Long Wait Comes to an End for Tight Ends

Bloomington - Who's most excited about Indiana's switch to the "Pistol"? It's not the offensive linemen or the running backs or the quarterbacks. Instead, it's the handful of players who have been largely forgotten about in recent years - the tight ends...

Bloomington – Who's most excited about Indiana's switch to the "Pistol" offense?

Even though players like Rodger Saffold and Justin Pagan love the idea of putting a hand on the ground and delivering blows instead of taking them, it's not an offensive lineman that the scheme change will affect the most. It's also not a particular running back, even though they'll be able to run downhill out of the new formation.

No, the players who are going to be affected the most aren't the ones who will be able to play differently. It's the ones who will finally get a chance to play – the tight ends.

After being relegated to the sidelines for just about everything other than goal line and third-and-short situations, Indiana's tight ends will be a big part of the gameplan this fall. Sometimes there will be one on the field, occasionally there will be two. But there's no doubt they'll be more than players simply taking up space on the sidelines.

"We're going to play with tight ends," IU Coach Bill Lynch said.

When the offense breaks the huddle this fall, the player most likely to be lining up next to Saffold on the left side of the line is fifth-year senior Troy Wagner. The 6'5", 271-pounder from O'Fallon, Ill., admits it hasn't always been easy watching from the sidelines during his first four years on campus, but he's looking forward to having a hand in this year's team success or failure.

"It was tough, but I knew I had to stick it out and prove myself," Wagner said. "This is my last year and I look forward to proving myself."

Besides trying to prove he belongs on the field, Wagner is also looking to show he's more than just a sixth offensive linemen. With only two career receptions on his resume Wagner hasn't been in the crosshairs of IU's quarterbacks too often, but he's hoping a few more balls come in his direction this fall.

"In the past my reputation has been that I was more of a running game tight end, but I'm trying to change that and become a more complete player," Wagner said.

During the opening week of camp, Wagner is showing signs that his summer work is paying off. Lynch singled out Wagner and senior defensive end Greg Middleton as two particular players that had tremendous off-seasons, and he's counting on both to play important roles in reversing the team's fortunes this fall.

"Sometimes when you get to that last year, you realize it's your last go at it and you've got to take advantage of it," Lynch said. "I've seen that in quite a few of our seniors."

It does mean a lot to Wagner, one of 17 seniors who have experienced tremendous highs and lows during his time in Bloomington. Now, Wagner is excited to get the chance to play a part in the team's fortunes.

"It's a huge deal to not go through that again," Wagner said, referring to the 3-9 record in 2008. "I don't want to go out like that. Every year I get older, it's one year close to not being able to play football. So having a good season means a lot to the team, and in particular us seniors."

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