Luke Timian doesn't have a place on the field.
"Places," plural, is far more accurate.
The redshirt junior receiver who walked onto Indiana in 2015 after spending one redshirt season at Oklahoma is in the midst of numerous position battles as he tries to do anything and everything to get on the field. The 6-foot, 195-pound native of Southlake, Texas, spends the most of his time in the slot but splits reps on either boundary as well with his coaches still evaluating just what he can do.
"That's what gives him a chance," new wide receivers coach Grant Heard said. "He's smart and he knows what he's good at and what he's not. He just has to be aware of what he's doing and make sure the little things are done right."
Timian ranked as the fourth-most productive receiver last season with 19 catches for 277 yards and one touchdown. He flashed signs of ridiculous playmaking ability, including a partially blinded, one-handed grab down the field in Indiana's win against Michigan State.
Still, Timian says there's more left in him. With former Hoosier starters Ricky Jones (53 catches, 848 yards and three touchdowns) and Mitchell Paige (58 catches for 646 yards and four touchdowns) graduated from the program pursuing spots in the NFL, Timian knows he's got an opportunity to jump in and replace their production.
But, as a walk-on still trying to earn a scholarship, that means proving himself.
"The new coaches haven't seen more or anybody play before," Timian said. "They can watch film upstairs, but that's nothing like seeing you live. I feel like my entire career I've had to go out there and prove myself, though. That's kind of defined me as a player."
Paige, a former walk-on himself, could relate. He and Timian were roommates and went through similar journeys to carve out spots in the receiving room at Indiana.
Timian watched on as Paige broke through each of the last two seasons as one of the more productive players in the Big Ten. With Paige gone, Timian wants to pick up where Paige left off.
"Mitchell really shows what hard work and dedication can do when you don't just have talent to rely on," Timian said. "Walk-ons definitely have to prove themselves more because coaches clearly didn't think you deserved a scholarship out of high school. You have to come in and prove yourself, and Mitchell showed how to do that."
That's where being versatile turns into Timian's advantage.
If he's willing and able to take snaps in multiple positions, he's more likely to get onto the field despite having plenty of competition in the slot position between J-Shun Harris and a few younger players and juniors Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook projected to own the two starting spots on the outside.
"I've been working on trying to become a more consistent player," Timian said. "I want to be a leader in the room so I can help other guys out and really just work on the little things."
Take Thursday for example. Timian spent most of practice working on getting out of his breaks quicker. Other days he focuses more on his hands. Sometimes he's keened in on his route running.
Whatever it takes to impress the coaches, Timian said he's willing to do it.
"I guess that consistency is really the key thing," he said. "That's something I'm working on because you have to be an elite player every single day. You can't just show out a day or two. I feel like I've hopefully done that."
And he's done it everywhere, too. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord and Heard both said they haven't locked Timian into a position quite yet because they're not ready to pigeonhole him into anything.
"We're going to continue to evaluate him and see where he best fits," DeBord said. "We think we know, but we're going to wait and see."
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