Dorris preparing for position change at IU

Until he gets on a college campus, the concept of Austin Dorris as a tight end will likely exist only in camps.

At Shadyside High School in Ohio, Dorris is many other things. On the football squad, he’s the quarterback and an outside linebacker. He didn’t play basketball this past season, but he was a forward and one of his teams’ top scorers in 2012-13 as a sophomore. On the baseball squad, he’s a pitcher and a catcher.

But when college football coaches looked at the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder, they saw a tight end. So when he’s been in camps, that’s how he’s operated, and that’s the position he committed to play when he accepted Indiana’s scholarship on Monday night, becoming the eighth member of IU’s Class of 2015.

“Whenever I first started the recruiting process, I went to a camp at Ohio University, and they told me they were looking at me as a tight end,” Dorris said. “So I just took that and ran with it. I started going to all of these camps as a tight end and got my name out there.” 

By the time he got an offer from Indiana on Monday — which he accepted immediately — he’d earned 11 scholarship offers as a tight end, according to Rivals.com, including from Air Force, Buffalo, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan. This despite the fact that Dorris has spent very little time playing the position in pads.

Dorris did have some limited experience at tight end as a freshman and sophomore, but he also played split end in that time and caught the ball much more than he blocked on the edge. He showed enough athleticism as a quarterback, rushing for more than 1,100 yards last season, while also throwing for more than 800 yards.

“He’s just a great athlete,” Shadyside coach Mark Holenka said. “He’s a quality kid. He’s got great hands. He’s athletically oriented, so all of that should make it an easy transition for him.”

Indiana was attractive to Dorris because the Hoosiers have used the tight end much more extensively in the passing game under coach Kevin Wilson, and Wilson has a track record of using the tight end extensively in previous stops. That includes Oklahoma, where he saw three tight ends taken in the NFL Draft in three years in Jermaine Gresham (first round), James Hanna (sixth) and Brody Eldridge (fifth), as well as Indiana, where Ted Bolser was taken as a seventh-round pick by Washington in May.

“Sometimes you’re down there putting your nose in there and blocking,” Dorris said, “but a lot of times you’re split out wide on a corner running a route. So there’s a couple of different ways they can use you, and I think that’s a good fit for me.”

Of course, the blocking responsibilities are something he’s not going to be used to.

“My biggest weakness is going to be the whole blocking thing,” Dorris said. “I know I can do it; I just haven’t done it very much. That’s going to be the biggest thing when I get there is learning blocking technique.”

Holenka agrees that will be a transition, but believes Dorris can handle it physically.

“On offense, he might not be blocking a lot, but he’s taking a lot of physical abuse as a 1,000-yard rusher at the quarterback position,” Holenka said. “He can take the punishment.”