Allen looking for playmakers during weekend scrimmage

The first six practices of fall camp have provided Tom Allen with an initial reading on his Indiana University football team.

During Sunday’s closed scrimmage, Allen expects to learn much more.

IU’s first scrimmage of the month will offer the Hoosiers’ head coach a closer examination of some of the key position battles in camp. And with a full game-like setting featuring more than 100 snaps, Allen is focused on how some of the first week’s top performers handle game conditions, while also using the opportunity to begin setting his depth chart for the next few weeks of practice.

Quarterback, of course, will be one of the most-watched positions during the action. Allen said after Friday’s practice that all three quarterbacks — Peyton Ramsey, Brandon Dawkins and Michael Penix — are still getting equal reps, but how they fare on Sunday will determine where the snaps go from there.

“Sunday will not be the final decision-maker,” Allen said, “but it’s a very big next step for us in our decision-making process to see how they operate and run the offense, move the football, score touchdowns and handle adversity during a game situation. We’ve obviously gotten glimpses throughout practice, but there’s no question Sunday’s scrimmage will be big for them.”

The same goes for the younger players scattered across the roster. A few freshmen, particularly those on defense, have turned heads early in camp. That includes safety Devon Matthews and corners Reese Taylor and Jaylin Williams, among others.

For those players and other defensive underclassmen, Sunday could go a long way toward determining where they fit on the depth chart.

“We had a really good staff meeting (Thursday) talking about personnel and using the first six practices to see who’s really ready to be in those No. 2 roles and No. 3 roles, which means they (would) have a great shot of being in the game on game day,” Allen said. “You feel more comfortable on certain guys being in there right now. They’ll all get reps in the scrimmage. That’s probably the most fair evaluation, because it’s over 100 snaps and a lot of live plays to see who can finish and who can’t.”

Sunday will also provide IU’s three kickers with their first real opportunity to create separation in the race to replace former All-Big Ten honoree Griffin Oakes.

Logan Justus, Jared Smolar and Charles Campbell are each fighting for the top job. Campbell is the only scholarship player in that mix.

“I try to use different ways to pressure those guys,” Allen said. “Right now, it’s a pretty balanced competition. They’re all competing. None of them have really had a chance to kick under pressure yet. They’re just kicking with their groups, so we’ll be able to apply that pressure here soon.”

Since IU put on full pads for the first time on Tuesday, several players have stood out through their consistently strong play.

Matthews, the rookie safety, is already making a case for playing time as a freshman, while Georgia Tech transfer T.D. Roof is finishing plays at the Mike linebacker spot.

Offensively, receivers Nick Westbrook, J-Shun Harris and Whop Philyor have consistently made plays — big ones, at that — across the first week, while running back Morgan Ellison looks the part of a featured player.

“When you put the pads on and go live, that’s when the true playmakers step up on both sides,” Allen said.

And he’s looking for a few more to step up this weekend.


  1. After a week of practice the first scrimmage for coaches at all levels is to establish a separation between players helping to determine starters. You also want to find players that excell when under pressure. Who rises to the occasion and do any fall back when the pressure is on them. This is a big practice for the freshman and other younger players as they get a chance to show what they can do. Players like Williams can show how the faster player on the team can help out this year. RBs will have a good shot to show they should be in the rotation; IU has several options at RB so showing up in the scrimmage goes a long way to getting noticed.

  2. Fingers crossed for the Mon. injury report. Can IUFB, just for once, catch a ray of good luck shining through the historical gloom? I think this is the year.

  3. davis, I am with you praying they have no real injuries coming out of the scrimmage.

  4. Can’t keep giving all three QBs an equal number of reps. That’s just not going to get the eventual starter and his skill-players ready to play together. If they’re all equal though six practices, this scrimmage should separate them. But one way or the other, T.A. has to pick one and give him the majority of the reps in practice. His team needs a play-making quarterback more than anything else.

  5. Po, if one doesn’t rise to the top in this scrimmage then I am thinking the competition is between Ramsey and Penix. I still think Dawkins is the best bet to be a difference maker for IU this year but he needs to show his teammates he is the man when it goes live. Even if Dawkins doesn’t have everything down yet, his play making ability should show in the scrimmage. I would hope by the middle of the week they get down to one QB. IU can use the nonconference games to evaluate different QBs so it isn’t a disaster if they don’t name one early but it would be an advantage to name one soon.

  6. Still think it is PR’s to screw up. He offers starting experience, an honest rushing threat, nerves that don’t jostle and an accurate arm a year stronger to spook a defense.

    1. Agreed that it’s Ramsey’s job (until he gets hurt). I think he runs inside too much to stay healthy in the B1G. And arm strength is one of those things were you got it or you don’t. Maybe he could gain a tick of arm strength but it won’t be substantial. At best all he can really do is clean up his mechanics IMO.

  7. HC, you aren’t wrong about Ramsey and it is up to Dawkins if he wants to be the starter. Dawkins has too show he is more dynamic and the offense looks better with him at QB. Ramsey won’t be easy to move out of the QB spot but if Dawkins or maybe Penix wins the job the offense will be more explosive.

  8. Football coverage is suffering since Andy Graham’s retirement….Running too tight of a staff at HT. Jeremy and Mike can’t be expected to run/police a blog, write for the HT…and run around on weekends to cover practices.

    HT needs to dig into the old family funds(the millions made and invested during the heyday of IU Sports(pre-internet/web) and add some more staff.
    Andy Graham looked like a spring chicken. Too bad he couldn’t have been kept on with a bit of a reduced schedule….

    1. Just to be clear, Mike has a story on Allen’s takeaways from the scrimmage that will run in Tuesday’s HT and probably appear on here shortly, but it was a closed scrimmage for the public and media, so there’s really nothing we can do when that’s the case. To that end, an interesting column from USA Today’s Dan Wolken on how colleges’ attempts to shut out the media can lead to situations like the one at Maryland.

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