Florida quarterback Mike Penix signs with IU

The priority this month was quarterback.

On Wednesday, midway through the first day of the early-signing period, Indiana filled its need.

The Hoosiers capped the new December signing day with a commitment — and a signed National Letter of Intent — from Florida southpaw Michael Penix, a four-star prospect in the Rivals recruiting database.

Huddled around a laptop in a conference room as they watched Penix choose between IU and Florida State, Indiana coaches let out a collective cheer when the 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback picked the Hoosiers.

Without a clear-cut starter for next season, Penix will enroll at Indiana in time for the upcoming spring semester in order to participate in spring practice and compete for the No. 1 job.

“He came here to compete, to play, and the guys on campus right now, they want to play as well,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “So competition makes you better. We believe that we’re bringing in the guy mid-year that came here to compete for an opportunity to play in the fall. It’s on him to see what he does with it. But I know that that’s his expectation, and I know the guys that are on campus here, it’s their expectation to be the man as well. So that iron-sharpening-iron mentality and structure is what makes us special.”

Even as IU attempts to replace eight key defensive starters and retool an offensive line that struggled throughout the 2017 season, the program’s biggest question remains the quarterback position.

Indiana returns rising redshirt sophomore Peyton Ramsey, who started four of the nine games he played this fall, and rising redshirt freshman Nick Tronti, a former Florida Mr. Football winner.

IU is also bringing in this year’s Indiana Mr. Football winner, Ben Davis quarterback Reese Taylor, who was among the 23 players that signed National Letters of Intent with Indiana on Wednesday. Allen, a former Ben Davis coach, himself, watched closely as Taylor posted eye-popping numbers, passing for 3,150 yards and 40 touchdowns and rushing for 802 yards and 15 scores in leading the Giants to the Class 6A state championship

But will Taylor, a 5-foot-11 prospect, who originally committed to IU in August as an athlete, stick at quarterback — and does Indiana need him there?

That’s a question Allen won’t be able to answer until Taylor arrives in the summer.

“You get him here in the summer, and he’ll start to work with us, and we’ll start that evaluation process of where he fits in best,” Allen said. “I think he kind of has in his mind what he thinks he wants to do, and I know that entails with me just to be able to have a package offensively and then kind of see where that grows from.

“I’ve had guys tell me, ‘Hey, this guy is a slot receiver that I have a lot of respect for, and he really wants to be a corner and a return guy and have that package on offense.’ You never know. He may end up being a quarterback. I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m being very transparent with you, and that’s how I’ve talked to him. He’s a very, very talented football player. He’s tough, and he’s quick, and he’s really, really fast. I’m glad he’s an Indiana Hoosier. We’ll figure out where he plays as we go forward.”

In the meantime, there are no position questions with Penix, who had been committed to Tennessee from April 22 through Dec. 13.

It is Allen’s objective to sign a quarterback each off-season, and once other top targets Terry Wilson (Kentucky) and La’Darius Jefferson (Michigan State) committed elsewhere earlier this month, IU’s attention turned to Penix.

The Tampa Bay Tech star also attracted attention from Oregon, whose former coach, Willie Taggart, took the Florida State job earlier this month. Penix built on a strong junior year by throwing for 2,165 yards and 30 touchdowns with only five interceptions as a senior.

Across his final two years as a starter, he completed 61 touchdown passes with merely six interceptions. He also rushed for 16 touchdowns, and fits the mold Allen and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord prefer as a mobile, athletic quarterback.

DeBord was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator when the Volunteers originally offered Penix.

“He’s listed as a pro-style quarterback on paper, but that’s not what he is,” Allen said. “He’s a dual guy. Really, really gifted athlete. Really good basketball player, could run and jump extremely well and has those qualities. He’s going to come here and compete.”

31 comments

  1. Penix is a big get for IU and helps improve the QB position especially down the road. We will have the RBs and QBs to have a good offense if the OL solidifies and can get back to previous levels IU had in the past few years.

  2. Makes sense that better offensive players are attracted by teams that can get an opposing offense off the field (translation: attracted to teams with improving defenses).
    Maybe better defense does beget better offense on the recruiting scene as well….?

  3. This a very pleasant surprise. I confess that I did not know Penix was on IU’s radar. I thought IU was going after “dual-threat” quarterbacks.

    v13, as for “down the road,” by enrolling in January and going through Spring Ball, down the road may be next September or October. Penix may be the highest rated quarterback IU has signed in decades, and certainly more highly rated than any of the other quarterbacks on IU’s roster. Beating out schools like Arizona, Oregon and Florida State is huge for IU, and suggests that Penix believes he has a chance to be a starter sooner rather than later.

  4. I just watched his tape. And while he’s not what I would consider a “dual threat” quarterback, the kid can move. He can escape and extend plays, and when forced to run, he’s got some wheels. I am impressed and excited by this kid’s signing. And the early signing period probably made the difference between IU getting him and IU losing him to another big-name school. But with the coaching changes affecting Oregon and Florida State, IU appears to have been the best option for this young man. Outstanding!

  5. IU isn’t going after QBs to run as much as they throw but QBs that have “escapability” which Penix and our other QBs do. IU now has QBs that threw for lots of TDs in high school with low single digit INTs. It will be interesting to see how the QB position shakesout because Penix will be in Spring Practice and have all summer to learn the offense. I still expect Tronti or Ramsey to have a leg up on Penix for the 2018 year but he could prove me wrong.

  6. I expect him to start, he’s a great get. He absolutely will be a dual threat qb in my opinion and will be used that way in the scheme IU is looking for. Our class is border line top 30, 35 now. Nice job Allen and company!

  7. Now we can stop with the Reese Taylor is a quarterback nonsense im sorry people a 5’10 170 guy is not a quarterback major college football in somethin other than a wildcat or triple option

  8. An impressive haul by this new coaching staff, and they’re not finished yet. Very promising group of talent. If Allen can produce a winning 2018 season, I’d expect the quality of this recruiting class to become the norm at IU for years to come. As for Taylor, they’re going to give him a look at QB. He get’s a chance to compete for the job. That’s all anyone can expect. But more so than the other quarterbacks on the roster, Taylor has the opportunity to play other positions immediately. If he’s as fast as everyone seems to believe, it’s probably best for his future to play another position. But then again, I keep thinking about guys like Doug Flutie and Russell Wilson. They too were considered too short to play quarterback at a high level. So, it will be fun and interesting to see how things turn out.

    1. Agreed. If he is as fast and nimble as I have heard Taylor may even choose to play another position if he thinks he has a future playing on Sundays.

  9. Reese can play QB and probably will have a package for him this fall. He has said he wants to play defense but it is clear the kid wants to play. Where he will help IU the most we will have to wait and see.

      1. BINGO… and a runner with enough quicks and wiggle to gain 1st downs. Until he isn’t I consider him a playmaker. Somebody, sometime has to make IUFB relevant.

  10. Penix is the best QB prospect since Nate Sudfeld and is a big get. Reese Taylor is also an electric player that could be a great change of pace guy as a wildcat qb. IU has its best recruiting class but mostly because of the number of recruits. IU’s player average still places them in the bottom 3-4 of every Power 5 conference. IU needs to find ways to get more Ronnie Walkers types and fewer developmental guys. That said, I hope they hit gold with their lowest rated player- Noah Pierre out of a small Catholic school in Florida. The guy is a little heat seeking missile. Maybe he grows into the next Bob Sanders.

  11. IU’s class in 2018 looks to have more players and fewer projects like in the past. I am impressed at how hard many of the players play and the high motor they have. This class also has several that look like play makers due to speed and ability. They have star players from several state championship teams along with several that earned all state awards.

    I have to agree with 123 about Noah Pierre as I think he will be my favorite player in this class. He has ball skills you don’t see from other high school DBs and boy does he hit.

    1. Right, Pierre fits the description I hung on Devon Mathews a week ago when he committed. They play and hit like ‘throwbacks’ of intimidators Neal Colzie and Jack Tatum.

  12. IU has just recruited 2 qbs better than anything on the current roster. Penix a high 3 star qb like Tommy Stevens was at D.C. who went to Penn State bench. (at least he did not go to F.S. and end 3 or more years on bench. Penix, Tronti, and Ramsey are going to have to beat out Taylor to win the qb job. Reese Taylor is a higher 3 star also and would be a 4 if he had better size. 2 qb system? It is there with Penix and Taylor. However, I am giving nod for 1 qb system to R.T. and no nonsense.

  13. t, I would think the nod would go to Penix. Penix had better offers, no matter the rankings. I’m afraid Taylor will struggle to see over a D1 line to pass the ball while Penix won’t have that problem. No matter who starts, it’s a good problem to have. Happy New Year!

  14. Yes, that is a major drawback on R.T. QB has been upgraded at IU. However, I would caution that it is upgrade from a really less than having a legitimate big ten quality qb in its camp. Schools recruiting both these guys already have not necessarily stars but big league qbs.

  15. Around top 40 recruiting class for IU puts them at about 8th in big ten and their respective division is not impressed. However, I feel pretty good about class. It is just a very tough gig. Winning season one game above 500 should satisfy any New Year’s Resolution.

  16. I agree 100%, sign another couple next period and we have a top 25 to 30 class. We are 36 on rivals now. The schedule next year is more forgiving so I’m looking for 7 wins. It will be 20 years as a season ticket holder for me next season, time flies. Honestly, I’m thrilled with this class. Kudos to Allen and coaching staff!

  17. I agree that Allen and staff deserve kudos for this class. And it is exciting to note that this class may not be finished yet. Interesting to see if coaching changes take place after the bowl games are over and if those coaching changes affect certain un-committed players. The early signing period is a huge benefit to schools like IU, and Allen and his staff deserve credit for taking full advantage of it.

    As for the ranking of this class, if IU can produce a winning season or two, and continue to have players drafted every year, we should start to see recruiting classes ranked in the top 30 to 35 every year. And if that places IU in the top 7 in the Big Ten every year, that’s fine with me. Realistically, IU is never going to have a recruiting class ranked higher than fifth in the Big Ten. But real good quarterbacks are a force-multiplier. So you can have a recruiting class ranked 36th in the nation, but if you have a great quarterback, that quarterback can make the difference between a record of 7-6 and a record of 9 – 4. In the 2016 season, with better quarterback play, instead of a 6 – 7 record, IU could have produced a record of 8 – 5. We just have to convince one guy a year like Tommy Stevens that he’s got a much better chance of being a star at IU than he does playing at Penn State.

    1. You know, there is always much teeth gnashing about players transferring. If I was recruited to be ‘the next big thing’ for a program and then learned that the reality was I’d spend 4 years backing up ‘the other next big thing’ I’d be packing my bags.

      For every story of a third string quarterback leading OSU to the title there are a hundred non-stories of talented kids running the scout team for their entire career who you never heard of.

      Screw that.

      Does anybody think the fourth string guy at Alabama or Southern Cal wouldn’t have started for the Hoosiers this year?

      I understand that there are kids who have dreamed of playing for a certain school. I coached a kid who is now a Miami Dolphins coach who, though he was recruited as a DI quarterback, never played a snap in four years. Not one. He was a very smart young man who had plotted out a coaching trajectory. He was coaching in the NFL in, I believe, 4 years after graduation.

      But, I’d seek out my level and find some playing time.

  18. I noticed a few years ago UCLA had like 3 4 star qb’s on roster with a 3 star. I guess they like the California weather and school. Most of the top schools are well equipped at qb. Brandon Peters/Avon HS at Mich and now Mississippi State transfer. Will Peters be put aside? Just another level of competition at these schools. Interesting. Even Purdue gets some decent qbs. Chet, you are right in top programs there are many setting on the bench across country and would rather do that than play for a school like IU. Looks how fast qbs were willing to transfer under K.W. After Sud injury they were already gone except for A.D.

    1. Yeah, we went from being quarterback rich to putting a skinny kid’s life on the line every game in a heartbeat.

    2. Sud injury they were already gone except for A.D.

      But didn’t Chris Covington blow out his knee that season while playing at the QB position? Covington is a superb athlete….Who knows? Had he not blown out his knee, he may have offered quite the dual threat option at the position. Personally, I don’t think Wilson ever wanted to put Xanadu Diamonte onto the field. I believe he was very concerned for his health/life. There was just no other hand to play.
      Michael Vick’s chained-up docile Yellow Labs used as target practice for the killer jaws of his Pit Bulls had better odds of survival than Zander getting hunted or blindsided by Big Ten corners/linebackers.

    1. We’ve said this time and time again but he likes Covington for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s selected memory or just don’t know any other player on the roster.

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