Coffman, Sudfeld prepared for new form of competition

The dynamic of Indiana’s quarterback position has been significantly altered in every game so far this season with the exception of the opener, and after Saturday’s game against Northwestern, there is a new new normal.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said after the Hoosiers’ 44-29 loss to the Wildcats that he told sophomore Cameron Coffman and freshman Nate Sudfeld that he considered them both starters, that the Hoosiers would play the slightly more experienced Coffman first, but that there was a chance both of them can play. After a shaky performance by Coffman and a second consecutive strong late-game performance by Sudfeld, the Hoosiers effectively have an open two-man competition again and the coaching staff is reserving the right to make changes in-game.

“We want to pick a guy and go with it,” quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns said. “If a guy’s hot, we’ll ride him. If a guy’s not, we’ll put the other guy in. That’s kind of where we are right now where they’re both giving us some good things. They’re both doing some not-so-good things. Right now, we’re just finding out each week how it goes.”

What that means is that Wilson is going against his general tendencies regarding quarterbacks. He’s said many times that he doesn’t like to play two quarterbacks or have his starter constantly looking over his shoulder. He wants continuity and stability at that position.

But in Wilson’s time as coach, he’s rarely been able to achieve that ideal. Ed Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel battled back and forth for the starting job most of Wilson’s first year before both finally ceded the position to then-freshman Tre Roberson. Roberson beat out Coffman and Sudfeld for the starting job this season and Wilson appeared set on him for the year, but Roberson broke his leg in the Hoosiers’ win over Massachusetts, taking him out of action for the year.

Coffman had established himself as the backup, but the hip pointer he suffered in the third quarter of the Ball State game opened the door for Sudfeld to lead the Hoosiers to two touchdowns in the fourth, giving them the lead before they lost on a last-second field goal. His ineffective play in Saturday’s first half against Northwestern opened the door again, and Sudfeld led the Hoosiers back to make it a one-possession game and make it very much a competition.

After that game, it’s become fairly apparent that the position will continue to have some level of instability, and Sudfeld and Coffman will simply have to work within that framework.

“We’re just both trying to get better every single day,” Coffman said. “We’re not too worried about that. We’re just working on self-improvement. Every single day I don’t come to practice trying to be better than Nate. I just try to be the best I can be every day and I’m sure he does the same thing.”

Said Sudfeld: “We come into practice not really thinking, ‘Me vs. you.’ It’s, individually, how can we improve ourselves. Like Coach Wilson tells us, they need us both. We’re not gonna win without good quarterback play.”

Johns said it’s important for theĀ  coaching staff to simply be open with both quarterbacks and honest about the situation, making it clear that the best performer will play and that the Hoosiers will ride the hot hand within games. Coffman and Sudfeld said they have to go into games with that understanding.

“You can’t think about (being pulled) or you’re gonna play bad,” Coffman said. “You just gotta go looking forward, not looking over your shoulder. If it does happen to be that I get pulled, then I’m rooting for Nate, because I want to be a team player. If Nate is our best option at that time, If I’m not doing well, I want our team to win. If that means Nate going in at that point, I’m find with our team winning, if that’s how we’re gonna be successful.”

Coffman has completed 53 of 80 passes for 519 yards and three touchdowns so far. Sudfeld is 25-of-40 for 357 yards and three scores. Sudfeld has the higher efficiency rating, 162.2 to 130.6.


  1. Sudfeld needs to be the starter IMO. In the last two games he is the one that has given us a chance. I would love to see how the game plays out with him racking up yards and touchdowns in the first half instead of waiting until we are in the hole at half time. I predict we will see him get a start next game.

  2. I am sure it didn’t have anything to do with their defense being a bit tired and the score being what it was.

  3. With all due respect Coach Johns, that’s a stupid philosophy. You need to play the QB that gives this young team the best chance to win. Sudfeld was a highly ranked player coming out of high school and, thus far, has lived up to the hype. IU needs to give Sudfeld the opportunity to lead this team for an entire game if IU even has a chance to upset MSU this Saturday. Should you start Coffman again this Saturday and we fall behind by 2 TDs in the first quarter…well, stupid is as stupid does!

  4. I fail to see how having 2 QB’s both capable of starting/playing is bad. We just got beat by a pretty good team using that same philosophy. Knufp makes a good points and also the play calling transitioned to the timeline in the game for a different QB. Sudfeld may be the best of the 2 but starting will be different for him mentally and emotionally than what he has been experiencing. I do want these QB’s to succeed.

  5. It’d at least be interesting to see what happened if Sudfeld got a start.

    I just hope neither of them gets injured. Think about it. 4 games in and one QB is knocked out for the season, the first back-up has been dinged up pretty bad to the point of missing some game time.

    At that rate, you’d need about 12 QBs to last a season.

    I start to imagine the last QB being injured and the coach going up into the stands and asking for volunteers, dragging some kid who played in H.S. out and suiting her up.

    After which, she drives the team for a touchdown, etc. etc., becomes first walk on (and female) to win the Heisman, etc.

    Hey, laugh all you want, but I’m in Hollywood (or at least close). That’s how they think out here!

    And it’s a better story than some I’ve seen ’em actually make out here!

  6. WCH, I tend to agree about seeing how NS does when starting and should have stated that more clearly in my post. TR was hurt while running the ball and Cam’s injury was like wise. ARE was fortunate he was never seriously hurt while playing QB but Lewis was nicked/hurt numerous times and some of his passes looked like it. Running QB’s(not necessarily mobile QB’s)just roll the dice more times. I think NS and CC are mobile enough in the long run to stay out of the “injured can’t play” category. We’ll soon find out.

  7. Personal opinion, give it to Sudfeld. He’s played better and we don’t have much to lose this year. Sudfeld was a high ranked recruit, give him an opportunity to show it. The only reason I can imagine not playing him is so he doesn’t get his confidence ruined against a solid team like MSU.

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