- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's not Cody Latimer's fault that a sports hernia cut short his promising freshman season at Indiana.
Good luck trying to convince him of that.
"I feel like I let them down," Latimer told ESPN.com, referring to his Hoosiers teammates. "I felt like I missed out on a lot because of my injury. I really didn't pick up the offense that well, so this year, I felt like I needed to master the offense as best as I can so I could play faster and make big plays for my team.
"I feel like I owed 'em."
Latimer, a wide receiver for the Hoosiers, is making up for lost time this season. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound sophomore leads Indiana in both receiving yards (223) and yards per reception (15.9), while ranking second behind Shane Wynn in both receptions (14) and touchdowns (2).
Indiana is emphasizing the pass game more this year with new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, a Mike Leach disciple. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in passing average (326 ypg) and have more pass yards (978) than all but one Big Ten team despite playing one fewer game than all but one league squad.
Often the team's featured outside receiver, Latimer is a big part of Indiana's plans this season and beyond.
"Disappointed the injury kind of slowed him last year," head coach Kevin Wilson said, "but [with] the emphasis on passing and throwing the football this year, his maturity, his development, he's in position to have a solid season for us. He's a good young player with a lot of potential."
One of 16 true freshmen to see the field for Indiana in 2011, Latimer appeared in eight games, starting two, and had 12 receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns, before being shut down with the hernia in early November. An offseason spent on film study and route refining has helped Latimer -- and many of his teammates -- get a better handle on the offense.
"It's way easier, and we're going full speed at it," he said. "Most people have mastered it and know what we're doing now. There are no questions out there, so we're just going."
Latimer, a native of Dayton, Ohio, received scholarship offers on both sides of the ball coming out of Jefferson Township High School. Michigan State recruited him as a safety, Ball State as a linebacker and Connecticut as a receiver. His decision came down to one factor -- "I want to score touchdowns," he said -- and he picked Indiana, which had a strong tradition at the position.
Latimer committed to Indiana in October 2010, while Bill Lynch was still the Hoosiers' coach. He had built friendships with Hoosiers' receivers Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher.
"I knew they were always throwing them the ball," he said. "And then when the coaching change happened [to Wilson], I know they were really going to throw the ball with the Oklahoma offense. I'm a receiver, and I want to get the ball, so I've got to go here."
Latimer grew up admiring Randy Moss, noting that they have similar size and look to make game-changing plays on the perimeter.
"He's got a really good skill set," Wilson said. "Very strong, good hands, he’s learning every day, getting better. He's got a lot of qualities you're looking for. ... He's got a long way to go, but he's off to a good start."
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney