Hoosier Scoop Sage Take of the Day, Oct. 26, 2012

HOOSIER SCOOP SAGE TAKE OF THE DAY FOR FRIDAY:

When first watching Cam Coffman throw the interception that sealed Indiana’s fate at Navy, my immediate reaction was that it was a “sidelining” rather than sideline pass.
The thought was that Coffman might have just forfeited his starting job for the ensuing Saturday, that he might have just sidelined himself.
I don’t think that now, having had more time to ruminate. Coffman has generally done an exemplary job. Plus the IU coaches have obviously preferred Coffman, and they naturally know a heck of a lot more about the quarterbacking situation than I do. I’m not at practice, not in the film room, not in the huddle, not around the team on a daily basis. And the last time I played a football game was almost 40 years ago.
But, still, let’s review the particular play in question for the sake of discussion.
It was simply a mistake Coffman’s team could not afford for him to make, and not one easily rationalized away.
It wasn’t as if a defensive back jumped the route, or that Coffman simply didn’t see a linebacker dropping back into coverage. Coffman in fact stared down his intended receiver, tight end Ted Bolser, and there was no possibility he could have missed seeing the Navy defenders between himself and Bolser, who was blanketed.
Yet, rolling to his left and therefore with a somewhat impaired ability to get good zip on the ball, Coffman tried to force a play that had zero potential of being made.
And it was just second down. Indiana was in four-down mode on what was a do-or-die drive. It was a case where throwing the ball safely out of bounds was the only viable option, with two more plays then available to see if the decisive drive could get going.
Discretion should have been the better part of valor.
It marked the second straight week Coffman had done almost exactly the same thing. Against Ohio State, before giving way to Nate Sudfeld down the stretch, Coffman had rolled to his left on two straight plays and had thrown consecutive passes that probably should have been picked, including one that was initially ruled an interception before replay overturned the call.
One of the key signs for any young player is that they learn from mistakes, particularly errors that can potentially cost their team possession of the football.
If that doesn’t happen, perhaps the bench should beckon. A little pine time is sometimes the very best teacher.
Having said all that, I think it wrong to call for a change at quarterback. That is strictly within the coaches’ purview. Quarterbacks tend to get too much credit or blame, depending upon the circumstances, and I’m well aware that when a football team has struggled in some fashion — and five consecutive close losses constitute a bit of a struggle — the most popular guy among fans and pundits is always the backup quarterback. I think I’ve been guilty of that, too, this season.
I haven’t cut Coffman much slack, and I’ve been enticed by Sudfeld’s potential. Sudfeld is taller and, to me, looks like he throws a better deep ball and seems quite instinctive out there. And the team seems to rally around Sudfeld readily when he’s in, especially toward the end of games. But Coffman has started, and has generally shown he merits starting.
Coffman’s play is a primary reason Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing offense, ranks second in total offense and is third in scoring offense. Individually, Coffman ranks fourth among league passers and is completing 64 percent of his throws. His 33 completions against Michigan State were the fourth highest single-game total in IU history.
And I frankly believe this Indiana coaching staff knows what it’s doing. If the coaches reach a point they think Sudfeld gives IU the best chance to win, they’ll play him, but not before. If they feel they haven’t reached that point, who am I to argue?
The bottom line is this: Indiana has played almost the entire season with its backup quarterbacks, neither of whom had any prior experience at this level of play. Both have shown better, I think, than any IU quarterback did last season before Tre Roberson took over the job and hit a bit of a stride in the latter half of the campaign.
Just as the program overall is still experiencing some growing pains while simultaneously showcasing progress and potential, the same holds true for its current quarterbacks. And both seem like smart, personable, classy young guys.
Bad plays are going to happen. The key is to reduce their frequency.
And my bet is that the next time Coffman rolls to his left at crunchtime, with the game potentially on the line and his primary receiver covered, he’ll make a better choice.

15 comments

  1. Good summary. I must admit that my fan block is rumbling and hoping to see Sudfeld as well. Your analysis makes sense and highlights the impact of film study, practice and leadership qualities in the locker room.

  2. You made a couple references that seemed to criticize Coffman for a calling a play that has him rolling to his left. Have they turned over play calling chores to Cam?

    We have certainly been getting better performances out of our #2 and #3 quarterbacks than we were getting out of Dusty and EWB last season.

    Whatever happened to them? If they were truly Big Ten caliber recruits when we signed them they must have gotten a ton of offers.

  3. “Having said all that, I think it wrong to call for a change at quarterback. That is strictly within the coaches’ purview.”

    What does this mean? Does it mean it would be wrong to ever call for a change anywhere in any lineup because that is strictly within the coaches’ purview? So, if a coach decided to start a weak-armed walk-on who lobs six interceptions a game, it would always be wrong to call for a change?

    And how is a change in the starting lineup strictly within the coaches’ purview — and therefore immune to disagreement from others — any more than any other decision coaches make that impact the success of their team?

  4. I agree with most of that. Cam has looked very good most of the time. However, he has yet to play well for an ENTIRE game. Most importantly, when the team needs him most, he falls apart under the pressure. As you mentioned the OSU game when he threw 2 passes in a row that should have been picked. And of course, the famous pick that sealed our loss to Navy. While it’s hard to put the loss entirely on him because of one play, he did have the chance to lead us down the field for a score (as he did all game long) but the fact is that he choked.

    I’m very much torn on the 2 QBs. I do believe Sudfeld has the most potential, and seems to play with a ton of confidence and the entire offense responds to it. But we haven’t seen him play for an extended period of time. The coaches must see something in Cam during the week that lead them to believe he is the man for the job. Or possibly, Cam is doing just enough to keep the job.

    Personally, I would love to see Sudfeld get the nod for the Illinois game. We are riding a 5 game skid and don’t have anything to lose by trying a new QB. If Nate can play an entire game the way we’ve seen him play for short amounts of time, I think it would be for the best…but who the hell am I..just a fan..

  5. As always the most popular player on a team with a wanting record is the back-up QB. There are just some things that never change.

  6. Cam’s confidence seems to come and go. His performance goes from awesome to abysmal. I think he plays head games with himself.

  7. While there is that element of truth to the “the most popular guy among fans and pundits is always the backup quarterback” comment, you can’t just dismiss the cries that simple.

    There is also truth to the fact we are not in the practice, the film room or the locker room. That doesn’t mean we don’t have eyes.

    Coffman has done a great job, better than I ever expected him to do. My problem has been and will remain his calm under pressure until he shows me otherwise.

    Where you failed in your argument Andy is you only talked about the Navy game. You ignore that Coffman has been replaced once for injury and twice for under performing prior to the Navy game by Sudfeld. In all 3 games, Sudfeld looked better and by the numbers, he performed better than Coffman. That said, it has to be noted that he done this in moments that he really had nothing to lose, so he could play a little more free, but playing free didn’t lead to costly mistakes like Coffman had against Navy.

    I might be off base, but it’s my opinion and I stick by it.

  8. …again, let’s not forget that some of the ‘meltdown’ at the end of the last game had absolutely nothing to do with Cam. There were two major brain farts by a running back and a receiver.

  9. Don’t worry about the critics, Andy! The most important thing is we know and appreciate that you stand behind your teams and have their back no matter what, whether it’s the Hoosiers or the Cardinals!!

  10. If we aren’t to discuss the successes and shortcomings of players and coaches, then what is the purpose of the blog? For instance,

    1. Sudfeld has played well when given his opportunities.
    2. Sudfeld’s redshirt has been blown.
    3. The head coach(regardless of whether or not one believes him to be wonderful or horrible) has himself stated that both of these QBs are starters, and that they would both play.
    4. Coffman has player well at times and at other times not so well.
    5. The team is in the midst of a five game losing streak when several of these games were very winnable.
    6. The two former quarterbacks apparently did not fit the qualifications for this coach. They are no longer here and are no longer the issue. They both appeared to me to be fine student-athletes who did their best. One of them was an academic award winner. I thank them for their effort and wish them the best wherever they are.
    7. Winless in the conference.

    Something needs to change. IMHO the kid deserves a chance to play.

    No, I’m not the coach, and I’m not at practice but if whoever plays Saturday throws multiple TDs or interceptions, does that mean I can’t tell if the team is playing well with him?

    By the way Andy, I really like this new feature. If you were trying to get me worked up, I think you succeeded. Maybe that’s the purpose of the blog?

  11. Glad you could step back and look at the whole field Andy. This was never going to be a quick fix. Seems to me it’s clear Kevin Wilson has understood this and has set about changing the program at its roots.

    Nothing else would have a chance of success. It’s silly to keep pretending there’s enough expertise and professionalism among us to offer advice.

  12. Tsao- it’s only advice it it reaches the ears of someone who is listening, and most coaches probably don’t listen (read) here. KevinK is right that we’re not the coaching staff but the whole point of this blog is to let us have fun flapping our electronic lips.

    And although I’m one that thnks Sud deserves a start, we really can’t seriosuly expect our offense to be producing many more points than it has been-31 v. MSU, 49 v. OSU, 29 v. NU, and 30 v. Navy. The Navy total might have been higher but for the fact than Navy’s offense eats up a lot of clock, and the NU production was not stellar, but these well above average conf. totals; would starting Sud really add that much? To those frustrated with Wilson, I say IU is halfway there- the other half being a defense that can consitently hold the other side to twenty-five or less a game. With that kind of D, IU is 5-2 instead of the other way around.

    My boy and I will be at the NU-Iowa game tomorrow, but I’ll have my transistor radio (remember those?) tuned to the IU-UI game so that I can really annoy those cake-eating Wildcat fans as I give them the blow-by-blow of IU’s win!

  13. Davis, perhaps so. Still, one thing is to voice advice as an exercise we enjoy, another is to to shake the rug with someone standing on it.

    I’ve argue with myself on the Cam vs. Sudfeld question. Came down on the side that Wilson seems to have it under control. I think he understands that stability is a huge part of creating an environment and culture the program needs.
    I don’t know what the variables are for him on the qb question. Sudfeld could be the better mid to long range passer. Or, it may be that Wilson’s offense is designed on up-tempo, continual motion (side-to-side, more like Wilson’s version of a bkb motion or a two-touch soccer offense that requires a qb with a hand for short ‘touch’ passing).

    It also may require the qb to have a huge ‘recycling menu’ of plays at his (mental)disposal. What it does in the second quarter may be as important in impact eroding the (other team’s defense) in the fourth as what it actually does on any one play. Also, the tempo and continual movement) help to neutralize size and speed differences with teams like OSU. (Northwestern actually handled it; partly because they are from the same school of football-thought and Fitzgerald- with the same blood lines as Wilson- threw it right back at us while adding his variation, two 3-skill qb’s and doubling down on their tempo.

    It’s actually been lots of fun to watch. We may be part of college football’s ‘pushing from the inside on the outside envelope’. I think its making more willing to be patient (than normal) and just watch it all evolve at IU.

    Enjoy it with your boy in Evanston. Can’t quite picture the concept of their getting North Shore nuts with you letting out “Hoosiers!” yelps quite yet.

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