Duwyce Wilson (81) has shown a predilection for highlight-reel catches in his first two years as a part of Indiana's rotation at wideout. Now returning from an ACL injury, he's working to regain the confidence and fitness lost during the recovery process.
Duwyce Wilson’s ACL tear last season might have ruined an otherwise excellent moment, but it also came at worst possible time for Indiana.
Wilson ruptured the ligament hauling in a touchdown, his team-leading third at the time, in an Oct. 29 loss to Northwestern. Two days later, IU coach Kevin Wilson announced Damarlo Belcher’s dismissal from the team. In a span of 72 hours, Indiana had lost its two most experienced — and arguably its two best — receivers, with three games left in the season.
Now, nearly 10 months removed from the injury, Wilson is back to full strength. Indiana just needs him back at full confidence too.
An outstanding performer as a redshirt freshman and one of Indiana’s top pass catchers until the ACL injury last season, Wilson, when healthy, possesses an excellent blend of athleticism and hands. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he is lithe but strong, able to successfully battle defensive backs for balls in the air, and he is perhaps as capable as any of his teammates at making a game’s toughest catches.
“I think he’s battling. He’s doing well,” wide receivers/quarterbacks coach Kevin Johns said. “I think if you ask him, I think he’d tell you he’s not at his top level yet. He’d probably be the first one to tell you.
“I just think those ACLs, they just take awhile to get yourself back and get going again. The work ethic is there. The attitude is there. It’s just a matter of time and continuing to push himself.”
Inconsistency and turnover at quarterback depressed Indiana’s receiving numbers overall last season, but Wilson still excelled in moments.
Wilson (right) was named Indiana's team offensive player of the week after posting 60 receiving yards and a touchdown against Virginia last September.
He pulled in six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in Indiana’s only win, against South Carolina State, and he was team offensive player of the week after posting 60 receiving yards and a score against Virginia.
Despite struggling with a back problem early in the season and losing the last three games of the season to the ACL tear, Wilson’s three touchdowns made him co-team leader, alongside sophomore Kofi Hughes. He finished last season with 217 yards from 17 receptions, that coming after he posted 32 catches for 488 yards and three more touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
Hughes is suspended for one game, possibly Indiana State on Sept. 1. Nick Stoner has come a long way in the fall, according to his coaches and teammates, but the sophomore is still less than a year into his new position, after moving over from his familiar cornerback spot.
Duwyce Wilson was one of a core group of six players Kevin Wilson mentioned as likely to make up the front line of Indiana’s receiving corps at the start of the season. How large of a role the redshirt junior plays could be determined by his progress, physically and mentally.
“Sometime you’re not sure until you’re hit that first time,” Johns said, referring to the need to regain confidence after an injury. “We need him to be right the first week. We’re pushing him real hard. We didn’t put the fifth game of the season, that’s his benchmark. We need him game one, ready to go, and every day, he’s gaining on it.”
Cody Latimer can certainly relate to Wilson’s situation. The sophomore receiver showed great promise as a rookie before an adductor injury and multiple hernias sidelined him for Indiana’s final three games as well.
Latimer underwent surgery for his injuries in the offseason, eventually recovering to put together a strong spring and summer that have made him the talk of preseason camp at his position. In his more veteran teammate, Latimer said he sees the same kind of progression, as Wilson works back toward 100 percent.
“Duwyce is back. He’s still Duwyce. He’s just ready, building more confidence,” Latimer said. “Like me with my groin: I had my surgery, I had to come back in. You get nervous at first, but then you get into it. He was like that at first, but now he’s back into it. He’s back to Duwyce, and ready to go.”
In the eyes of the player likely to be his No. 1 quarterback, Wilson — known to his teammates as “Weezy” — is progressing just fine.
“Weezy, he’s progressing real nicely,” sophomore signal caller Tre Roberson said. “He’s fast, he’s smart, he can catch the ball real good and he’s a good target.”