Taylor hopes to be dual-threat TE for Hoosiers

Just look at the numbers, and Khameron Taylor’s profile screams “blocking tight end.”

Indiana’s graduate transfer from South Alabama is currently listed at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds. Throwing the ball wasn’t necessarily a staple of the Jaguars’ offense, either, as their passing leader had 900 yards in 2019. Taylor accounted for 18 of those yards receiving — on just two grabs.

While Taylor’s willingness to be that blocking tight end helps him fit right in with a Hoosier offense that’s trying to better establish the run, don’t let his current profile fully shape the conversation. He may be just 15 pounds shy of the lighter end of the offensive line spectrum. But Taylor thinks removing 15 pounds may be his best route toward making an impact in his final collegiate season.

“I think I just need the opportunity,” Taylor said. “I didn’t at South (Alabama) get to run a lot of routes … I’m gonna make the most of the play when it comes my way.

“I could play at 260, I could play at 270, but 255 is where I feel the fastest, where I feel good.”

Taylor arrives to the tight end room at a unique time. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for him to visit IU’s campus before signing on the dotted line this month. But he liked what he heard of IU coach Tom Allen’s “LEO” message, and what the coaches saw for him as a fifth-year senior in their offense.

“I think I’m really good in the passing game, and I think I get an opportunity to show it in this offense,” Taylor said, calling himself a “hybrid” player. “I was bigger (at South Alabama), I kind of adapted to my role. But I used to play, like, around 255, and I feel good running routes.

“I think just overall, just my physicality, and I think I’m just gonna lead by example and try to, you know, buy in. Let all my teammates know I’m bought in. Like, I want to win. Like, I’m here for y’all. LEO, like coach says.”

On IU’s end, Taylor helps alleviate some uncertainties for the tight end group as a whole.

At this point, it’s not known when All-Big Ten performer Peyton Hendershot will be available to play in games. In April, Allen said Hendershot was with the Hoosiers in a “modified way” following a previous suspension, which was in response to a February arrest.

Beyond the redshirt junior Hendershot, IU doesn’t have a depth of experience at tight end. Junior Matt Bjorson, who was elevated in Hendershot’s absence this spring, had just seven catches for 36 yards last year. Down the line, there is promise in redshirt freshman Gary Cooper and redshirt sophomore Turon Ivy. But that potential remains unseen.

IU knows Taylor can do one thing well, serving as an extension of the offensive line in the run game. But when the Hoosiers go into “12” personnel — one running back and two tight ends — Taylor should add a dual-threat.

“You got a big-body guy who’s athletic,” IU tight end coach Kevin Wright said. “I think that any time you have the ability to put two tight ends on the field and run your offense, you know, that creates issues for the defense.

“Third-and-shorts, you got to be creative in the Big Ten anyway, just because of the defenses you’re going to see. Not only (Taylor’s) ability to block, but also his ability, along with our other guys, to be used in the play-action passing game, I also think will help in those types of short-yardage and maybe even goal-line, red-zone situations.”

Hendershot, a 6-4, 250-pounder, showed what was possible for a tight end in first-year offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s scheme, probing the middle for 52 catches and 622 yards, both program records at the position. With DeBoer moving on to become Fresno State’s head coach, and former tight ends coach Nick Sheridan assuming control of the offense, Wright’s position group will be essential.

But his top contributor remains a question. When asked Wednesday about Hendershot’s level of involvement with the team, Wright declined to elaborate beyond Allen’s previous comment about “modified” participation. Online court records indicate Hendershot, who was charged with four misdemeanors stemming from an incident with an ex-girlfriend in February, including domestic battery, has a change of plea hearing scheduled for June 9.

“Again, it has just been modified and I think that’s the best way to put it,” Wright said. “Excited to move forward with him and, you know, we’ll get everybody back.”

It’s quite a mix for Wright, who was most recently a high school head coach at IMG Academy in Florida. Bjorson is someone Wright feels has stepped up as a leader, even with everything being virtual during the pandemic. Ivy and Cooper are two young talents. AJ Barner is an incoming freshman with some potential.

Cooper, especially, at 6-2, 235 pounds, contrasts with the rest of the group. In limited action last year, the freshman was split out often, but Wright hopes Cooper’s work in the weight room this offseason will allow him to block just enough to be viable on all downs.

“He’s one of the fastest guys on our football team, he’s got good ball skills,” Wright said. “You see that all the time in the NFL where you got speed guys that can block enough, you know, where they become major weapons in your offense.

“Cooper has a chance to do that as a young player who’s really still developing.”

Taylor, on the other hand, is a veteran who can block. But he hopes he can do more than just that.

He’s excited to be among many talented pass catchers, getting open for star quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

“I want to fit in, and I want to show the guys, like, you know, I can play, too,” Taylor said. “So it’s, like, I’m just excited and I feel like they’re gonna push me to be better myself, playing around guys that are that talented.”

One comment

  1. Taylor sounds and looks like he can be a good receiver while also being a good blocker. IU has some TEs that can be very good players and when Hendershot gets back the position will be even better. It will interesting to see how they are used by coach Sheridan. I hope he adds some changes to make the offense even more dangerous than last year.

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