Supposedly you can't have too much of a good thing, and that's good news for IU Coach Terry Hoeppner and wide receivers coach Billy Lynch.
With its top five receivers back from a year ago, IU opted to move the team's second-leading receiver in ‘05, Marcus Thigpen, to running back. It was a move designed to provide a little bit of experience at tailback, one made possible because of the abundance of talent the Hoosiers have at wide receiver. But thanks to some very solid spring efforts from some new faces, the wide receiver position is arguably even deeper and muddled than it was last fall.
But before jumping into the new names, any conversation about the Hoosiers' wideouts starts with 6'7" James Hardy. Indications are the team's leading receiver from a season ago (61 catches, 893 yards, 10 TDs) has turned his complete attention to football, a move made even more likely by the resignation of Mike Davis at season's end. While Hardy missed the spring game with a groin injury, he was generally injury-free during the spring and remains the No. 1 passing game option thanks to his size, hands, and big-play abilities.
Also back are Jahkeen Gilmore, James Bailey and Brandon Walker-Roby, a trio of wideouts who made their presences felt last year as well. Gilmore continues to be a reliable threat either over the middle or down the field, while Bailey showed plenty of big-play possibilities with his four-catch, 165-yard, two-touchdown effort in the spring game. After an auto accident last spring nearly took his life and then a series of off-the-field issues nearly derailed his Hoosier career, Bailey appears poised to be a huge part of the IU attack this fall.
But some newcomers have inserted their names and games into the mix as well. Redshirt freshmen Chris Banks, Nick Polk and Andrew Means all had their moments this spring, while true freshman/greyshirt Terrance Turner also showed enough to warrant serious consideration for playing time as well. The 6-0, 191-pound Polk was very close to playing as a true freshman last fall and spent plenty of time at a slot wide receiver position with IU's No. 1 unit in its four wide receiver sets. Banks, meanwhile, spent most of his time with the No. 2s, but had as many big plays during scrimmages and in 11-on-11 situations as any receiver on the Hoosier roster, capping it off with a three-catch, 101-yard, one-touchdown performance in the spring game. Means, meanwhile, is a big, physical receiver who split time between baseball and football this spring.
Biggest Surprise – The emergence of Banks and Turner. While James Hardy, Jahkeen Gilmore and probably James Bailey are pretty solidly the team's top three wideouts, there's virtually no distinguishing between the team's fourth and eighth wide receiver. The 6-2, 174-pound Banks has excellent speed and adds another deep threat, while Turner is a big, physical wideout at 6-3, 200 pounds who can make the tough catch over the middle and be a good blocker downfield as well. Fortunately for the stable of wideouts Indiana will utilize its four wide receiver sets on plenty of occasions this fall and there will be plenty of opportunities for four or five wideouts to be big parts of the passing attack. But there will be a couple of very good wideouts who won't be in the rotation, making for a very hotly contested position battle this fall.
Biggest Disappointment – It's hard to single out a deficiency with the wideouts, other than James Hardy being unable to go in the spring game. His absence gave others plenty of chances to make big plays in his place, but the hope is that Hardy can get over the nagging injuries that plagued him throughout his redshirt freshman season. A minor groin injury – coupled with a cautious coaching staff – kept Hardy out Saturday, and the staff has its fingers crossed Hardy can remain healthy once fall arrives.
Spring Position MVP – Whether it was perseverance on his part or simply patience from the coaching staff, James Bailey has overcome some seemingly long odds to still be a very important part of this football team. Suspended the final couple of games of the '05 season because of academic concerns, many doubted he'd be back this semester. Then, after an on-campus altercation with an IU student earlier this year, many thought Bailey's days were numbered again. But the Detroit native has managed to stick it out, and his huge effort in the spring game showed just how important he can be to the success of the Hoosiers this fall.
Post-Spring Analysis - Wide Receivers
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