Hoosiers need more camp consistency from receivers

By the end of this season, Indiana’s receiving corps could be among the Big Ten’s most productive units.

But the Hoosiers aren’t there yet.

Dropped passes and inconsistency at the position have underscored the first week-plus of fall camp at IU, where the Hoosiers are pushing their receivers to meet lofty expectations. Indiana has size and skill on the outside, led by an all-conference caliber duo of Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook.

Entering Saturday’s closed scrimmage, there remains plenty of work to be done.

“Right now, I couldn’t tell you who’s gonna start on the 31st,” new receivers coach Grant Heard said. “We’ve got to be more consistent. We had a good day here, then we’ll have a bad day. A good day and a bad day. We’ve got to be having a good day every day, regardless of the situation or circumstance. We just have to be more consistent as a group.”

The talent is present to follow through on Heard’s challenge.

Although IU loses a combined 1,494 yards and seven touchdowns from graduated seniors Mitchell Paige and Ricky Jones, it essentially returns a pair of 1,000-yard targets in Cobbs and Westbrook.

With Cobbs and Westbrook on the outside, Indiana’s receiving corps was recently ranked No. 17 in the nation by Athlon Magazine, which rated only one other group of Big Ten receivers — Penn State at No. 4 — better than the Hoosiers.

Cobbs, a redshirt junior who fractured his fibula and tore ligaments around his ankle on his first and only play of 2016, caught 60 passes for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns in 2015.

Westbrook raised his game in Cobbs’ absence last fall, making 54 catches for 995 yards and six scores. According to Pro Football Focus, Cobbs leads all returning Big Ten receivers with 503 reception yards on deep passes last season.

Getting those two — and the rest of IU’s receiving corps — in position to meet a standard is Heard’s challenge this month.

“Coach Heard’s got high expectations for them,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “We’ve got to continue to consistently catch the ball better, I think. Competitive balls are the ones we’ve been emphasizing so much.”

Heard wants Indiana receivers, particularly the taller ones, to use their size more effectively. Heard covets tall receivers, and he’ll be prioritizing those bigger frames in future recruiting classes.

Of the 14 receivers on IU’s roster, nine are 6-foot-2 or taller. Cobbs, junior Donavan Hale and redshirt freshman Jonah Morris top the list at 6-foot-4.

Asked this week if he was pleased with Indiana’s size at the position, Heard offered an honest assessment.

“No,” he said. “I’m usually coaching big guys. There’s nothing wrong with little guys. The ones I got, they’re gonna have to play. They’re gonna have to help us. They’re a different type of player, but I do like bigger guys. Bigger guys give the quarterback better room for error, in my mind.”

Those larger targets generally offer longer wingspans and higher verticality. Heard and the Hoosiers want their larger receivers to tap into those traits and use that size to their advantage more often.

“The thing that stands out to me about (IU receivers) is their length,” Allen said. “That puts a lot of pressure on the defense. I know that does to our guys, and being able to throw the 50-50 balls, or any other type of balls where their catch radius gives them a big advantage. And we’ve got some quick guys in the slots that help balance that off.”

The key now is getting more consistent production across the board.

“We gotta play that way all the time,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “Our defense is up in your face all the time. That’s where you’ve got to handle that. We’ve got to get better at that.”

5 comments

  1. WOW!! What an article..If I remember correctly the two wide receiver (LaQuon Treadwell – 6′ 3″ – 5 star recruit and Donte Moncrief – 6′ 2″ – 4 star recruit) that made him, where not over 6′ 4″ and not any of the present recruits (Tyrese Fryfogle – 6′ 2″ – 2 star and Jacolby Hewitt – 6′ 2″ – 2 star) are over 6′ 4″…at present I will be honest Grant Heard has not proven himself to be a good wide receiver coach….I have considerable doubt…..personally I think he saw the writing on the wall at Ole Miss an made a decision to leave before the ship sink…An most of the present receivers that are over 6′ 4″ where recruited by Kevin Wilson and the previous staff. Nick Westbrook and Simmie Cobb made their names before he arrived….they are ranked nbr 17 in the country because of what they did the last couple of years. Little guys can do the job also Mitchell Paige was a pretty good receiver, an I would bet that J-Shun Harris will be a very good receiver also…getting consistency from the wide receiver is critical, but i believe if Richard Lagow puts the ball in the proper position the wide receivers will do their jobs (not as many drop passes).

  2. I like Heard’s no-BS communication style and his demeanor. I like his recruiting philosophy. I like his demanding attitude. With the exception of Page, I thought last year’s receivers played a bit soft a little too often, and had too many dropped passes. A lot of variables may have caused that, but as far as I’m concerned Heard sounds like he’s trying to drive his group of talented receivers to a higher, more consistent level of performance. Good for him; both the team and each individual receiver should benefit from those more demanding standards.

    As for leaving Ole Miss, that’s also a positive sign. That was a corrupt program, and rotten to the core. And if Heard knew it was corrupt, any man of integrity had no choice but to leave. He’s in a better place, and I’m glad he’s a part of IU’s program.

  3. One thing I have noticed about the new coaches is they talk to the press in a way that challeges their players. Last week you would have thought Cronk was in danger of losing his job based on coach DeBord and Hiller’s comments. Now they are saying different things as they get closer to the start of the season. I see coach Heard’s comments the same way as he is challenging the receivers to not just catch the easy passes but also to win the battles and pull off the tough catches. Coaach proved his coaching ability at Ole Miss and I bet we will see our receivers improve with the tougher approach to acountability for making catches. This season will prove how good a coach he is as he has good talent to develop hear at IU.

  4. v13, I think you’re right. And is it me, or are most such comments coming from the Offensive coaches? The tone seems to have changed. And I think the different tone coming from the coaching staff is set at the top and filters down. Allen wants the offense to perform eat a higher level and emulate last year’s defense in some ways. It’s a means of saying, “if we’re to ‘break through,’ performance has to improve and we have to become more consistent.” High achieving individuals like and expect to be challenged. These coaches know what they’re doing. They’ve all been a part of big-time programs playing in the best conferences.

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