
Scott's name appears several times in the IU rushing record book and his departure limits the talent IU has on the offense. But this season was a down year for Scott and the running game, and with most of the offensive line returning, the Hoosiers can find production without Scott. Sophomore Sampson James can fill Scott's role and freshman Tim Baldwin Jr. impressed in limited carries this season, rushing for IU's only 100-yard game. Losing Scott is not too harmful for a team that will have plenty of firepower from its quarterback and receivers.
Ty Fryfogle, returning
Fryfogle announced he would return for the 2021 campaign Friday. Fryfogle was the second half of a dynamic receiving duo with Philyor, but he undoubtedly had the better 2020 season. Fryfogle led IU with 721 receiving yards and averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. He was named an AP Third Team All-American. The Mississippi native became the first Big Ten receiver with back-to-back 200 yard receiving games after posting 200 yards against Michigan State and 218 yards against Ohio State.
Fryfogle’s decision to return certifies him as the No. 1 target next season. It also means IU will have a strong receiving corps. Matthews should fit the same role that Philyor played for IU, and Marshall is expected to take another step forward in his development. Fryfogle will lead a group that could become extremely successful if redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. returns from his ACL injury.
Harry Crider, declared
Crider, the senior lineman from Columbus, Indiana, announced he would forgo his extra year of eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft on Sunday. Crider shifted to become IU’s center for this season and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media.
Crider is the only member of IU’s offensive line who is not slated to return for the 2021 season. His replacement is likely to be Michigan transfer Zach Carpenter, a redshirt freshman who played in five of the Wolverines’ games this season, including two starts as the center.
Mackenzie Nworah, returning
Nworah, a redshirt senior offensive lineman, is set to return to IU for his sixth season, he announced Jan. 5. Nworah was named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award watch list prior to this season. He was limited in action this season, but Nworah appeared in eight games in 2019, including three starts.
Nworah has battled injuries that have limited his playing time over his career, but returning for a sixth season will provide additional experience to an already deep offensive line. Losing just one starter in total will allow for continued growth on a line that struggled to create opportunities for the run game early this season.
Khameron Taylor, returning
Taylor, a graduate transfer tight end, announced Jan. 5 he will return to IU for his sixth season after sitting out all of 2020. Taylor transferred to IU from the University of South Alabama before the 2020 campaign, but didn’t play after dealing with an injury.
Taylor will join junior Matt Bjorson as backups to Hendershot. Taylor’s potential is largely unseen due to his limited experience, but he could slot in as an additional blocker in certain sets.
Marcelino Ball, returning
Ball, a redshirt senior, is a player whose return might be the most important among IU’s defensive seniors. Head coach Tom Allen tweeted Ball would return on Jan. 5. Ball sat out all of 2020 with a torn ACL. He had 47 tackles and a team-high six quarterback hurries in 2019. In 2018, Ball earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after totalling 59 tackles, including 40 solo tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss, the latter of which led the team.
With IU’s defense returning nearly all of its top performers from last season, Ball’s return will add additional experience and depth to an already formidable defense. Ball will return to the husky position, taking over for redshirt junior Bryant Fitzgerald.
Jamar Johnson, declared
Johnson, a junior safety, became the first non-senior to declare for the NFL Draft after announcing on his Twitter account Monday. If Ball is IU’s best returning defender, Johnson is IU’s toughest loss. Johnson was a key part of IU’s secondary that was second in the country with 17 interceptions. He had a team-best four interceptions and was second on the team in both solo and total tackles, earning Johnson first team All-Big Ten honors from the media.
Johnson is one of two key members of the IU defense that won’t return next season. While the majority of IU’s secondary will be back, Johnson will be tough to replace. Returning senior Raheem Layne may be the most likely to fill the spot, but junior Juwan Burgess spent some game time at safety this season as well.
Jerome Johnson, declared
Johnson, a senior defensive lineman, is another big loss for IU’s defense. Johnson declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday. Johnson was second in the team with four sacks and earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the media this season. Johnson also pulled in his first career interception against Ohio State. Johnson led IU in sacks both his sophomore and junior seasons.
Johnson is one of two defensive linemen leaving for the NFL Draft, but IU used a rotating defensive line all season that will lessen the impact of their departures. Johnson may be the best lineman IU has, but sophomore Sio Nofoagatoto’a and junior Demarcus Elliot both played well in 2020 and redshirt freshman C.J. Person could fill in as well. Ole Miss graduate transfer Ryder Anderson, who had a sack on sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle in the Outback Bowl, can be an option for IU too.
Jovan Swann, declared
Swann, a graduate transfer, was the second defensive linemen to declare for the NFL Draft, announcing his intentions Tuesday. Swann transferred from Stanford after the 2019 season as a graduate student and saw limited action in 2020, totaling four tackles.
Like Jerome Johnson, Swann’s spot on the defensive line will be filled by players with experience like Nofoagatoto’a and Elliot. Swann was listed below Johnson on the depth chart this season.
Raheem Layne, returning
Layne, a senior defensive back, will return after missing all of 2020 with an injury. He announced his return Jan. 5. Layne switched from cornerback to safety before the season and will likely stick in that spot next season. In 2019, Layne had three pass deflections and 30 tackles in 13 games, including two tackles for loss.
Layne’s return could help IU’s secondary recover from the loss of Jamar Johnson and keep its status as a top secondary in the country. Layne could earn the spot over Burgess, but either player would be surrounded by top talent.
Michael Ziemba, returning
Ziemba, a senior pass-rusher, experienced a down season in which the defensive lineman had only nine tackles. Ziemba announced he would return on Jan. 5. He had 33 total tackles in 2019, including 6.5 tackles for loss.
Ziemba will likely split time with redshirt junior Alfred Bryant, who saw three starts in 2020. The two will each play roles in a rotating line.
Haydon Whitehead, declared
Whitehead, a graduate punter, has yet to make an official announcement, but the Melbourne, Australia native reportedly signed with a professional agency this week, indicating Whitehead won’t be eligible to play college football next season. Whitehead earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors for the third time this season. He had nine punts pinned inside the 20-yard line and had 41.1 net yards on punts.
Whitehead is the only punter on IU’s roster with game experience, and as a sixth-year player, his departure means the loss of lots of experience. Sophomore Chase Wyatt backed up Whitehead on the depth chart this season. The Hoosiers also recruited incoming freshman James Evans, a punter from Auckland, New Zealand, but Evans has never played football or visited the United States.
Jared Smolar, returning
Smolar, a senior kicker, has been IU’s kickoff specialist and he will keep that role in 2021. Smolar announced his return Jan. 6. Nearly half of Smolar’s kicks resulted in touchbacks.
Smolar will likely hold on to his kickoff role while redshirt sophomore Charles Campbell continues to kick field goals for the Hoosiers.