Indiana coach defends decision to use leading receiver from 2016 on special teams

Westbrook had 995 yards in 2016. (Getty Images)

Indiana wide receiver Nick Westbrook will miss the season after he suffered a torn ACL vs. Ohio State on Thursday.

Westbrook’s injury came on the first play of the game, too. As Indiana kicked off to Ohio State, Westbrook was a part of the team’s kick coverage unit.

With Simmie Cobbs sidelined because of an injury of his own in 2016, Westbrook was Indiana’s leading receiver in 2016 and had 54 catches for 995 yards and six touchdowns. With Cobbs’ return, the junior was running with the second team offense entering the season.

Monday, Indiana coach Tom Allen defended the decision to use his team’s leading receiver from a year ago on special teams and it’s hard to disagree with him even if it does seem odd to have one of your best skill position players on the kick team.


“I think that that’s a program philosophy. Did you pay attention to who blocked the punt for Florida State? Their starting tailback. And the backup was on the other side. That’s every year. We tell our guys all the time, if you want to make an NFL roster you better be able to play special teams as a wide receiver. There’s a toughness to it. I mean, you watch the play, and it’s just how he got hurt. It was just one of those things where he planted and it happened. It could’ve happened if he went to block a guy on the first play as a receiver. We’ve got to have our good guys play special teams.”

“Tegray Scales is on the punt team covering kicks. If you want to be a great football player, you better be able to play special teams. You say it’s a third of the game and you don’t put your best players on then, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Depth comes into it too. We played an Ohio State team that has the luxury of rolling in a lot of their twos on special teams and there’s not much of a drop-off between talent and speed. We have to use our guys. If you play scared, you get hurt.”

After keeping the game competitive for 2.5 quarters, Indiana lost to Ohio State 49-21.

We initially questioned Allen’s reasoning for having Westbrook on the kickoff team, but after his explanation, it makes sense. Especially as he’s candid about having to use his best players in all facets of the game in the hopes of beating one of the most talented teams in the country. It’s just unfortunate that Westbrook had to get injured at all, let alone so early in the game.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!