Shane Wynn is one of the smallest players in the Big Ten, but you'd never know it by his production. The Indiana sophomore is listed as just 5-foot-7 and 157 pounds but is tied for third in the league with 38 catches. Only Penn State's Allen Robinson has more than Wynn's five touchdown grabs, and Wynn is also a dangerous kick returner.
I recently caught up with the Cleveland native while he and the Hoosiers were preparing for this week's game at Illinois for our Friday Q&A segment:
You guys have lost five straight games, all of them close. How's the attitude of the team?
Shane Wynn: The general attitude is the same. We've got to keep working. We're starting to play together as a team now. We've just got to put the pieces together and finish the game. A lot of times we come out and start fast but just don't finish. So we have to keep working on finishing games now and finishing second halves. The team is doing a lot of emphasis on that as practice goes, the first half and the second half, stuff like that.
Is there any one thing you can put your finger on for the inability to finish games?
SW: Not really. We have a lot of three and outs. Our defense will get a stop and we give them nothing back and put them right back on the field. We can help with that, but at the same time, we need to keep working together as a team.
Where have you improved the most this year?
SW: I've definitely improved on reading coverages and watching a lot more film. Knowing the opponent and what they like to do, what they do best and what their weakness is. I've also learned how to use my hands a lot more in the offseason and run a lot more sharper routes.
You're listed at 157. What do you weigh now?
SW: I'm 160 now, but I've just got to keep holding it and maintaining it.
Is it tough playing at that size and taking hits?
SW: I took a couple of shots this year. Like I say a lot, you can measure height, you can measure weight, but you can't measure heart. I just take the hit and get right back up. Knowing I'm little and I play slot, I know I've got to take some hits if I want to go to the next level. So I'm mentally tough when it comes to hits.
Do you find that defenses relish the chance to hit you?
SW: Most of them realize I'm a little slot guy, so whenever they get a chance to hit me, trust me, they try to hit me. But if they don't, I'm going to try my best to run past them. They can't hit what they can't catch.
Who else recruited you out of high school?
SW: West Virginia, Clemson, Oregon. I got a lot of mail from Tennessee, USC, teams like those.
Did Ohio State show serious interest?
SW: Yes, they did. But I just felt like Indiana was home for me.
Why Indiana and not a team with more recent tradition, like Oregon?
SW: I wanted to be part of something turning around. I didn't want to be a part of something that's already turned around. I would just be a another name in an Oregon uniform or a West Virginia uniform. But me, Tre Roberson, Kofi Hughes, Cody Latimer, Nick Stoner, Stephen Houston, people like those, we can change things around. We're trying to make this a football school even though we're known as a basketball school.
How much did Kevin Wilson's offense influence your decision?
SW: Yeah, that was a big issue, especially when I learned that he coached Ryan Broyles [at Oklahoma]. I watch a lot of film on him. He's the same size as me, so I basically watch everything he does. I learned a lot from him and Wes Welker and De'Sean Jackson.
You were a track standout in high school. Any plans to continue that at Indiana?
SW: I'd like to try, but at the same time I've been losing a lot of weight and I'm trying to maintain weight. I come in early for extra work, and do extra speed work because I know I can't run track. It hurts, but no pain, no gain.
Are you on an enhanced-calorie diet?
SW: Oh, man, they try to make me eat whole houses. I'll be like come on, man. My little stomach! I can't eat all that! [Team nutritionist Amy Freel], [strength] coach [Mark] Hill and [assistant strength coach Will] Peoples look out for me. They sit at the table and eat with me, and I can't go anywhere until I eat something. I could be there all day.
You played for Ted Ginn Sr. in high school. How well do you know Ted Ginn Jr.?
SW: I'm real close to Ted Ginn Jr. I didn't play with him, but I did a lot of track workouts with him.
What's the hardest part of returning kicks that people don't realize?
SW: It's a full-out blitz for kickoffs. That's what people don't know. You can talk about all the speed that we've got at returner, but at the same time, it's a full-out blitz for the kickoff team. So basically, you just read one one hole and you've got to hit it full speed. You can't dance or try to do too many juke moves, because that's when you end up fumbling, or that's when you see people getting hit hard. I just try to find one crease and hit it.
Finally, the Indiana offense is much improved this year, especially in the passing game. Why is that?
SW: Nobody missed a summer workout this year. Nobody missed weight lifting or workouts, and the receivers and quarterbacks were in the indoor facility at night time and in the mornings running routes. We just trust each other more as a team and we actually play as a team now. Once we do that for 60 minutes, we're going to be tough to stop.