Philyor ready to get unwound in 2020

As Indiana’s Whop Philyor tried to describe what it’s like to endure the restrictions of a pandemic, he explained as only the Hoosiers’ exuberant star receiver could.

“You know the Tasmanian Devil, when they put him in a box? He can’t really do nothing, he just spinnin’ in a box?” Philyor asked.

Living in his mother’s house in Florida this spring, limiting time out so he wouldn’t bring COVID-19 back inside, felt like being in that box. Just spinning.

Even at IU, practicing with teammates but keeping away from others socially, trying not to bring the virus back to the facility, is like being in that box. Spinning and spinning.

IU’s slot receiver, barely able to sit still as he talked Friday, just couldn’t wait to get out of that metaphorical box.

“I’m like the Tasmanian Devil, all Looney Tunes. I’m in a box, just spinnin’,” Philyor said, pivoting to a thought about opposing defenses. “They in some trouble, because they done let us all out of the box. They in some trouble this year. … We are all Tasmanian devils, basically.”

Philyor, coming off of a breakout season in 2019, can hardly contain his excitement about being back in Bloomington. It’s not yet certain what will become of this season, but there are high hopes for what the Hoosiers’ offense can be, if it reaches the field on Saturdays this fall.

In the slot and at tight end, there are All-Big Ten performers. All-Big Ten rusher Stevie Scott is joined by a budding sophomore Sampson James, and Scott hinted Friday that the two of them could be in the backfield together in certain formations. Behind center, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is heading into his second season as starter, anxious to reach his ultimate potential.

While there were no 7-on-7s for Penix and his receivers to get on the same page, Philyor has no worries about his bond with Penix. They are both Tampa natives, so they’ve seen each other plenty this offseason.

“He either at my house or we outside throwing a football, or we at a game,” Philyor said. “Me and Mike always together, so it’s never not a time we not together. Our relationship is always going to be brother and brother.”

Penix certainly developed a trust in his 5-foot-11 playmaker last season, targeting Philyor 24 times for 324 yards in back-to-back games versus Michigan State and Rutgers. Philyor finished with 70 grabs for 1,002 yards on the year, which dwarfed the 570 yards he collected in ’17 and ’18.

The question heading into 2020 is what the Hoosiers have surrounding Penix, Philyor, and their rushing duo. Receivers Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook have graduated. Ty Fryfogle, who finished with 45 receptions for 604 yards last season, will see an increase in targets, but Miles Marshall (16 catches, 196 yards) will also have to step up.

Beyond that, Jordan Jakes, Jacolby Hewitt, and Da’Shaun Brown have yet to haul in a collegiate pass.

“We didn’t have spring practice, so there are still a lot of question marks for a lot of the young players and the position groups that are younger than others, how that’s going to look and how it’s going to fit together,” first-year offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said.

Penix and Philyor will both play a role in shoring up those younger pieces in the passing game.

One of Sheridan’s main asks of Penix this offseason was to take more command of the offense. That’s trusting himself to call audibles, when necessary. That’s making sure players are lined up where they need to be.

This offseason, it meant staying in touch with his receivers via Zoom and phone calls and talking things over, so they’d be more prepared once they returned to campus.

“He’s stepped up from the offseason,” Scott said of Penix. “He’ll get all the guys together, just to throw, try to keep us together, build that chemistry … then towards workouts and things of that nature, always in the front of lines, just trying to better guys.

“He’s still learning, but by the beginning of the season to the end, I think Mike will be where he should be at as a leader.”

Philyor is trying to develop in that facet, as well. While he is loud on game days, and sometimes in interviews, receiver coach Grant Heard has noted that Philyor is instinctively reserved in relation to his teammates. Stepping into a leadership capacity isn’t exactly in his comfort zone.

But this preseason, Philyor has invited IU’s younger receivers to his house to study film.

“I cook food for them, then we watch film,” Philyor said. “We go over the plays. I challenge all my receivers. I challenge all the receivers in the receiver room to be ready whenever.”

Philyor, for sure, is ready to go.

When asked why he returned for a senior season, rather than entertain the 2020 NFL draft, Philyor said he wanted to graduate from college. No one in his family had.

“Me and my sister, we wanted to be the first people to graduate from college, that’s probably the main reason,” Philyor said. “Then I can have one more year with my brothers, because I love these boys to death.”

Heading into the gauntlet of a Big Ten-only schedule, Philyor is as confident as ever.

“That was the best thing that could happen to us, I’m not going to lie, because it just shows we have to compete every week,” Philyor said. “We have to go out and compete with the best of the best. Every week.

“We ready for whoever. Whoever on (the schedule), they are going to get it. Whoever.”


  1. In addition to Penix, Whop is another potential big playmaker/”it factor” who could expose some vulnerability in the Badgers.

    How much have Penix and Whop actually been on the field together? Both have game-changing abilities….If we can stay within striking distance, you just never know.

  2. IU’s offense has the players to give defenses real problems which could make the offense explosive. IU v WS is a match up of similar athletes so the team that comes together quickest should win the game. I think IU has a great shot going into Camp Randall and coming away with a win. It will be a big test for coach Sheridan, our OL, and DL. The game will give us a good look at what type of team IU will have.

    Defense should be stout and give WS problems trying to move the ball. I hope the defense creates more take aways and gives WS fits as their offense turns the ball over time and again.

  3. Did you just open some glue….? Just kidding, V13.

    Do I remember a game when Wisconsin just kept piling on the score…?
    I think it was a cruelty far worse than anything a ‘Murderer’s Row’ team has ever done before a necessity to call 911. It’s too bad there’s likely no one at IU Football who was around the program when the Badgers treated us about as respectfully as Michael Vick feeding his starving Pit Bulls a gentle Golden Retriever…

    10/13/2010 * Wisconsin 83 Indiana 20 . Was that 12 touchdowns and one missed extra point the Badgers put up against the Indiana Hoosier cheerleaders?

    Other than a 2009 dignified Hoosier loss, the rest of the 0-10 streak spanning 12 years (2005-17) are also not too pretty…..

    83-20 *

    Wisconsin 512
    Indiana 153

    To predict any sort of competitiveness or a win does seem a bit like glue sniffing…I suppose all things have their “due”….? Reminds me of a great closing line in ‘Best of Times’. (Spoiler Alert!)

    Jack Dundee : I was sooooooo lucky.
    Jack’s wife: You weren’t lucky., Jack. You were due.

  4. H4H, based on past history I would have to be high on something to think IU can go into Camp Randall and win. I believe this team is ready to rewrite history and WS will show how right that is or if IU is the same team that got shellacked in the past. Like you have said previously, it is time for fans to expect more from IUFB and I hope they deliver it this season.

  5. when you have a run oriented offense as Wisconsin does, you can generally get it ready for game day a lot quicker than Indiana pass oriented offense. I hate to say this but this looks like a game where Wisconsin literally pounds the ball into Indiana defense. A unknown Wisconsin running back will be introduced to the college scene. We the fans are looking (expecting) for a “breakthrough” seasons, but this coaching staff is to inexperience in my opinion. The team itself seems to have the proper mixture of youth and veterans players. The questions becomes “can this coaching staff properly prepare and motivate this team to become successful or have that breakthrough season”.

    1. IU79, WS only has 6 returning starters on offense so they have a lot to replace. IU only has one real spot on the OL to replace with Powell added and Crider moved to center. Our two WR didn’t have big years and we have talented WR to replace them with. There is a lack of experience outside Fryfogle and Whop but Matthews showed in games late in the year. Ellis also showed his capabilities and that he is ready to improve this season. Jakes was noticed in the 4 spring practices and he could be a very good WR this season.

      Your point about coaching experience is a good one, coaching is one of those jobs you have it or you don’t at least after several years in the job. IU has experienced coaches just not ones that have worked together for very long. I hope that lack of time together doesn’t keep the Hoosiers from winning at WS.

  6. Wisky does have to me an excellent coach and staff. The head coach has an image and knowledge for the game including X’s, O’s, play calling, and staff is so well collaborative coordinated that fits overwhelmingly well into a physical Wisconsin system/program.

  7. Spring Football may become a reality for the 20-21 season! Big Ten is still holding teams to helmets only practice gear, Mid America conference has cancelled Fall Football (Ball State), and the player organzations demands aren’t settled, and some top players take the option out for the season. more questions than time to get the answers, and Penn State, “no fans” in the stands decision, doesn’t look good for college football this fall.

  8. I have resigned to what will be next spring 2021? If there is a spring 2021? The uncertainties are much stress and chaos to get much rhythm and organized by this late summer and fall? Next spring is not a given either. Or how chaotic will things be in spring of 2021? Just buying time and hoping for the best.

  9. If IU and WI play in early September, WI has to be the heavy favorite. They’re at home for one. But IU has the type of offense that requires more time and game-reps before it starts performing at a high level. Pre-conference games, where IU can make adjustments from game-to-game, are more important to a team like IU than they are to a team like WI. Wisconsin’s offense is simple; they just line up and smash the defense in the mouth. If IU is to beat WI, it will require a “career” performance from our QB and one of the best run-defenses IU has ever fielded.

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