APTOPIX Cincinnati Indiana Football

Indiana’s Peyton Hendershot (86) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against Cincinnati’s Bryan Cook (6) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

BLOOMINGTON – When Indiana tight end Peyton Hendershot found out he was voted a team captain prior to the start of this season, he at first cried.

“Growing up, you never thought you would be a captain for a Big Ten football team,” Hendershot said. “So I’m very honored and blessed. I’ve learned that I can (lead) for this team.”

Hendershot continued his strong start to the 2021 season with six catches for 60 yards and a TD against Cincinnati. But the growth off the field has impressed teammates and coaches as much as the growth on it.

In February 2020, Hendershot was involved in a domestic violence incident that resulted in an arrest, which included one felony charge. He was suspended indefinitely from the team during the offseason but was reinstated in July 2020 after completing team-sanctioned discipline. In court, Hendershot pleaded down the charges to misdemeanors and was sentenced to one year of probation while participating in a batterers treatment program and undergoing a mental health evaluation.

The tumultuous offseason played into Hendershot having a down year in 2020, as he finished with 23 catches for 151 yards and four TDs.

“I let the team down,” Hendershot said. “I just feel like I didn’t play to the standard that I should.”

Hendershot dedicated himself to the weight room during the 2021 offseason in an effort to get both faster and stronger. The results have shown on the field. Hendershot broke tackles during his 16-yard TD catch and run from quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the first quarter. He generated 50 of his 60 yards receiving against the Bearcats after the catch.

“He’s transformed his body,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. “His work ethic — I think I mentioned this before, our strength staff said they’d never had a young man have a better eight-month period than he has in the offseason, and he’s worked extremely hard to get better, and he looks faster, and he’s just in great shape, and he’s worked hard on improving his blocking.”

Said Hendershot: “I feel the most explosive ever. When the ball is in my hands, I feel like I can do more things with the ball in my hands this year than I have in the past, and it’s a good feeling, where you think you can make moves on guys and make them miss.”

Hendershot has also taken his role as one of IU’s six team captains seriously.

“This year I feel very invested in the team,” Hendershot said. “I feel like I’ve built a lot of relationships with my brothers on the team. I’ve made the most of hanging out with the guys, getting to know them, so I feel like that’s a big part of what it’s meant to me being a captain.”

LINE STILL COMING TOGETHER

Indiana offensive line coach Darren Hiller has seen progress in how the position group has performed in three weeks, but there remains room for improvement.

“We have inconsistencies,” Hiller said. “I thought we made progress in the Idaho game, and there was times in the Cincinnati game that I thought we did some good things, but inconsistencies are showing up, and it’s not at one position. It’s kind of unit-wise.”

The starting offensive line of Luke Haggard at left tackle, Mike Katic at left guard, Dylan Powell at center, Matthew Bedford at right guard and Caleb Jones at right tackle are set to play together for their third straight week Saturday at Western Kentucky. Powell had a bad snap exchange with quarterback Michael Penix on a fourth-and-1 play inside the red zone, which led to Penix getting stuffed on a sneak. But Hiller still has confidence in Powell.

“Dylan’s doing a nice job in there,” Hiller said. “He’s a veteran guy, and he has experience. There was a little issue there, but there were extenuating circumstances.”

SPECIAL TEAMS STEP BACK

After scoring two special teams touchdowns against Idaho, IU’s special teams took a step back against Cincinnati, surrendering a 99-yard TD on a kickoff return in the third quarter.

Allen said the backside safety on the kickoff coverage unit was out of position and got too aggressive.

“He’s the cut-back player. He’s the half-field safety on that side of the field,” Allen said. “You don’t want it to get to him, but if it does he should be right there to make the play, and he was not. That really was the reason why it was a touchdown.

“Had a couple guys that were supposed to — when you have your lane, they got out of their lanes and the two guys next to each other didn’t do a good job of playing with technique. We’re going to make some personnel changes with that group.”

REMEMBERING HIPSKIND

After IU’s practice Thursday, Allen attended the funeral of former IU chief medical officer and football team physician Dr. Andy Hipskind, who died Saturday of cancer at 48.

Hipskind was a three-sport athlete at Bloomington North who earned both his undergraduate and medical degrees at IU. He began as IU’s football team physician in 2003 and was promoted to senior assistant athletic director for sports medicine and sports performance and chief medical officer in 2014.

“Such a huge loss to Indiana University,” Allen said at his press conference Monday. “Meant so much to so many people. Don’t know if I’ve ever met a more selfless individual. Kind, compassionate, just awesome in every way. Heart breaks for his wife Angie and their family and continued support for them, and that will never stop, and he will always be remembered here for all that he gave to his university.”

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