Indiana WR Westbrook back … and better?

August 6, 2018

Since his days as a budding football prospect in Florida, Nick Westbrook has set the same objective for each upcoming season.

For the Indiana receiver, the goal has always focused on being 100 yards more productive than he was the previous season. Dating to his sophomore year of high school at Lake Mary near Orlando, Westbrook has not only consistently met that objective, he’s smashed his best numbers from the year prior.

After missing last year with an ACL injury suffered on the season-opening kickoff, Westbrook is ready to continue where he left off in 2016, when he caught 54 passes for 995 yards during a breakout campaign.

Building off that success as a junior would make Westbrook one of the Big Ten’s elite receivers, and as IU’s camp continues with the first full week of practices this week, the 6-foot-3 receiver is excited to follow through.

“I want to always be improving,” Westbrook said. “That’s how I took my high school career. I wanted to be at least 100 yards better than the year before. I have that same (approach now), because it worked back then. Hopefully, it will work now.”

Indeed, Westbrook’s football career has been an example of steady year-to-year progress.

After posting 531 receiving yards as a high school sophomore, Westbrook built off that mark with 295 more yards as a junior. By his senior season, Westbrook was one of the top receivers in Central Florida, closing his time at Lake Mary with 1,853 yards, while leading his team to back-to-back district championships.

Westbrook started his college career with six catches for 69 yards as a freshman before stepping up when IU needed help in 2016. When top receiver Simmie Cobbs suffered a season-ending injury on his first play of the season, Westbrook answered with 54 catches for 995 yards. That production led IU’s team and ranked Westbrook second in the Big Ten in terms of yardage.

“I want to have a better year than I had sophomore year,” Westbrook said.

His teammates are confident he will.

This summer, fellow receiver Luke Timian noticed a faster, more agile version of Westbrook, who was among the many Hoosiers clocked at 22 miles per hour during speed tests this offseason. That’s an increase of two miles per hour from when Westbrook first began training with new strength and conditioning coach David Ballou and athletic performance coach Dr. Matt Rhea this winter.

“He’s worked his tail off to get back,” Timian said. “I think you’ll actually see a better player, because he really had some time to reflect and get his mind right. He’s hungry. You’re gonna really see a good player in Nick Westbrook.”

With Cobbs now in the Washington Redskins’ training camp, Westbrook is once again poised to headline an intriguing receiving corps.

At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Donavan Hale is a big target with big-play potential. Like Westbrook, he’s also returning from an injury that cost him the bulk of his season. Timian, who made 68 catches for 589 yards, can play both in the slot and on the outside, while sophomore Whop Philyor brings speed and explosiveness as a slot man.

Putting a healthy Westbrook back at the front of that receiving corps makes it all the more interesting for Indiana.

Especially if Westbrook progresses the way he envisions this fall.

“He’s 100 percent,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “Now he’s just got to go play and go do what God’s gifted him to do. That’s catch footballs.”

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