IU's Wynn can turn a defense inside out
April, 15, 2014
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Quick trivia question: Which Big Ten receiver had the most touchdowns last season?
You might have said Penn State's Allen Robinson or Nebraska's Quincy Enunwa, and those would be fine guesses. Only those paying particularly close attention would know the correct answer: Indiana's Shane Wynn.
Wynn scored 13 touchdowns in 2013 -- 11 of them receiving, one rushing (on a swing pass that turned into a lateral) and one on a kick return. If you didn't know that, don't feel bad. The Hoosiers senior has been overlooked -- both figuratively and literally -- most of his career.
AJ Mast/Icon SMIWherever Indiana lines up receiver Shane Wynn is a potential win for the Hoosiers.
But that might be about to change.
Indiana lost Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser from arguably the league's top set of pass-catching targets a year ago. That leaves Wynn as the most experienced receiver on the team and one who could develop into a true go-to option.
"I think he's one of the better players in our league," IU coach Kevin Wilson told ESPN.com.
In part because of Wynn's playmaking abilities, and in part because of the lack of experience elsewhere, Wilson shifted Wynn from his normal inside slot position to outside receiver this spring. That was an unconventional move, because Wynn is listed at just 5-foot-7 and 167 pounds.
Wynn admitted that the change has been frustrating at times this offseason.
"I've been in the slot here for three years," he said. "It's just a whole different world. When you're inside for that long, you know everything that goes on, every coverage. Then you go outside, and it's like opening a new book.
"It can only help me in the long run, though."
Wilson has had Wynn work exclusively on the edge all spring but says that might not be where he always lines up this fall.
"Right now, we're doing it totally because he's been inside the whole time," Wilson said. "I think when push comes to shove, he'll be all over the field. We need him to be one of our guys."
Wynn might not fit the mold of a wideout, but then again Jeremy Gallon had lots of success for Michigan at a listed 5-8. Wynn also pointed to Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders and Duke's Jamison Crowder (both listed at 5-9) as examples of shorter receivers who have thrived.
"I feel like nobody can check me," he said. "With all the work I've been doing since I was 8 years old, I feel like I can do everything.
"You can't teach speed. Once you've got that and know how to use it, you're lethal."
Speed is never in question for Wynn, who is one of the quickest players in the Big Ten. That's why he has been able to produce big plays like his 68-yard touchdown vs. Missouri or his punt return score in the opener against Indiana State a year ago. Lining him up outside just means more space for him to use his speed.
"He's fast as a bullet," Hoosiers cornerback Tim Bennett said. "He runs pretty good routes and he's not afraid to go and get the ball, even at his height. He has great hands as well."
Nor does Wynn lack for confidence. Few Indiana players talk more junk to defensive teammates than him. At the end of a recent practice, he was still yelling stuff to the linebackers across the field as he prepared for an interview. Wynn promised to brag for days about how the team he helped draft for Saturday's spring game came out on top.
"There are a few guys who ain't gotta turn it on," Wilson said. "He's got it cut on every time he walks in the building."
Indiana plans to cut Wynn loose on the field this season, wherever he lines up. It might prove difficult to overlook him any longer.