Fryfogle seizes chance to return to IU, build on last season

If Ty Fryfogle had departed Indiana after last season, he would have left with his share of accomplishments.

In four years, the 6-foot-2, 214-pounder from Lucedale, Miss., watched the Hoosiers ascend from a middling program to one that finished its season after New Year’s two years in a row. Personally, Fryfogle had his own steady rise, until he broke out like a bull loose from its pen in 2020, posting the Big Ten’s first-ever back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He was the conference’s receiver of the year. He was an All-American.

But when it came time to decide whether to stay or go, Fryfogle talked with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. It felt like there was still more for them to accomplish together, especially after a season-ending loss in the Outback Bowl. Penix missed the last two games of 2020 with a torn ACL, as well.

There was more for them to do. 

“This football team, I feel like we still left some stuff on the table, and we got a lot more we can accomplish, and the future is bright for this team,” Fryfogle said. “We are getting better each and every day. … I feel like we can accomplish anything we want to this season.”

The prospect of a Fryfogle that’s even better than last season’s version is a scary thing for opposing defenses. But it’s not surprising to hear Fryfogle believe in what another year could bring him.

IU receivers coach Grant Heard was saying it at the end of Fryfogle’s junior season in 2019, that he wished he didn’t have to play Fryfogle so much as a freshman. He wished he could have preserved a redshirt, because there was so much Heard felt could be added to the tool box of a receiver who was nicknamed “Jump Ball” on the recruiting trail. Fryfogle was just starting to reach his full potential.

He seemingly reached the ceiling as a senior in 2020, outmuscling the likes of Ohio State corner Shaun Wade on multiple occasions in a feverish comeback attempt at the Horseshoe. But when Fryfogle sat down and weighed everything — a chance to build himself and the program, and to not have a loss to Ole Miss be his finale — he decided it was worth a return to IU.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors could return for another year. Fryfogle took advantage.

“I had a lot of great accomplishments last season, I just felt like there were some things I needed to work on, coming back,” Fryfogle said. “All that stuff goes out the window this season, you know? Have to restart and do it all over again, at an even better rate than I did last season.”

There are certainly areas where Fryfogle can improve. He listed route-running as one, specifically. Top-end speed is another, because there is a reason he finds himself in so many jump-ball situations. Finding some more separation between himself and opposing corners will only boost his stock in the eyes of NFL teams.

Fryfogle can also separate himself in IU’s record book. With 721 receiving yards in eight games last season, Fryfogle pushed his career total to 1,719. So he’s within range of becoming just the 11th receiver in IU history to reach 2,000 career yards. If he posts a 1,000-yard season, Fryfogle can catch IU’s all-time leading receiver, James Hardy, who amassed 2,740 yards in his career.

While Penix is still working his way back from ACL surgery, there is a feeling between the two that they can make more big plays in 2021. They are friends off the field, too. They talk a lot.

“Even though it’s a lot outside of football, we talk about football every day, the goals that we have for this season, you know, how we’re going to accomplish them, how we are going to get better this offseason,” Fryfogle said. “We talk about them every single day. We feel like it’s special, you know? We can do special things here together and as a team.”

As an offense, some pieces are missing, but a lot has returned. Running back Stevie Scott, receiver Whop Philyor, and center Harry Crider have decided to pursue the NFL, but Penix, Fryfogle, receiver Miles Marshall, tight end Peyton Hendershot and the remainder of the offensive line provide a solid foundation. At running back, there is a trio of younger, talented faces vying for time, Sampson James, Tim Baldwin Jr., and David Ellis.

It was just the first day of spring practice Tuesday, but Fryfogle liked what he saw from grad transfer receiver D.J. Matthews, along with another midyear enrollee, freshman Jordyn Williams. As a soon-to-be fifth-year senior, Fryfogle is trying to help them acclimate.

“It just comes with hanging out with them, lifting weights with them, going over plays with them, running routes, just catching them up to the speed on the way we do things at Indiana,” Fryfogle said. “Just showing them how everything works. They are going to be really good, really special in this offense this season.”

Given his 2020 season, the expectation is that Fryfogle will be special, too. If that’s the case, IU has a chance to do special things as a team.

Now that he’s back, Fryfogle is ready to chase that goal.

“Got a really good football team, a lot of guys came back,” Fryfogle said. “I feel like everything’s in our favor. We can accomplish whatever we need to accomplish. It’s all on us.”

3 comments

  1. It is really good to see Fryfogle coming back and leading the new receivers. IU had so other younger receivers showing they are good and can contribute this year. I hope Penix can play all year this year and make our receivers look very good. I have questions about how coach Sheridan because coach DeBoer improved QBs when taking over from Sheridan and Penix needs his feet problems when throwing that Sheridan hasn’t fixed.

    I am very excited about this season and hope the team if in a position to fight for the B1G and an undefeated season winning the B1G championship.

  2. Fry may have been influenced to stay by the large number of really gifted receivers turning pro this year. You have two from Alabama that will probably be first rounders. If he stays healthy, and has another excellent year, Fry will be playing on Sundays in 2022. In the mean time, he makes defending IU’s passing game very difficult.

  3. Po, I am pretty sure Fry came back to get better because of the receivers going into NFL this season. He understands he has things to improve upon and good for him. He works well with Penix and I hope both are ready to attack Iowa in a way they can’t defend.

    I hope this spring builds a team that can beat every team on IU’s schedule this coming season. I want to see how the transfer players add to the team especially Matthews and Ryder as they could be explosive players for this team.

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