Leading up the kickoff of college football, Hoosier State of Mind is previewing IU’s key players. Time to take a look at who will handle the kicking, punting and return duties for the Hoosiers.
To say the Hoosiers have a lot to replace in the kicking game would be an understatement. Mitch Ewald, arguably the best kicker in the history of the program, is no longer suiting up in cream and crimson. He graduated as the program’s all-time leader in field goals, field goal percentage and extra points. Ewald was the definition of consistency, converting on 53-of-66 (80 percent) career field goal attempts. His senior season, he was a Second-Team All-Big Ten selection.
Yeah, he was good.
Tasked with replacing Ewald is redshirt freshman Aaron Del Grosso, who won the job in camp over fellow redshirt freshman Griffin Oakes. Del Grosso could be a promising young talent. In his senior high school season, he was named a MaxPreps All-American, as well as first team all-state, all-area and all-conference. But, kicking at the collegiate level is a totally different experience. The crowds are larger and louder. The pressure is greater. While Del Grosso will start the season as Indiana’s placekicker, there is no guarantee he will finish the year as such. If he struggles out of the gate, expect head coach Kevin Wilson to give Oakes a chance.
Unlike the kicking game, there is no mystery when it comes to who is punting the ball for the Hoosiers. Erich Toth returns for his junior season. If the trend of Toth’s career continues, he should be better in his third campaign. In 2012, he took over the punting duties in week five and ended up punting 48 times for a 39.5 yard average. The next year, he drilled 52 punts for an average of 40.6, ranking him eighth in the conference. I think he kick himself into the top half of the Big Ten as a junior.
Manning Indiana kickoff returns will be junior wide receiver Damon Graham. He is a former walk-on, as he was just awarded a scholarship after preseason camp. Still, Graham is relatively-unknown, but he did return three kicks for a total of 72 yards last year.
Senior speedster Shane Wynn is slated to return punts, and rightfully so. Though he only fielded eight punts a season ago, he did take one to the house against Indiana State. Wynn is a big play waiting to happen, so having him back there is a good decision for the Hoosiers.