Is Belcher Ready to be a No. 1?

Bloomington – Ready or not, the spotlight is on Damarlo Belcher. The 6'5" sophomore from Ft. Wayne caught a lot of people by surprise a year ago when he was one of only three true freshmen that didn't redshirt. Now, he's ready to assume the label as the team's No. 1 receiver...

Bloomington – Ready or not, the spotlight is on Damarlo Belcher.

The 6'5" sophomore from Ft. Wayne caught a lot of people by surprise a year ago when he was one of only three true freshmen that didn't redshirt. Now, he's ready to assume the label as the team's No. 1 receiver following the departure of Andrew Means and Ray Fisher's switch to cornerback.

"I wanted (the role as the team's No. 1 receiver) last year but I had a couple of players in front of me so I had to wait," said Belcher. "This is my year. I have to take advantage of my opportunities."

Time will tell whether or not Belcher is up to the challenge, but he clearly has the tools to be an elite wide receiver. While it's his 6'5", 209-pound frame that catches everyone's attention first, his tools aren't limited to just his height. Belcher has excellent hands and is adept at going up and hauling down passes in traffic.

He used those skills to catch 25 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns last year, and was already showing signs of being a load for opposing teams to contend with on Saturdays. While his six-catch, 82-yard, one-touchdown effort against Northwestern represented his season-highs, he might have been at his best in a 42-29 loss to Michigan State in IU's Big Ten opener. In that game Belcher caught four passes for 73 yards and also drew three pass interference calls against the Spartan secondary.

Not too bad for a player who was a late spring addition to the 2008 recruiting class and someone who didn't think he'd be ready to make an impact so early in his career.

"I did surprise myself," Belcher said about playing early. "I thought I'd redshirt, but I had a couple of strong days of camp and balled out and they decided not to redshirt me. It was a surprise, but I didn't really want to redshirt."

The decision to play him proved to be a good one, and Belcher and fellow newcomer Tandon Doss ultimately showed enough promise to make Fisher's move to defense an easy call to make for IU Coach Bill Lynch. With a week of fall camp now complete, Lynch said he continues to be pleased with what he's seen from Belcher and the rest of the crop of wideouts.

"He and Tandon are awfully good," Lynch said this week. "Damarlo was a pretty skinny kid a year ago. A full year in the weight room, he's a man out there now. So is Tandon. Those guys can go and they can go up and get it."

With the new role also comes new responsibility for Belcher. A year ago he was simply a true freshman learning the system and trying to take advantage of any opportunities that came his way. Now, he's being looked to as not only a playmaker, but also as someone who needs to set an example for the younger players such as freshmen Duwyce Wilson and Jamonne Chester.

"The coaches are getting on me a lot more for the younger guys," Belcher said. "Coach (Billy Lynch) said the other day he saw me slacking on film, and he yelled at me in the meeting room to set an example for the younger guys."

Belcher is trying to do that on the practice field while also preparing himself for the season opener which is now just three weeks away. Belcher is not only excited to get the season underway, but also to see the new ‘Pistol' offense in action. He's convinced the move to a more ground-oriented approach will make the passing game even more effective.

"It's going to be a lot different," Belcher said of the offense. "Last year with the offense we had, it was pretty easy to tell what we were going to do. With the pistol it's harder to read. We have so many options, and all our receivers are good. So it will be hard to guard us."


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