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Receivers ready to take another jump this season

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A season ago, Indiana's receivers put up some impressive numbers with quarterbacks Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle throwing them passes.

Whop Philyor, who is testing the NFL waters, and Ty Fryfogle, who opted to come back for another season, set several records during the 2020 season while guiding the Hoosiers to a 6-2 campaign that ended with a 26-20 loss in the Outback Bowl to Ole Miss in January.

Philyor reeled in both Third Team All-Big Ten honors by Phil Steele and Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors by the conference's media and coaches after leading the Big Ten with 54 catches for 495 yards and three trips to the end zone. In the Outback Bowl, he reeled in a record setting 18 catches for 81 yards.

Fryfogle, on the other hand, earned All-American honors after a record setting season in which he became the 21st Indiana wide receiver to reach 100 receptions and 1,500 yards in his career. Fryfogle earned Big Ten Offensive Player-of-the-Week honors twice and earned the Big Ten Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year and went for back-to-back 200 yard games. He finished the season with 37 receptions for 721 yards and seven touchdowns.

This season, however, Fryfogle enters as the primary target, but has plenty of weapons lined up alongside him.

As far as wide receivers coach Grant Heard is concerned, there is plenty of room for improvement for all his receivers, including Fryfogle.

He told the media this week that Fryfogle has been hard at work evolving his game.

“He needs to continue to understand coverages, how people are trying to play him, and work on his weaknesses. He will get with Coach Aaron Wellman to get a little faster and more sudden. He has to keep developing with catching 50/50 balls,” said Heard. “He had a lot of opportunities last year and he made a lot. But in my mind, I want him to make more of them. That is the challenge for him. But, being able to move around, do some different things, and be used in a little bit of a different ways with the skillset he has to offer, and allow him to use it.”

Heard said Indiana has gotten strong spring practices from grad transfer D.J. Matthews, who arrived in Bloomington from Florida State University, freshman Jordyn Williams, and returning receivers Miles Marshall and McCall Ray.

"They are out there learning and battling every day. Just like everyone else, they are out there trying to get better and trying to see how they can help this team win,” said Heard.

As for Matthews, Heard said his work ethic is something his teammates and coaches have noticed immediately.

“He came in from being day one, and the attention to detail that he had, on stuff that he had never done with us before was pretty impressive and that showed me a lot,” said Heard

A season ago, Marshall finished third on the team with 290 yards on 19 receptions with one touchdown. Heard told the media Marshall is understanding his new role this season and has a better understanding of what is expected of him and the offense.

“He has a complete understanding of what we are trying to do. I feel really good about that part. For him, we are trying to get him to play more physical and let people feel his presence out there on the field with his blocking and 50/50 ball,” said Heard. “We are trying to get him to be a true vocal leader in that room because he has been there and played a lot of ball. He is one of the veterans of that room. That is my challenge for him. Every day is an opportunity for him to go out there and get better.”

Heard noted that Ray has been a "pleasant surprise" this spring.

“He was busting his butt, He has been a very pleasant surprise with the work he has put in to wear he is now, he’s almost a whole different person,” Heard stated.

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