Latimer fired up to face home-state team

Indiana receiver Cody Latimer has a dossier of dazzling catches this year, but coach Kevin Wilson is more impressed with what the All-Big Ten performer is doing when the ball isn’t coming his way.

The Dayton Jefferson High School product is delivering for the first time in all phases of the game. And Wilson has been gushing about the 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior, labeling him a potential NFL player.

“The first two games, he’s got (five) catches and no touchdowns, and we’re grading him as having a winning performance. He was playing as well as any receiver because of his effort and his blocking, and he’s been great on special teams,” Wilson said.

“I think if we keep bringing him along, he can be a high-level player in this league and have a great future in football. I really love the way he’s playing.”

Latimer was a late bloomer — he didn’t go out for football until his junior year in high school — and he needed some prodding to give consistent effort and understand the full range of his duties.

But his diligence in practice is paying off in games.

“I just have more motivation,” he said in a phone interview. “Seeing my teammates to the left and right of me going hard every day, it pushes me to go because I know I have a big role on the team. People look up to me as being a leader. I have to come and bring it every day.”

Latimer is looking to have a huge impact for the Hoosiers when they visit Ohio State in a nationally televised game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. He realizes it’s not only a rare opportunity for him to display his skills on a big stage, but he also doesn’t want to disappoint family and friends who will be there to root him on.

“It’s exciting. It feels good to play at the Horseshoe. It’s a great environment,” he said.

“In the beginning of the week, it’s just preparation, getting to know them and getting to know what they’re going to do. Toward the end of the week, I’ll get juiced up — especially on the ride over and once I get into Ohio.”

He estimates he’ll have a personal cheering section of more than 20 — “My mom, dad, brothers, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends of the family” — and he was trying to supply all of them with tickets by collecting unused comps from fellow players.

“My teammates said they’ve got me. We’ll see if they keep their word,” he said with a laugh.

Latimer is third in the Big Ten with 60 catches and 926 receiving yards. He also has eight touchdowns. He’s considered a likely high draft pick if he turns pro after the season.

Asked what makes him effective, he said: “I think it’s my size and hands and speed. Most people think I’m not fast because I’ve got a big frame, and my speed can surprise some people.”

Latimer missed the Ohio State game as a freshman after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. But he played against the Buckeyes last year, finishing with seven catches for 68 yards in a 52-49 defeat.

He expects another high-scoring affair. Though the Hoosiers are ranked 122nd out of 123 teams nationally in total defense (allowing 534.8 yards per game) and are tied for 114th in scoring defense (38.8 points per game), they’re 14th in scoring (39.1) and 16th in total offense (496.8).

The Buckeyes are fourth in scoring (49.4) and sixth in total yardage (539.9).

“It’s going to be a shootout,” Latimer said. “Both offenses are going to put up numbers.”

A step back: After dominant defensive showings in their previous two outings against Purdue and Penn State, the Buckeyes were exposed a bit by Illinois, which racked up 420 yards, including 288 through the air.

Only California (503 total yards) and Northwestern (437) have had better outputs against OSU.

But co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers wasn’t discouraged by the performance.

“We played pretty decent. That was a pretty good quarterback,” he said of senior Nathan Scheelhaase. “I think he was No. 1 in the league in passing yards. He threw 50 times, and we gave up less than 300 yards. I’ll take that.”

But the defense probably will get a tougher test against Indiana. In last year’s game, the Buckeyes had a 52-34 lead, but the Hoosiers rallied with 15 points in the final 1:40 and then almost recovered an onside kick that would have given them a chance at victory.

Withers, though, doesn’t believe the game should have been that close.

“We dropped six interceptions. That’s a different ballgame if we catch the ball,” he said. “I think we’re a better defense overall than we were last year.

“What we’ve got to learn is when a team makes a play, we have to keep playing. That’s the growth we have to make as a defense. Don’t let one bad play turn into another.”

Injury report: Coach Urban Meyer said on his radio show Thursday that linebacker Curtis Grant is still hindered by an ankle sprain in practice, making him questionable for the IU game. Linebacker Josh Perry (head injury) and left tackle Jack Mewhort (knee) are expected to be ready.

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