Indiana might just have the perfect remedy at wide receiver to Ohio State's always attacking, always aggressive play in the secondary - and it's not who you think.
While James Hardy has rightfully grabbed the national spotlight with his play during the season's first two months, junior Jahkeen Gilmore might play a huge role in Saturday's contest with the Buckeyes, which kicks off at 11 a.m. at IU's Memorial Stadium.
"Particularly with an aggressive defense like an Ohio State or Wisconsin, his ability to be physical, to get off press coverage, to be able to run with the ball after the catch will be big," said IU wide receivers coach Billy Lynch. "He's such a strong, physical kid – he's a big bonus for the offense."
The 6-1, 215-pound Gilmore was expected to be a big part of the offense all season, but he was an absentee for nearly a month. A hamstring injury in the first half of the Kentucky game sidelined him for the remainder of that contest and against Wisconsin and Illinois.
Gilmore returned to action last weekend in Iowa City, making two tough catches in the first half, and his return comes at a good time with the Buckeyes coming to town for a match-up between a pair of 4-2 teams.
While Ohio State won't be up at the line trying to jam IU's wide receivers on every snap, they'll do it often. Lynch says one thing the OSU secondary will do every play is try to take the fight to the Hoosier wideouts.
"They are an aggressive, attacking defense all the time," said Lynch. "They'll come up and press you, they'll play soft...they'll play every coverage invented to date.
"A kid like (Jahkeen) who likes to mix it up, he's going to be good against any coverage, particularly when we get him split wide where we can create some one-on-ones. We're expecting him to have a big game against Ohio State."
Gilmore, meanwhile, is just excited to be back on the football field after his recent absence. While he was close to being able to go against both Wisconsin and Illinois, the training staff decided caution was the best course of action.
"Hamstrings, they're off and on," said Gilmore. "Some hamstrings take two or three or four months. Sometimes you can come back in two or three weeks. Mine was minor, so I'm just glad to be back."
Gilmore knows that the Ohio State secondary, led by Thorpe Award candidates Ashton Youboty and Nate Salley, will be a big challenge to him as well as the rest of the IU receivers.
"They are an aggressive team, and they bring a lot of intensity on the defensive side," said Gilmore. "I've seen film and they play real fast and intense. Hopefully we'll get out there and be intense and play at their level."
If the season's first six weeks are any indication, the Hoosiers' crop of wideouts is more than capable of playing at Ohio State's – or anyone else's – level.
In addition to Hardy (47 catches, 744 yards, 8 TDs), the Hoosiers have three other wideouts with at least ten catches – Gilmore (11 catches, 177 yards, 2 TDs), James Bailey (21 catches, 231 yards, 3 TDs) and Marcus Thigpen (15 catches, 204 yards, 2 TDs). Gilmore is the only non-freshman among the group, but it doesn't come as any surprise to the veteran receiver that his teammates have been so productive.
"The young guys are real confident this year because of the offense and how it opens up for everyone," said Gilmore. "Coming into the season, I didn't feel like we'd be a beat behind at receiver. These guys came in as men – they didn't come as freshmen. They learned the offense fast and they are making plays."
The same goes for Gilmore, who might have his chance to make some of the game's biggest plays on Saturday.
Is More Coming From Gilmore?
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