Video courtesy of IU athletics media relations.
Tre Roberson’s likely replacement has neither his predecessor’s legs or his likely understudy’s arm. He’s not a fiery leader and his Division I football experience is at this point limited to 2 1/2 quarters of football.
But Kevin Wilson, Kevin Johns and Seth Littrell have spent about nine months preparing Cameron Coffman for the possible eventuality that he would be a Big Ten starting quarterback, and they believe he’s ready for his first career start Saturday at 8 p.m. against Ball State at Memorial Stadium.
“We’re glad he’s here,” Wilson said. “There’s a reason we went after him. There’s a reason there’s a competition. Tre’s athleticism, and Tre being here a little bit longer got him a little bit farther ahead, but the ability to play Cam and Nate, they’ll both do well for us.”
Coffman was in a battle with Roberson for the starting job throughout the spring and the preseason before Roberson eventually ran away with it, but in that time, Coffman got plenty of work with the first team. In the spring, Roberson and Coffman were the only two quarterbacks on the roster, so there was no choice but to get him a ton of reps. Though he’s a true sophomore in his first year at a Division I school, he has more college game experience than most players his age. Last season at Arizona Western Community College, he threw for 2,244 yards and 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions to lead to the squad to the NJCAA national championship game, where they fell in a game in which he threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns.
Coffman also has family roots in the game. His father Paul played tight end at Kansas State and then with the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. His brother Chase played tight end at missouri and then with the Cincinnati Bengals and his brother Carson played quarterback at Kansas State.
“He’s a very calm kid,” Wilson said. “Very smart kid. Throws it reasonably accurate. I don’t know if he has the biggest cannon ever, but he has good knowledge, good anticipation. The more he plays, the more comfortable he’s getting. Today and yesterday, he said, ‘OK, now I’m the guy.’ A little greater sense of urgency. He’s out there, he’s got a little pep in his step. At the same time, though, he’s not a really rah-rah, fired up guy. He’s a very calm guy. It’s in his DNA. He won’t get rattled.”
Though Coffman doesn’t have quite the speed that Roberson used to rush for 114 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries in Saturday’s game, he can move around in the pocket enough that the IU offense shouldn’t change much. Indiana was already planning to cut down on designed quarterback runs, so the Hoosiers will be relying on even less zone read than they already were, but otherwise, not much should change.
“He’s really not that much different than Tre other than Tre’s faster,” quarterbacks coach Kevin Johns said. “Cam can still move around, so I don’t know that you’re gonna see a huge drastic change from things that we’ve done in the past. Cam’s a very heady kid. He recognizes coverages very well. Throws the ball well, is very accurate, so it should be fun to go and watch him play.”
Wilson said that Coffman still has to have a good week to start over freshman Nate Sudfeld on Saturday, but indicated the job is very much his to lose. He and Johns said that Sudfeld, a highly-regarded, 6-foot-5, 216-pounder with the strongest arm of the three scholarship quarterbacks, is coming along with his understanding of the offense but is still feeling his way through it.
“He’s progressed quite a bit,” Johns said. “I think as a true freshman, when you’re asking a true freshman to go out and play quarterback in the Big Ten, just like Tre did a year ago, there are some things that you are not ready for until it happens to you in a game. There are certain situations that are hard to place kids in on the practice field. But he’s done a tremendous job in the film room. He’s taken as many mental reps as he can on the practice field when he hasn’t been with the ones. But again, I go back to his intelligence. he’s really picked up things very, very well, which will allow him when it comes his turn just to hit the ground running. … As a coach, when you put a true freshman on the field, I don’t know that you put chapters 4,5 and 6 in the playbook. You maybe just do Chapters 1, 2 and 3, maybe you limit what you do with a true freshman.”
Wilson and Johns said walk-on freshman Corey Babb and Nate Boudreau would be the next options in the emergency scenario in which the Hoosiers had to go beyond their top three quarterbacks. Wide receiver Kofi Hughes was a quarterback at Cathedral and could be used in Wildcat sets, but Wilson didn’t seem to be comfortable with putting a wildcat quarterback under center full-time.
Other notes from Tuesday’s press conference.
— Michael Hunter has been recovering from surgery to fix a sports hernia. Wilson said he won’t be recovering nearly as long because the Hoosiers sent him out of the country to have it done.
Wilson said the sophomore cornerback went to Germany to have the surgery done.
“They’re supposed to be the best in the world,” Wilson said. “… You take a six to an eight week recovery from a normal hernia process. There’s a person over there who’s very proactive. A number of athletes have done it. Our trainer came from Nebraska. They had used it. Michael had surgery on Thursday and he was running yesterday. It’s just a different deal, different process. A lot of athletes, a lot of hockey guys in particular are using it. I trust our trainer. He’s good. The deal was to get him back. We’re gonna take care of everyone’s body. We’re going to take care of one of the greatest prized possessions in the world, which is someone’s child.”
Wilson said he expects Hunter to be ready to play close to game-ready by the Northwestern game on Sept. 29, but he might choose to redshirt Hunter because he has depth at cornerback.
— Wilson said offensive lineman Jake Reed was also out with a MRSA staph infection, but he is back healthy.
“He had some cuts that got infected,” Wilson said. “But he’s back practicing now.”