Nick Westbrook and company poised to fill in for Simmie Cobbs Jr.

Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming into the season, Simmie Cobbs was expected to have another huge season for the Hoosiers, following up on a 1,000 yard receiving campaign in 2015. Thursday night against Florida International, Indiana fans were expecting to cheer on Cobbs and the rest of the Hoosiers but suspicion arose when he wasn’t on the field for pre-game warmups.

Cobbs was suspended for the season opener along with five other Hoosiers for, “not living up to their responsibilities to the program at different times since the conclusion of the 2015 season,” IU athletics said.

The violations could have occurred at any point during last season, but it was clear that none of them would be suiting up and would have to wait the following week to get on the field in the home opener against Ball State.

After serving his one game suspension, he was ready to pick up where he left off Saturday against Ball State. The Hoosiers were driving down the field in Ball State territory when Richard Lagow threw a bubble screen to Mitchell Paige. Paige was tackled and one of the players rolled up on Cobbs Jr.’s ankle near the sideline. Cobbs Jr.’s season ended just two plays after it started.

“Simmie has an ankle injury that’s probably gonna require surgery.”

He left the field on crutches and returned to the locker room for further examination from the trainers and staff. He was visibly frustrated as he was being treated on and off the field.  

Many have been speculating that Cobbs’ season is over.

In the press conference following the game, Kevin Wilson said, “Simmie has an ankle injury that’s probably gonna require surgery.”

Within the blink of an eye, Cobbs’ 2016 season is over. The hype surrounding the Junior from Oak Park, Illinois was immense. He landed on one of the most prestigious award watch lists in the country, the Maxwell Award, which annually recognizes the best overall player in college football.

With Cobbs sidelined for the season, more receivers have to step up and show they can carry the workload. One of those guys stepping up early in the season is Sophomore Nick Westbrook.

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming out of high school, Westbrook was a 3-star recruit who chose to come to IU over California, Temple, Kentucky, Boston College and Georgia Tech.

Last season he came into form later in the season, catching a couple passes along with a touchdown against Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl. However, this season it became evident that Westbrook wants to have a bigger role.

With Cobbs suspension the first game, Westbrook hauled in six catches for 70 yards, proving to be one of Lagow’s favorite targets. He didn’t stop there, as last weekend he put up two touchdowns against Ball State. His first score went for 43 yards, making a spectacular adjustment to haul in the ball in the end zone. His second touchdown came off of a screen pass that he took to the house for 79 yards.

These numbers are good enough to put him 4th in receiving in the Big Ten, just two games into the season.

While Westbrook is exceeding at replacing Simmie Cobbs’ production, it cannot be done simply by one player, there must be multiple that step up.

Some names that come to mind are Donavan Hale, and Luke Timian, guys that have the ability to fill in for the stud receiver Cobbs.

Starting with Donovan Hale, the former quarterback turned wide receiver this season. Hale has seen his playing time increase this season at the wide receiver position as he brought in one pass on the season against Florida International for 18 yards. Hale has the size that the Hoosiers lose with Cobbs, standing at 6’4 he has the ability to high point the ball and possess an advantage over defensive backs.

Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Luke Timian celebrates with Nate Sudfeld. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Luke Timian celebrates with Nate Sudfeld. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Luke Timian made his way to Bloomington after he decided to transfer from the Oklahoma State program. Timian has had more experience between the two, as he caught his first touchdown pass last year in the Pinstripe Bowl, just like his fellow teammate and good friend, Nick Westbrook.

Timian is a solid receiver with good hands that runs clean routes, two big advantages over Hale, who is new to the position. Timian also has a nice stat line thus far, catching a total of five passes for 57 yards along with one score against Ball State.

Simmie Cobbs’ season ending ankle injury was traumatic for the young Hoosiers team, but players like Westbrook have already been stepping up their game. The production that Cobbs’ would have put up this season cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of one player, and Luke Timian and Donavan Hale are two players to keep an eye on to step up their game as they receive more gametime experience.

One of the positives is that the season just started, so there is still a significant amount of time to get some of the inexperienced players more time to get acclimated to the college game. Hopefully the young Hoosiers can put this injury behind them and focus on the games to come.