The Indiana University football team’s offense has improved each year since head coach Kevin Wilson was hired before the 2011 season. Along with averaging a little over 38 points per game, the 2013 offensive attack averaged 508.5 yards per game, which ranked ninth among FBS schools.
Having a versatile tight end is part of what makes Wilson’s hurry-up spread offense so successful. A tight end that can be replied on to run and pass block, and be an additional receiving threat can make it difficult for opposing defenses due to matchups.
Wilson has had the luxury of having an extremely talented tight end the past three seasons in Ted Bolser. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder hauled in 117 receptions for 1,337 yards and 15 touchdowns during his four seasons as the starting tight end. After a solid senior season in 2013 in which he caught 35 passes for 320 yards and 6 touchdowns, Bolser was taken in the 7th round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. Bolser was perfect for Wilson’s offense because of his superb blocking ability, combined with his talent as a pass-catcher.
Due to Bolser’s efficiency as the starter for the past four seasons, the Hoosiers will face the upcoming season with some uncertainty at the tight end position. Danny Friend is projected to be the starter to kick off the season in August. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound sophomore certainly has a similar build to Bolser, so the blocking aspect of the position may come easy to him, but he will have to show consistency as a pass-catcher.
Since Friend does not have the resume that Bolser did, there is room for potential playing time for others to show their abilities. Juniors Anthony Corsaro (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) and Michael Cooper (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) are the front-runners for the backup spot. Also, true freshman Jordan Fuchs may get a chance at some playing time this fall. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fuchs was highly recruited as a senior in high school last year, so he may get a shot at the starting or backup role if others seem to struggle.
The tight end position is the lone question mark on the experienced and deep IU offense. Corsaro recorded only one reception for zero yards last season, which is the lone reception among the previously mentioned players combined. Besides being a good blocker, Bolser’s major impact last season came in the red-zone and goal line areas, in which he recorded all 6 of his touchdown catches. I have no problem believing that any or all of these players can at least provide a similar blocking presence to that of Bolser. It is unknown if any of them can provide an additional receiving threat to help spread out the defense.
If Friend starts to constantly struggle, then I expect Wilson to give others a shot at some playing time and perhaps rely more heavily upon the wide receivers and the running game. On the other hand, if Friend shows that does have what it takes to be the starting tight end, then I will expect Wilson to play him the majority of the time, as he did with Bolser.