Hoosiers evaluating QB options this spring

At some point prior to the Sept. 1 season opener at Florida International, Indiana coach Tom Allen will have a decision to make.

Does he start Peyton Ramsey, who gained experience as IU’s starting quarterback for parts of last season?

Does he start Michael Penix, a true freshman southpaw who enrolled at Indiana in January with hopes of getting a leg up in the quarterback competition?

Or, does he start someone else entirely?

Monitoring the quarterback situation will be one of Indiana’s most pressing objectives this spring.

For Indiana offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, the good news is that Ramsey and Penix have both looked capable as the Hoosiers have moved through the first week of spring practice. Each quarterback brings different strengths to the IU arm’s race and, right now, they’ve both delivered encouraging results.

“I like where our quarterbacks are right now,” DeBord said.

The Hoosiers need stability at the position after dealing with inconsistent results during the past two seasons. Ramsey, who started four of the nine games he played last season as a redshirt freshman, may at least have the early advantage given his experience on the field last season.

Ramsey completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,252 yards, with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2017. With former IU quarterback Richard Lagow struggling, Ramsey was handed the starting job in early October, and he started all four games that month before suffering an unspecified injury on Oct. 28 at Maryland. He didn’t throw another pass the rest of the season.

Across the first three practices of the spring, DeBord says Ramsey has looked the part of a player drawing off last season’s playing time.

“I want to say it was Sunday’s practice, he was 21-of-24 with two drops,” DeBord said. “That’s pretty good. he really is taking what the defense gives him. He’s not forcing the ball. You see where last year’s experiences are helping him right now.”

On the other hand, Penix, a former Tennessee commit who chose IU over Florida State and South Florida, appears to have a more electric arm, firing tight, crisp passes to receivers across the field.

And he’s quickly picking up the playbook.

“I’m pleasantly surprised how fast he’s learned as a quarterback,” DeBord said. “We do a lot of different things, things he’s got to be aware of protection-wise and progression throwing. But we’re really happy with where he is right now. He’s got to get better, but I’m talking about a guy who just went through three practices without knowing anything before he started. I like that.”

Nick Tronti, who redshirted last season as a freshman, is also getting snaps this spring. Because he didn’t get many snaps last season, the Hoosiers are simply trying to get him more involved.

It’s also not out of the question that Indiana could add a graduate transfer, though any movement there wouldn’t come until after spring practice has ended.

For now, the Hoosiers are rolling with the arms they have.

“One thing I notice is the competition,” receiver Nick Westbrook said. “Peyton, I like how he’s stepped up as a leader. He has the most experience out of that group right now, so he knows that he’s the leader of the group and he’s taking that to his advantage, helping out the younger guys.

“… It’s great to see Mike. He’s not backing down from the challenge. He knows that he just came in, but he doesn’t care. He’s fighting for that spot just as well.”


  1. The best thing about QBs this Spring and in the 2018 campaign is all three [four if Taylor ends up at QB] are the same style of QB that fit this offense. Who ever emerges as the starter this Fall will benefit from a strong running game if the OL comes together.

    This staff is recruiting QBs that fit the system which IU hasn’t had for seven years. Unlike last year where IU ran two different offenses for two different type of QBs; this year the team will have one offense they rep over and over.

    I am excited to see how the young players IE Walker, Taylor, Penix, Hewitt – can add to the offense in 2018. I expect the offense will average over 32 points a game in 2018 which would give the defense enough cushion to win games.

  2. …”QB’s that fit the system which IU hasn’t had for 7 years”?…Who’s system?… Wilson wanted pro style QB’s that is why he decided on NS starting over TR. Kiel was a pro style QB, so was Cam Coffman as was Brandon Peters along with Lagow. I could argue Tommy Stevens is more pro style than D/T. Ramsey is the 1 exception. You may prefer D/T but Kevin Wilson the HC for 6 of the last 7 seasons preferred pro style. HC Allen leans D/T. History is history and does not need rewritten.

  3. You named QBs not at IU but ignored Zander and the fact that Wilson, I was a supporter for the good he did at IU, couldn’t bring in the Pro QB he wanted. Sudfeld followed coach Littrel to IU so the Pro QBs he brought in was Coffman no rewritting of history. The three QBs he brought in were Coffman, Zander, and Ramsey which are one Pro QB and two DT QBs. Coach Wilso struggled to bring in the QBs he wanted. It shows that it isn’t what you want at QB but who you can bring in.

    The only QBs I prefer are the type that can win and IU can get. As a HS coach I had to deal with what type came through the program so I see good in both types. The current coaching staff at least is able to bring in the same style of QB [Tronti, Penix, and Taylor] and are improving the level of QB. How well they do will only be determined over the next two recruiting classes.

  4. Puhleeze, do you actually believe if he had not wanted Sudfeld that he would have been offered a ride to Bloomington? You’ve tried rewriting history again by not recognizing pro style was Wilson’s preference. Yes I did forget AD. What Lagow doesn’t count as pro style? Yes Wilson did not get many but his choice was definitely pro style. HS experience is simply filler and frivolity in this argument.

  5. vesuvius13 is a lava, not a fighta.

    Mount Vesuvius has erupted many times. The famous eruption in AD 79 was preceded by numerous others in prehistory, including at least three significantly larger ones, the best known being the Avellino eruption around 1800 BC which engulfed several Bronze Age settlements. Since AD 79, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly in 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500.[19] The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century (especially in 1779 and 1794), eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929 and 1944. There have been no eruptions since 1944, and none of the eruptions after AD 79 were as large or destructive as the Pompeian one (courtesy: Wikipedia).

    I would love to know the true story of how/why Zander got brought into a Big Ten football league he had no business.
    We’ve all seen those ugly boxing matches where one guy clearly doesn’t belong in a ring against a killer puncher…or much more highly skilled fighter. I watched one of those ugly fights the other night on HBO… Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin. It was sad and nearly terrifying in a pathetic sort of way…Mikhalkin wasn’t in the same league as the champion Kovalev. Mikhalkin brought some skills and an awkward southpaw style… but he had nothing of the punching power and brutal fighting forces of the title holder. His face was carved up by the fifth round. The fight was stopped due to enormous gashes to his face— one at the cheek bone and the other on his nose bridge. Hard to watch. They were wide cuts. Looked like someone took a kitchen knife to Mikhalkin’s face. His face was red and swollen to the point of subbing for a helpless punching bag..His heart did not know the meaning of quit. Mikhalkin did not belong and it was criminal to have him in that ring for one second longer.
    And that was Zander Diamonte to Big Ten football. Wilson was more humane than the fight referee orthe ringside doctor for the Kovalev vs. Mikhalkin bout. Wilson did not allow Zander to continue in such danger for very long.

    I have a hard time believing Zander was a recruit Wilson was in strong support. Zander simply didn’t belong in a Big Ten fight. It’s not that he didn’t have the heart…but sometimes the heart is too big for your own good.
    I think we sort of used Hollywood Zander for a bit of our own cheap ratings/publicity. We should never be so desperate for football attention as to put a young man in danger. It was a fight that should have never been scheduled.

  6. For 2 years, IU hasn’t had the line play to run the ball effectively. Deborg’s offense is anything but innovative or creative. This is the happy season when every new player is the next All-American. I don’t expect miracles from this talent pool or coaching staff. The O line is the key. Wes Martin is good. Cronk needs to be more physical. The rest have to step up and step up big.

  7. Even with the OL injuries in 2016 Devine Redding gained over 1k yd. If OL Coach Hiller can become more Frey-like we’ll see a stiffer more competent line play. But in 2017 he did not instill a ‘nastiness’ in their game. OL coaching is so defining.

  8. Despite scoring more points than a more talented offense did in 2016, 2017 was horrible to the some posters here. I get people are unhappy with the change in offense but they ignore the slight improvement over 2016 in points. I was not happy with not only the offense in 2016 but also 2017. However I could see the young new starters and know another year would be the time to judge the new coaches on offense. If there isn’t a big improvement on offense in 2018 then criticism will be well founded even though we are counting on a young QB and RBs.

    HC, I know Wilson wanted drop back passers but don’t ignore he struggled bringing them to IU. I agree Wilson was more innovative in offense finding ways to make it go no matter what the case was. However his last three years saw two years of limited offensive scoring – 2014, 2016. If IU offense scores less than 32 points a game this year it will be disappointing and time for a change on the offensive staff.

    1. …along with 2 of the last 3 years under Wilson IU earned bowl invites…Still hold damn little enthusiasm for an offensive coaching staff that can’t identify playmakers faster than I can. What did they do during Fall Camp? Must have picked skilled positions rotation out of a hat full of names. Not reassured in the least they’ll recognize playmakers in the incoming Frosh class or returning Redshirt Frosh. Not reassuring at all after witnessing last seasons play calling and mismanagement of game day players. Mike Hart should have been gone after the Virginia game. You know way more FB than me. That difference is a multiple of about 6x more than the current RB coach. He’s a coaching ‘dud’!

  9. H4H, I would point out Italy faces another eruption from Vesuvius as it is rumbling now. Italy has three active volcanoes with Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli. Zander was too small to play many games at QB but I would have loved to see him at slot running and catching passes even throwing a pass now and then. Maybe Zander didn’t want to play that role as I always wondered why Wilson didn’t play him at the slot.

    123, you are on the money about the OL in the coming season. They need to be stouter and play more physical. I hope they develop the power and strength to play more physical football in 2018. IU has talented RBs , two of them have experience from 2017, to give defenses problems if the OL is more effective this year. We should get back two talented receivers to go with Timian and Whop that have been very effective. It is the making of a more productive offense but only if the OL performs at a B1G level. Coach Hiller has sent more than 25 players to the NFL so I am confidant he will get everything out of the OL there is to get.

  10. IU has recruited long, athletic but light lineman that can get to blocks on the second level. But they lack the strength to blow guys out when the line is crowded. My hope that a guy like Nworah, the son of an African prince, has the size and strength to start pancaking some people. If he earn a nickname like IHOP, IU will be in good shape. Otherwise, it will be like last year, follow Wes Martin in any short yardage situation because they will be running right behind him every time again.

    1. 123,
      I agree with your assessment regarding the strength issue for IU linemen. Which is why I am extremely curious about the new strength and conditioning program at IU. I am still awaiting an answer as to the uniqueness of this program. If it is unique, then IU has somehow managed to find the good fortune to be on the cutting edge of something for once in football of all places.

      Nothing beats sheer speed and quickness on the football field in most cases. Even if there is a size and strength deficiency quickness can negate the problem if the gap is not too large. If you can hit first hard enough quick enough, the advantage can still be gained. This is why I think TA is looking first at body types which fit his system, then work on conditioning them to the level needed.

      It is an interesting experiment, especially if successful. Like I said before, I would really like to know if what IU is doing in the strength and conditioning program is significantly different than other programs. If it is and is successful, it has the potential to make all the difference in the world to the IU FB program. It would take something like this to rescue IUFB out of the pit of failure it has been in for so long.

      1. Based on what I have researched Dr Rhea and Ballou have developed a different system. There are performance centers that use measurements to enhance certain skills. As Dr Rhea points out other people are using there system but strength coaches don’t want to get away from the programs they grew up in and have coached. What IU is doing differently is using the system as part of their lifting program adjusting to individuals according to what the numbers show are their weaknesses.

        This is a cutting edge program but the question is how much does do, compared to traditional programs. Previous stops has shown it works and coach Allen has commented on how much difference he sees in the players already. Like you I hope it helps rescue IUFB from the pits of playing close but losing. I think it can by improving players but also bringing better athletes in to take advantage of the system.

        1. V13,
          I hope your are correct with this being unique. If so, TA is taking a calculated roll of the dice for it to be a difference maker in his program. The uniqueness of the strength and conditioning program also lends credence to the proposition that TA is recruiting a specific body type to his program rather than try to compete with the bigger programs for the top talent. It would be difficult, if not impossible for IUFB to go head to head with the entrenched football powers for the top talent. Therefore you must think outside the box to gain competitiveness. Either you must have a cutting edge style of playing the game or something else.

          Not to say a revolutionary approach to playing the game is impossible, but it is somewhat improbable in this day and age. However if you have a revolutionary approach to training up lower star athletes it could be ground breaking. I know saying revolutionary and ground breaking in the same breath as IUFB is a very long stretch, but I can see the possibilities.

          If TA has realized he has to do some radically different to improve IUFB fortunes, then maybe this is his strategy. Take talent passed over by the bigs and use a revolutionary training program to place said talent on par with what upper tier programs recruit. It would make TA a genius if it works and no better than the long list of former IU coaches if it fails. As I see it TA has nothing to lose, why no roll the dice and see if it will work.

          The only thing I can say is if by some miracle it does work, Hoosier nation bettered be prepared to offer TA and his top staff whatever is necessary to keep them. I’d be willing to rename the stadium, the town, or even the university; if he could pull this off!

          1. You are right about IU needing some radical thinking about IUFB, that is why I loved when Littrel was the coach for Wilson. His offense turned UNC football into a dangerous offense and now is turning around his on team down in Texas. IU does need to do something different than other teams to turn things around. This SC system, 4-2-5 defense, and the RPO offense is coach Allen’s try to turn around IUFB. I hope his ideas make IUFB much better and IU has to pay the coaches much more in a few years.

          2. V13,

            I sincerely hope this is what TA is up to and that it will pay off sooner rather than later. There is no doubt the only way to bring IUFB up from the bottom of the pit is to think serious outside of the box in literally everything you do in the program. I do not know if this is the methodology behind what TA is doing, nor do I know if it will actually work. If this is indeed what he is up to, then succeed or fail, he is due credit for at least trying.

            Too many former IUFB coaches have come in trying to replicate what they have done at other programs and thinking it will work at IU. What works at OK, LSU, Louisville or anywhere else is likely going to fail at IU. Unless you are a very successful head coach at Miami of Ohio with deep recruiting roots in the Indiana-Ohio region your not going to go very far. Even then, it will only last for a little while without long term good fortune and serious support. Unfortunately such coaches do not fall off the tree everyday and timing is everything.

            Therefore one hopes TA is on the track to find the magic necessary to transform this perennial less than also ran into respectability. I will repeat this often, it is not impossible (ala Kansas State), but it is indeed very difficult.

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