DeBoer getting a feel for IU’s quarterbacks

In Bloomington, it’s a rite of spring.

A quarterback competition is unfolding inside Mellencamp Pavilion, and for Indiana’s new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, it’s his first opportunity to familiarize himself with his contenders.

There’s a returning starter in redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey, whose experience is a plus. There’s a transfer in redshirt freshman Jack Tuttle, whose immediate eligibility remains in question. And there’s also a highly-touted returner in Michael Penix, whose participation will be limited as he returns from ACL surgery.

The Hoosiers are not yet a full week into the spring, but after three practices, DeBoer is getting a feel for his options.

“They all bring a little something different to the table,” DeBoer said. “Experience, especially out of Peyton. I’ve been impressed with Jack’s arm strength. Then Mike, you can see that he’s got that ‘it’ factor to it, as far as how he throws the ball, as well.”

There are still 178 days until Indiana opens the season on Aug. 31 against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium — plenty of time for IU’s quarterback battle to round into focus.

In the meantime, Ramsey is trying to keep his grip on the starting job he occupied for all 12 games in 2018. There are no guarantees that will happen, especially after Ramsey turned in steady, yet underwhelming results at the position last fall.

But as he tries to reclaim that top spot, Ramsey says he isn’t comparing himself to his two challengers. Priority No. 1 is learning a new offense.

“A lot of the difference is obviously verbiage and procedural stuff,” Ramsey said. “A lot more is on the quarterback’s shoulders in terms of relaying the play to offensive linemen, checking protections and certain things like that. But it is similar. If you look at his offenses from the past, he’s done a good job of creating explosive plays, and that’s not necessarily just chucking the ball down the field. It’s getting guys open with room to run and getting the ball in our playmakers’ hands, and he’s done a really good job of that. We’ll be really good at gameplan-specific stuff once the season does roll around because he is so good at getting the ball in our playmakers’ hands.”

Of course, part of what Indiana lacked last year was a consistent downfield passing attack, an area that IU coach Tom Allen has been looking to emphasize even during the first week of the spring.

Tuttle and Penix appear best suited to help here, though Penix won’t rejoin the offense for live work until fall camp in August. Tuttle, who spent half of his freshman year last season at Utah, has flashed the arm that had some of the nation’s top programs recruiting him out of high school. But Indiana is still waiting on the NCAA to process a waiver for his immediate eligibility.

Even so, Allen says he likes what already sees. The IU coach said after Sunday’s practice that he was pleased with the big plays being made down the field, something IU’s receivers are appreciating, too.

“Definitely just from the first practice, (I’m) noticing that we’re getting a lot more balls thrown down the field,” fifth-year senior receiver Nick Westbrook said. “I think it’s emphasized with the reads for the quarterbacks to look for us early on and always have that in the back of their head that we’re going to be down there. Definitely noticed more of an emphasis on that. I’ve caught a few of those, and I’ve just noticed as a receiver group we’re getting a lot more of those opportunities.”

Creating those big plays will be one of DeBoer’s primary tasks after IU ranked 123rd in explosiveness last season, per SB Nation’s advanced statistics database. Simply eyeing targets downfield will be part of that plan, but DeBoer is working his quarterbacks through a list of options.

“We’ve hit some play-action shots in each of the last three practices, so that’s part of when you get a run game going,” DeBoer said. “To me, the explosive plays aren’t just about always throwing it all the way down the field. It’s about timing and accuracy and good protection. Everyone just trusts each other. If you can hit guys on the run, then great yards-after-catch can happen. We’ve had a little bit of both. We’ve completed some deep balls on the field, which is good to see.”

There have been mistakes and interceptions, too — natural byproducts of an offense in the early installation stage. Things have looked sloppy in two of IU’s first three practices, DeBoer said. But already, IU’s new coordinator is getting a sense for how his quarterbacks might settle in during the weeks to come.

“They’re all gonna make mistakes here at this time,” DeBoer said. “They’re all learning new verbiage and a couple different concepts, and things like that. They’re all gonna make mistakes, but they’ve all had their highlights already, even in the first three practices. They’ve gone and made plays, and you can see how you’d tailor the offense to each one of them and be successful.”


  1. DeBoer’s decision on the QB position will go a long way determining how this season goes. It is good to hear the offense is focusing on deeper passes early as it emphasis to the QBs they need to look down field. It will also help determine who has the arm to get the job done as it takes touch and strength to connect down field.

    The unknown right now is Tuttle’s eligibility and Penix’s recovery but both give hope IU will be in much better shape at QB in 2019. Having three good QBs with two having strong arms will feel like a luxury IU hasn’t had for a while.

  2. Having three good QBs with two having strong arms

    But look at Ramsey’s gun in full display courtesy of Chris Howell’s photo above….Look at the size of that bicep ready to pull the trigger. If quarterback arms were in a Dirty Harry movie, then that bicep is a .44 Magnum. Those dunk and dink bullets could blow your helmet clean off. How can that bicep not throw ‘ropes’ or deep downfield? “Two” having strong arms….?

    V13- I have a theory. Size of hands…Is it me, or does Peyton’s visible hand in the photo appear quite small? I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but I read an article last year talking of NFL quarterbacks…and how most those quarterbacks had very big hands. A very strong bicep may not be the only factor in throwing deep. You’ve got to gave a gorilla grip; the big strong hand to make the football really zing and explode off the trigger release….? Of course, there’s also mechanics and things like proper weight transfer…staying on the back foot, balance, etc which are all correctable. But I still sort of believe big hands are a big plus …Maybe the hands have more to do with the ‘caliber’ and the deep throw than the bicep?

    1. Interesting you should bring up hand size H4H,

      Seems like memory recalls that was a major knock on Rex Grossman several years back. May not be anything to it but who knows?

      Did notice an interesting quote from DeBoer in the article after the pleasantries about both Ramsey and Tuttle. “Then Mike, you can see that he’s got that ‘it’ factor to it, as far as how he throws the ball, as well.” I find that a very interesting way of assessing Mr. Penix especially right after saying this first, “They all bring a little something different to the table,” DeBoer said. “Experience, especially out of Peyton. I’ve been impressed with Jack’s arm strength.” May not mean much but sure is an interesting way of assessing your 3 QB candidates.

      1. It factor? The ball is already at the receiver’s hands before it ever leaves the quarterback’s hand.? The ball takes on a life all its own? The quarterback is simply a vehicle? The beauty of watching the leather missile spiraling through the heavens where the physics of an art meet the mythical of something present beyond the measurable yards and measurable units? Has the ball been gifted and energized? Has it left in dust the quarterback and now owns the stage granted of invisible forces and entities as if in momentary glimpses it defies the gravity and earthly forces in a different sort of air other throws will never share?
        I think Namath knew he was gifted the displays of “it factor” inflated into a piece of sewn together pigskin flying through a timeless space.

        1. Mention Joe Namath does bring back some fond memories. Funny how he has kind of been forgotten by current generations raised on the Manning brothers and others.

      2. Indeed did notice, thinker. Hard not to considering that it fairly jumped off the page at me. I bet Penix starts. You either got “it” or you don’t.

        1. Yup, “it” jumped out at me too. I hope you are correct on Penix because I believe he will be a good one. If not Penix, then Tuttle for sure if he is able to beat out Penix for the job. I respect Ramsey’s efforts but he just simply has not shown that he has a B1G caliber arm and that severely limits what an offense can do.

          Assuming H4H is correct that Penix was not quite physically ready last, besides his arm, for the rigors of B1G play. I could see if Penix had been ready it would have probably given IU one or two more wins last year. Especially with the breakout performance of Stevie Scott. It would have been a much more potent offense with the treat of the deep pass combined with Scott’s running. Last year’s team had good receivers who got banged up badly by an offense limited to the dink and dunk of a weak armed QB.

          Unfortunate the way it turned out as I suspect Scott’s production would have been much higher than his already good numbers due to defenses not being able to play 8,9, and 10 men in the box with Penix in the game.

  3. I was thinking the size of the hand was mainly a fumble thing. Being a small hand cam easily get ball knocked out, as opposed to large hand has more control of ball..

    1. Agreed about the fumbling problem, remembered after I had posted earlier. Still leaves one wondering though about the control of the ball when passing too.

  4. True…But the hand(and wrist) also employ a lot of forces on the ball when it is released.

    1. An interesting point H4H, I think you may have mentioned earlier, if so, I too would like to see V13’s take on the hand/arm/wrist discussion.

  5. I’m ready for a qb change. I appreciate Ramsey, but he is so very limited throwing the ball past 20 yards. You must be able to throw the ball accurately downfield and defenses did not have any trouble game planning for us with him at qb. I hope a change is made!

    1. I’m with you JP,
      Biggest problem for me has been how many people cannot seem to understand what a QB with limited passing capability does to an offense. It is almost like playing the game with one hand tied behind your back if do not have the deep pass capability. There have been a lot of offensive schemes out there trying to get around the problem, but they don’t work out very well long term. Unless Ramsey can show the ability to put the ball 40-50 yards downfield accurately, he needs to be your 3rd option behind either Penix or Tuttle. Didn’t have that luxury this past year and should have been obvious to everyone.

  6. I’ll translate his comments- It Factor- Penix has a cannon for an arm and makes throws on time and accurately. Tuttle has a strong arm- not Penix’s cannon but his arm strength doesn’t limit what plays can be called. Ramsey’s Experience- He’ll look good holding a clipboard on the sidelines.

  7. I have no way of knowing, but I sometimes wonder if it was DeBord who had his hands tied last season when it came to qb decisions just weeks before the opening game….? It never made sense to bring a qb from Arizona and then sort of dishearten him with all the rah-rah talk about the ‘starter’ whose job it was to lose….We sort of had “luxuries” at the position before all the ingratiation of Ramsey…The luxuries disappeared quickly and I came away wondering how many victories may have left with them. Just my opinion.

  8. H4H and others interested: hand size has a lot to do with the way QBs can spin the ball, as they say. I used to demonstrate for my players how important the release of the ball was. I asked them QBs I could imitate their throwing style and showed them I could do any throwing motion including side arm. I explained the snap at release is what really puts the zip on the ball. I wanted QBs to peel the leather off the ball. I worked my QBs on release drills more than anything when developing individual techniques. For deep passes you look more at weight transfer and arm position IE release point.

    The muscles involved with the throw don’t include the bicep as it is the contraction of the tricep along with flexion of the wrist. You also get the lat involved as you pull through the throw. One thing overlooked is the grip on the ball as it determines how you will rip off the leather. Too many QBs hold the ball low in their palm throwing a nose down ball that is difficult to catch as the ball dives on receivers.

    I like the reports from players and writers that coach DeBoer is putting more focus on the deep passes. If IU can get more deep passes and receivers catching in stride to out run defenses it will really improve the offense.

    1. My high school team was loaded with D1 sprinters and hurdlers. We had the state champ in the 100 (yards) and the nation AAU champ in the same event. Two different guys. Plus the Hughes brothers who ater starred in the 400 and hurdles for IU. I don’t know if my coach was aware you were allowed to throw the ball.

      We sure could run the veer, though. As I recall we averaged in the low to mid 300 yards per game rushing.

      1. I remember those days too Chet,
        A lot of great run offenses, quite a sight to behold. It was a sad day at the of this past season when Paul Johnson announced his retirement at Georgia Tech. Truly the last major head coach devoted to a run offense philosophy. Best I can figure is the defenses became too sophisticated for as one dimensional of an offense as run dominated offense. Kind of like many years ago when Notre Dame figured out how to defend the Wishbone offense. After that, defenses adapted and a truly ingenious run offense fell out of favor.

        I think the lesson for today is your offense must have multiple capabilities and the key to this is the QB. In college the QB must be able to both run and pass effectively, not so much in the NFL. If the QB cannot stretch the field himself with both his feet and his arm, it becomes too easy to defend. Almost like playing with 10 men on offense against 11 on defense.

  9. Oh my god some of this ranting about joe namath is best for a chatroom has absolutely nothing to do with indiana football,ive you people(i guess honestly one or two guys)sure do stray away from topic alot focus man focus

    1. Awww C’mon BB, lighten up. Namath was a great QB in his day. My big hope is that either Penix or Tuttle turn out to be half as good as Namath. If so, would be the best IU ever had at the position.

  10. If IU QBs can just complete a pass in stride or in a position where receiver has good to chance to catch ball and make play without getting blown up so many times would be a major improvement. That quarterback is not PR or it will be repeat of 2018 season because PR is what he is. A back up quarterback (2nd or 3rd string) depending on who is available.

  11. His celebrity worked pretty well for Playboy too…Fur coat with a beautiful blond under one arm and brunette under the other. He certainly didn’t need …nor care to secretly slip into cheap massage parlors in strip malls.

    And he sort of made a slightly famous prediction against the Colts and Unitas(a.k.a. Mr. Clean)…..

    Until Brady, I don’t believe I’ve seen a ball thrown with more “it factor”….though my memories want to believe Namath’s gargantuan spiraling bombs were far more things of beauty. I still own his Topps rookie card …

    1. Harv, as I’d mentioned I saw Broadway Joe in play person and marvelled how far he could throw on a flat trajectory. The classic “frozen rope.” Don’t remember much else about the game, but I remember that so well now.

      1. I would recommend the opening 14 minutes …of a documentary found on YouTube….Namath(a.k.a. ‘Broadway Draftdodger’) didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. Probably contributed to many of his ‘abuses’ later in life…I never knew this stuff.

    2. Okay. That was fun. But, let’s be real.

      Joe Namath was a very pedestrian quarterback who was in the right place at the right time and he seized the moment. Good for him.

      Don’t confuse him with greatness. He was slightly better than average for a couple years.

      1. He was mythical…and magical and I’ve never seen a passer more artful in the pocket. His jersey is retired. He’s in the Hall of Fame. “Bear” Bryant said he was the greatest athlete he ever coached. Bryant stated his decision to recruit Namath was “the best coaching decision he ever made. His unwavering presence in NFL games while prancing onto muddy fields in those white shoes has made him forever immortalized in films. He brought immeasurable wealth to the NFL because of his personality, celebrity power and swagger….He could have went to play major league baseball straight out of high school for the Yankees. He played all sports in high school and could dunk a basketball. There is no bigger Super Bowl moment in history than his upset over Unitas …..
        He was shaved by Farrah Fawcett. 99% would have never risked their lives in a time when quarterbacks weren’t protected while he trotted gingerly onto football fields with knees more braced than a polio victim…..

        Otherwise….he was relatively pedestrian. You must be nuts.

          1. “Risked their lives”…?

            …yeah, nobody would have traded places with Broadway Joe. They would have much rather gone to Viet Nam…

          2. Chet- He’s one of my childhood heroes. What is your problem? Vietnam? Ali burned up his draft card. Bush had daddy place him in the National Guard. If you want to talk about guys dodging Vietnam, then start with the dude in the oval office suffering from warts on his toes.

            Namath was a great quarterback. You are the first I’ve ever heard to think otherwise. Career statistics and qb ratings and percentage completions? I don’t know where they stack up in 50 plus years of football in the rear view mirror to now make him look “pedestrian”…which is ludicrous.
            Things have changed. The game has evolved. Conditions are different. Fields are different. Receivers are a hell of a lot different. Enclosed stadiums grace most the landscape. JUST PLEASE examine your lunacy. What I do know is that very few people of my generation(I assume near yours as well) would dispute the idea of Namath being one of the best(certainly in the late ’60s and early ’70s…) deep passers in the history of the game.
            And I don’t think they had the knee surgery procedures back then that they have today. Hell, I remember Namath going out on field and displaying mesmerizing throws while having knees wrapped and braced as if soccer balls were tucked underneath. You’re the doctor….Figure it out.

            Vietnam? You actually went there? You want to make Joe Namath the poster child for draft dodgers simply because I thought he was a childhood sports hero of mine? I as sort of using hyperbole as to how he played a violent game while hampered by terribly beat-up knees? Draft dodger? Oval office….? Anyone?

          3. Interesting discussion here…(maybe even “suggested” reading).

            and interesting video here about rule changes in late ’70s drastically changing passing/scoring in the NFL in a positive/plus manner…


            Most of it is above is not worth my effort …I know what my eyes witnessed and none of it will change my mind(pro or con) as to my Topps Namath rookie card remaining one of my most prized….along with feeling very fortunate to have watched one of the greats….I also loved Otis Taylor. Now rip him apart. He may have been a draft dodger too…I don’t know.

          4. If my kid was playing youth football ….and some other dad(grandad) in the stands came up to me after the game and said…

            “Your grandson, the qb, throws the ball like he might be the next Joe Namath…”

            I’d be so insulted…that he thought I was a grandad.

  12. v13, great post, you beat me to it but did a much better job explaining what muscles create a stronger throwing arm, and the size a man’s Biceps have little to do with it.

    As for hand size, aside from reducing fumbles, it makes a difference when throwing in less-than-ideal weather conditions too.

    Every time I think about IU and Tuttle waiting on the NCAA to announce Tuttle is eligible, it makes me mad. I trust the NCAA as far as I could throw their posh headquarters building. There’s no excuse to keep IU and this young man waiting. It should be a slam dunk decision.

  13. Good old country boy who made it big from appropriately named home town; Beaver falls, Pennsylvania.

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