Bloomington – One couldn’t fault Max Dedmond for having his doubts a couple of years ago.
When IU was recruiting the talented tight end from Evansville Central H.S. in 2006, the staff talked about utilizing his playmaking skills in the Hoosiers’ wide open aerial attack. Dedmond liked what he heard, but what he witnessed on the field was something entirely different.
After Dedmond verbally committed to the Hoosiers before the start of the 2006 season, IU’s tight ends were a non-factor in the passing game that fall, failing to catch a single pass. There was a modest increase in production during Dedmond’s redshirt campaign in 2007, but the combined five catches by tight ends Nick Sexton and Troy Wagner was still nothing close to the sort of contribution Dedmond thought he could make.
For a player who had visions of being on the field regularly and being an integral part of the passing game, Dedmond couldn’t help but be a bit uneasy about just how much he’d be used.
“It was a little concerning when I first started, but they told me they’d get me involved and I trusted them,” Dedmond said. “They said I’d be able to get on the field and catch some balls.”
Dedmond’s faith has been rewarded. Indiana has added some new wrinkles to the offense specifically for Dedmond, allowing him to split out and work out of the slot and make plays downfield. He’s been a primary target of both Ben Chappell and Kellen Lewis during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, and it’s obvious he has a chance to be one of the team’s primary pass catching targets.
While junior Troy Wagner figures to be the Hoosiers’ hand-on-the-ground blocking tight end, Dedmond will be the tight end of choice in passing situations. He possesses the type of speed, athleticism and ball skills that IU hasn’t had at the position in years, and those skills figure to be put to good use.
“Max adds a lot to the offense,” said IU Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada. “He’s a big, physical guy who can run good routes, catch the ball, and he’s big enough to block for us when we need that. He adds something to the offense.”
Dedmond has been polishing up on his route running and pass catching during fall camp, where he splits his time working with the wide receivers and tight ends. While tight ends coach Kyle Conner is the Hoosiers’ tight ends coach, Dedmond can often be found working with wide receivers’ coach Bill Lynch and the slot receivers during position drills.
“I’ve been splitting it up as far as who I’m working with, and I have been working with my hand on the ground to stay in touch with the blocking,” Dedmond said. “But passing game wise, route running wise, I’ve been with Billy Lynch to keep my routes in tact.”
Canada and the IU staff have clearly added some new elements to the Hoosiers’ spread attack to best utilize Dedmond’s skills. While Indiana will continue to use its three and four wide receiver sets, it’s also going to make sure it’s putting Dedmond’s considerable skills to good use as well.
“That’s our job as a staff – to put players in position to make plays,” Canada said. “We feel Max can make plays, so we’ll try to utilize him in that way.”
Dedmond welcomes the chance to do just that. He knows he’ll be able work in with a talented group of receivers that’s headlined by Andrew Means and Ray Fisher, and he figures that as a bit of an unknown, he’ll be able to benefit from the attention that other players figure to attract.
“I’m really excited about this year,” Dedmond said. “There are so many good receivers, the defense start to forget about the tight end. It’s a good offense and a good position to be in.”