Connection From Scout Team Carries Over To First Team Offense For Mack

Stu Jackson, Staff Writer
The Hoosier
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Jordan Wells / TheHoosier.com

Taysir Mack's phone would not stop ringing.

The redshirt freshman wide receiver's mother, Monique Mack, was so proud of his first-half performance, she was eager to talk to him about it at halftime of last Saturday's game vs. Charleston Southern.

"She kept calling my phone before the coaches came in," Taysir said Tuesday. "I answered it like, ‘Mom, I can’t talk. I’ll call you back later.'"

His mom's excitement was understandable. Mack posted five catches for 96 yards in the first half on his way to a career-best seven receptions for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns in IU's 27-0 win over Charleston Southern.

Now he'll look to continue to build off that performance heading into Saturday's homecoming game vs. No. 17 Michigan.

What will aid him in the process is his connection with fellow redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey, IU's new starting quarterback.

The two worked together extensively in 2016 as members of Indiana's scout team while helping give IU head coach and defensive coordinator Tom Allen's first-team defense different looks depending on the opponent that week.

That critical development time with the scout team is now translating to Indiana's first team offense.

"Me and Peyton connected a lot throughout scout," Mack said. "We got to really know each other. He got to know how I like to break off certain routes and I got to know what are his strength points in terms of throwing across the middle, where he like to put certain things. It balances out, just building that chemistry and going to play during game day."

It seemed like it was only a matter of time before Mack's opportunity would come in some capacity.

When IU was preparing for the Foster Farms Bowl last December, Mack was brought up by former Hoosiers receiver Ricky Jones as one of the younger players standing out and making the most of the extra practice time.

Players continued to bring up Mack's name during spring ball and fall camp as well. His chances of seeing the field increased when sophomore Nick Westbrook, IU's leading returning receiver, sustained a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff against Ohio State.

However, with redshirt junior wide receivers Simmie Cobbs and J-Shun Harris healthy, junior Donovan Hale emerging as a quick, athletic playmaker opposite Cobbs, and redshirt junior Luke Timian holding down the slot position, Mack's opportunities were fairly limited through IU's first four games. Playing within a deep position group, had collected just two catches for 18 yards.

With Hale sitting out last Saturday, Mack got his chance.

"I challenged Taysir to rise up," Allen said. "We had some injuries at that position and so that’s what freshmen are supposed to do. He responded. He and Peyton were on the scout team together last year, so throwing to each other in that setting and just the reps that they got over the summer and just everything, I think it just adds to it. It helps."

Ramsey, IU's offensive scout team player last season, feels the same way.

"We have done a lot of work together and I like the bond that we have," Ramsey said. “I told (freshman backup quarterback) Nick Tronti that the scout team really does prepare you. You’re going against the starting defense, so you get a chance to develop your skills every single day."

Continuing that high level of play will be a challenge for Mack.

Michigan will bring to Bloomington the Big Ten's top pass defense, featuring plenty of man-to-man coverage played by physical cornerbacks.

Mack is up to the task.

"I can’t take a step back now," Mack said. "Now that everyone sees what I’m capable of doing, it’s time to elevate my game and take it to the next level."

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