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The Journal Gazette

  • Indiana's Peyton Hendershot (86) blocks a punt by Ball State's Nathan Snyder (38) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 in Bloomington, Ind. (Jeremy Hogan/The Herald-Times via AP)

Thursday, October 11, 2018 1:00 am

Hoosiers' TE has highlighted skills

Hendershot has firm grasp on top spot of Indiana depth chart

Ben Portnoy | For The Journal Gazette

Indiana vs. Iowa

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 1250 AM

BLOOMINGTON – Redshirt freshman tight end Peyton Hendershot's legend began in fall camp.

Coming off a season-ending injury that garnered him a medical redshirt, the North Salem native earned the moniker “24/7” for how often he was open.

In a Week 6 game against Rutgers, “24/7” found himself in space over the middle. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey then delivered a strike into Hendershot's massive paws.

As it struck his hands, the ball bobbled and fell behind his back. Acrobatically, he reached around and pressed it up against his body in a last-ditch effort. With the ball secured, he took off for a 22-yard gain.

“I thought I dropped it at first because it took so long to get there,” Hendershot said.

All things considered, the play was rather inconsequential. Yet the grab visually confirmed the athleticism coaches and players had raved about since Hendershot arrived on campus last fall.

“He's been playing exceptional,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “He's kind of matured as a college football player, both mentally and physically, and I've been very happy with the way he's playing.”

With Ian Thomas off to the NFL and Bishop Dwenger graduate Ryan Wattercutter dealing with an injury, Hendershot, senior Austin Dorris and sophomore Shaun Bonner dueled for the first-string gig.

Going toe-to-toe with Dorris, Hendershot has received most of the snaps and continues to be listed as the No. 1 tight end on the weekly depth charts.

And though he's caught just nine passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, Hendershot gives the Hoosiers another player with stretch-the-field ability.

Take his touchdown reception in last week's contest against Ohio State, for example. Running a seam route, Ramsey hit Hendershot off a fake reverse for a 32-yard touchdown. Though he was wide open, Ramsey underthrew Hendershot, who had to slow up and twist backward to reel in the ball.

In fairness, Hendershot's athleticism isn't overly surprising. A two-sport athlete at Tri-West, he was also a standout basketball player. As a junior he averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

“In high school, because I was so athletic, everything just came to me,” Hendershot recalled. “Here, everybody's athletic. Everybody is 'The Guy' when they come in here. So you've got to work hard every day. You can't take any day off because the day you have a bad day the other guy is going to have a great day and eliminate you.”

Six games into 2018, the Hoosiers are down receivers as injuries are bothering senior Luke Timian and sophomore Whop Philyor. J-Shun Harris II has filled in admirably with three straight games of six or more catches out of the slot, including an eight catch, 104-performance against the Buckeyes.

That said, at 6-foot-4, 245-pounds, Hendershot adds another big body to a receiving group that already includes 6-foot-2 senior Donovan Hale and 6-4 junior Nick Westbrook.

And though he's often matched up with bigger defensive lineman on the edge, DeBord sees Hendershot's improving technique as a way to combat that size.

“He goes up against guys who are a lot bigger than him,” DeBord said. “But I've always believed technique can help offset that, and he's really been buying into his technique and what he's been doing that way. I'm proud of what he's doing.”

For Hendershot, he's found that success is just as simple as listening.

“I think it's just me trusting in (DeBord's) technique because he's been around the game a long time,” Hendershot said.

“I finally just listened to everything that he said, because he knows what he's talking about.”