Ted Bolser caught 41 balls last season.
That's a good number for anybody. For a tight end in the Indiana University football system, it's equal parts incredible and improbable. Tight ends just haven't been used to their full pass catching potential at Indiana. The only one in recent memory who had come close was Bolser during his freshman season in 2010. That year he caught 27. Five were for touchdowns and he became known in Indiana circles as ‘Touchdown Ted.'
Last year his yards per catch came down from his freshman year when he averaged 16 yards per catch. Still, his average last year as a junior was a comfortable, nearly 11 yards per reception. But the one thing Bolser has consistently proven is that he is a sure-handed target who is a great option for Indiana's quarterback, whomever that may turn out to be.
I caught up with Bolser after practice this week and asked him if he thought 41 catches was just a fluke in a system that had a backup quarterback in Cameron Coffman at the helm, or if he thought he could repeat those numbers one more time?
He didn't hesitate. He said he thinks this year balls could be headed toward the tight position at a higher rate than ever.
I'll have to admit after watching a full Indiana practice on Monday I may have to agree with him. I think the tight end could be a focal point in this offense. Yes, Indiana has wealth of talent at the wide receiver position with Kofi Hughes, Cody Latimer, Duwyce Wilson, Shane Wynn and Nick Stoner to name a few. They've also got some good running backs like Stephen Houston, Tevin Coleman and D'Angelo Roberts to catch balls out of the backfield, too.
But there is clearly strength at the tight end position as well. I knew what Bolser could do. I've watched him for three years and he's been steady. It doesn't hurt that the senior from Cincinnati, Ohio is a 6-6, 247-pound target. But in practice Monday I saw another player who is right there with him. He's a great second option at the tight end position. True sophomore Anthony Corsaro is 6-1, 250 and a sure-handed passing threat, too.
Here's the thing with the short passing game at Indiana. In many ways in past seasons it has been known to take the place of the running game. Who knows if Indiana will be better running the football this season or not? It's basically the same three guys from last year: Houston, Coleman and Roberts. The offensive line looks bigger and is clearly more experienced so that should help the running numbers to an extent.
Still, even if the running game isn't there to balance out the offensive attack, those short dump off passes to a back out of the backfield or a quick hitter to a tight end over the middle can more than make up for running game deficiencies. Again, I'm not saying that IU has decided to abandon the running game even before it begins, but the clear point here is that IU has player after player who can catch the football and that's the reason people expect this offense to be as explosive as ever.
I asked Bolser if he cared who eventually got the starting quarterback nod. Of course, he wasn't going to single out one player over another. But he did say one thing that I found insightful. He said that all three guys throw the same kind of ball and players really don't have to make a big adjustment on the run. It's not like you're thinking to yourself, ‘Nate Sudfeld is in the game so look for a higher pass' or something like that. The single biggest difference may be that when Tre Roberson is in the game you have to stay alive in a play a little bit longer because he may take off and run with it but that's not a huge adjustment.
Look for Bolser and Corsaro to put up some big numbers this year for the Hoosiers from the tight end spot. And if Corsaro, who hails from Indianapolis Cathedral, looks like he did Monday in practice, look for him to have a bright few years ahead for the Hoosiers.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/foxsportshutch.