Indiana University has one representative in this year's Super Bowl - Denver Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer. While the 2014 second-round draft pick still fights for playing time behind other receivers like Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in Denver, he's making contributions on the field that may not be as visible in his stat line, such as in blocking and on special teams.
So with the Super Bowl tonight, we asked Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann, a writer for Denver Broncos SB Nation blog Mile High Report, about Latimer's progress and future with the team, and what she thinks will happen in the game.
1. Cody Latimer only had 8 total catches for 82 yards in the 14 regular season games he appeared in, but already has 3 catches for 31 yards in two playoff games. Has he been finding more opportunities and playing time as the season has progressed in Denver?
Laurie: One of Cody's biggest contributions has been on special teams with his blocking and tackling. He's had some monster hits the last few games and some key plays to win the field position battle on kickoffs and returns - which has been huge for our defense to come in and take advantage. Contributing on special teams has gotten him involved in the game and made him a perfect guy to rotate in on the offense. And he has definitely taken advantage of his targets more. I think as Manning has gotten more familiar with the offense and all its routes, he's probably had more awareness of where Cody is on the field and looked for him a little more often. I'll look forward to a few more this Sunday.
2. Between his first and second seasons, the Broncos switched coaches, as well as offensive coordinators. How has Latimer grown under new OC Rick Dennison this season?
Laurie: I think Cody has grown mostly from having a year under his belt and another season with the offense. Having spoken with him in the offseason, I know he felt like Gary Kubiak's ZBS scheme had a simpler playbook, which he preferred, and an emphasis on blocking receivers, which is a definite strength of his. But I think his improvement has mostly come via familiarity with Peyton, the playbook and more chances being involved in the offense.
3. With Demariyus Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and many other talented receivers on the Broncos, how has Latimer done with working his way into the rotation, so to say?
Laurie: It's tough to be a starting wide receiver on this team when you have DT and Sanders ahead of you. But Cody has taken advantage of one of his greatest talents as a wide receiver and that is blocking. A lot of times if we don't see a receiver targeted on a play, we assume they aren't doing much in the offense. But in this offense, Kubiak and Rick Dennison utilize blocking from all their skill players, and Latimer has definitely been an outstanding blocker in the offense and particularly on special teams.In fact, I learned this week that the Broncos have nicknamed a crackblock on the safety the "Cody block."
4. There's a ton of speculation, of course, that the Super Bowl may be Peyton Manning's last game ever. If so, do you see Latimer developing further under Brock Osweiler, or do you see him going elsewhere?
Laurie: The Broncos would like to keep Osweiler. He proved he was very capable of commanding this offense, and he got some great opportunities midseason to run it - which he did with great success. He still has some parts of his game to develop, but I'm sure based on Brock's experience running this offense and a skill set suited for it, Kubiak would like to keep him - and I have a feeling Cody would too as they seemed to develop quite a QB-WR rapport.
5. Prediction for Super Bowl 50?
Laurie: 24-21 Broncos, of course. Winning like they have all season, the Broncos will display a capable offense but a magnanimous defense to keep the Panthers on the losing end.
Thank you, Laurie! The Super Bowl kicks off tonight at 6:30pm on CBS.