TE Hendershot looking to gain QB’s trust

Whenever quarterback Michael Penix Jr. meets up with tight end Peyton Hendershot, he expects to hear two words.

“Trust me,” Hendershot says.

That’s just part of the constant dialogue between passers and pass-catchers. “I’m open” isn’t uncommon to hear when anxious playmakers come back to the line.

But the redshirt sophomore tight end says “Trust me” because he feels like trust is something he’s still building. And it’s not just about catching the ball.

Penix put his trust in Hendershot last week, hitting him for 4 catches for 69 yards — quite the haul when you consider he had 163 yards all of last season. But Hendershot thinks he can do better. Monday, he recalled the passes he couldn’t quite bring in last season, possibly eroding that trust. He quickly skipped over his accomplishment from the Ball State win, pointing instead to the run blocks he missed and a motion across the line he mentally spaced.

“A lot of people came up to me and said it was my best game, but it wasn’t,” Hendershot said. “I did some more of the glamorous stuff, like catching the ball, but I didn’t block as well as I wanted to. I want to be a more dominant blocker. I didn’t think I did that in the game last week.”

Hendershot thinks about the more negative aspects of his opening-day performance, and he theorizes he went into the game just a little too eager to catch passes, which made him lose sight of his other responsibilities. He had reason to be so intrigued by that phase of the game.

Hendershot and the tight end group figure to be a bigger part of offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s passing scheme than Mike DeBord’s last year. DeBoer’s coaching history proves that.

Behind star receiver and NFL draftee KeeSean Johnson’s 95 catches for 1,340 yards, tight end Jared Rice was Fresno State’s next most productive target at 55 receptions for 664 yards in 2018. Rice posted 22 for 388 in DeBoer’s first year with the Bulldogs.

In 2016 at Eastern Michigan, receiver Sergio Bailey led the charge with 60 catches for 868 yards, but tight end Nigel Kilby was amongst a second-tier of targets that amassed 400-plus yards receiving. Cody Tuttle, the Eagles’ tight end in 2015, was the program’s third-leading receiver that season.

IU, on the other hand, didn’t target the tight end a whole lot in 2018. Hendershot had the most grabs with 15, while Matt Bjorson and Austin Dorris added another nine for 69 yards. They were the 10th-, 12th-, and 13-most targeted receivers in the Hoosiers’ corps.

“I’ve always been a big believer in the tight ends,” IU coach Tom Allen said, “and I just think they create so many issues for defenses and we’ve got so many weapons in both the running game and on the perimeter that both those guys (Hendershot and Bjorson) can be very, very valuable (attacking) the heart of the defense.

“I know every game can be a little different, but I want to see us really do a great job at that position and want guys to come here (as recruits) knowing they are going to be able to get a chance to catch the football.”

Allen wasn’t as hard on Hendershot’s run blocking as the tight end was on himself, and he liked what he saw from him in the passing game, particularly one catch over the middle with a defender ready to land a hard blow.

That kind of security blanket is a huge deal for a young quarterback like Penix.

“He’s great, big body, great hands. I trust him,” Penix said. “We talk every single day, he’s always saying ‘Trust me.’ Maybe we have a missed key, maybe a missed pass, missed catch. He always comes back to me, ‘Hey, you still trust me?’ I’m like, ‘Always.’”

Hendershot has Penix’s trust. He just has to continue to build faith in himself, really.

Last year, mistakes would take a mental toll on Hendershot. He has improved in that aspect.

“This past game I had a run block where I got buried in the ground,” Hendershot said. “Last year, me, I probably would have went down and had the worst game then. But I just let it go and moved on to the next play and had a good game.”

Hendershot just wants to keep executing, whether it’s the pass or run. And if he can keep Penix’s trust, he’s OK with catching a pass or two.

“This year I’ve made such an emphasis on catching so many balls because I don’t want to let the team down,” Hendershot said. “When they throw the ball to you, you need to catch it. With time and more experience, I think they trust me more.”


  1. Since we can’t add a message to the last women’s basketball post, I am putting this here. The latest Charlie Crème article has IU ranked # 21 in an article I just finished reading on the ESPN website. Not surprising considering the way this program has continued to improve over the years! Can’t wait for the upcoming season!! Go Hoosiers!!

  2. Thank You Mike C. It is just a lot of fun to watch the development, growth and T. Moren plus staff strategically clear barriers or obstacles in the IU ladies basketball program. You can really tell those who spend enough time in the IU ladies basketball program have a T. Moren identity or self image. (You can tell who their coach is so to speak).

  3. I was especially impressed with Hendershot when he held on to the ball, got up, and eventually returned to the game after taking that big hit to his lower back/ribs while stretched out to make a key reception. He demonstrated enormous toughness and “grit” during and after that play. He looks like a real good tight end.

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