Penix ready to raise his voice this spring

Returning starter Peyton Ramsey and Utah transfer Jack Tuttle will split the snaps at quarterback when Indiana opens its first practice of the spring on Saturday.

In the background, Michael Penix will wait his turn.

Penix remains a contender for IU’s starting job in 2019, but it’ll be a few months before he’s able to start making his case. The rising redshirt freshman continues to rehab the ACL tear that ended his initial college season in October, working his way back from the first serious injury of his athletic career.

The good news, according to Indiana strength and conditioning coach David Ballou, is that Penix appears ahead of schedule in the process. Although the injury will keep him out of head-to-head competition this spring, limiting him to skeleton drills and one-on-one throwing, the Hoosiers anticipate Penix will be fully-cleared for competition later this summer.

In the meantime, there’s still plenty for Penix to do in the weeks ahead. For the young quarterback, it starts with talking.

That’s the challenge IU coach Tom Allen has issued to Penix this spring — get loud, get vocal and command the position like a starting quarterback should.

“He has to take that next step of verbally leading the team,” Allen said. “That may not be what his personality is comfortable doing because he’s a quiet guy …. (but) we talked about that as a team. We had some really good leaders on the team last year, but they were quiet. It has to change and we have got some guys that recognize that and are responding to that.”

Count Penix among them.

After suffering his ACL injury during IU’s loss to Penn State on Oct. 20, Penix was forced to face the first patch of adversity in his football life.

According to those inside Indiana’s football program, Penix has emerged better for what the process has taught him. The injury made him tougher, fortifying his mental approach as he’s fought through the rehab grind with impressive results.

“Mike’s in a really good place,” Ballou said. “He’s ahead of where I thought he’d be right now. You go in (the weight room) and watch him work out right now and you’d never know anything’s wrong with him.

“… I think it’s made him a better leader, as well, because sometimes you get zapped out of that. When you get hurt and you get shelved like that, you get pulled back from the team a little bit and you miss that. You get back in there and you’ve got that energy, and you want to get back around them. He’s been a lot more vocal. Obviously, Mike came here as an early enrollee, so he’s not going to come in vocal, but he’s a lot more vocal now than he was even in the summer last year, so I feel good about that, too.”

Penix has the physical tools to compete for IU’s starting job, as evidenced during his three appearances in 2018. The Tampa, Fla. native demonstrated the best arm strength of Indiana’s quarterbacks, completing 61.8 percent (21-for-34) of his passes for 219 yards with one touchdown.

For Penix, the next step is honing all the additional skills that go into his position. Allen wants the freshman to continue to assert himself in the quarterback competition, even while he’s limited this spring.

In doing so, the IU coach hopes to hear Penix providing an active voice on the field, as well as in the quarterback room. Allen wants him to confront teammates and hold them accountable if a route is run incorrectly, or if an assignment is missed. More than anything, Allen wants to see Penix rise to meet the expectations for playing quarterback in the Big Ten.

“I feel like I speak a lot, but sometimes coaches don’t see it,” Penix said with a smile on Thursday. “… (I’ll) just continue to encourage other people, like when times are tough, especially. When you’re tired, speak up and talk to the rest of the team and encourage them to keep working, keep doing their best every single day.”

At the same time, Penix is looking forward to getting back in the mix.

Penix says there’s a positive atmosphere inside of the Indiana quarterback room, with Ramsey, Tuttle and himself all vying for the first team reps. Whether Tuttle, a redshirt freshman, is granted immediate eligibility for this fall has yet to be decided by the NCAA. While Indiana waits on that ruling, Tuttle and Ramsey will take turns operating under center in newly-hired coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s offense.

Penix isn’t concerned that the spring will put him too far behind the others.

“I’ll still be at every single practice, I’ll be at every single meeting, so I’ll get all the mental reps,” he said. “I’m still gonna be throwing. It’s just not live. Usually, the quarterback’s not live anyways, so it’s not too much different.”

All the while, Penix knows what he needs to do to seize the opportunity. The starting job will be there for the taking this fall, and Penix is eager to make his move.

“Just knowing that I was out there with the team and playing all together, it just gave me confidence,” Penix said. “A lot of people get injured. It’s just a minor setback for a major comeback. So I’ll be back.”

15 comments

  1. Sure do hope we can get Penix or Tuttle on the field in a major way this year and they prove to be as advertised. Ramsey is a good tough kid, but he just does not have a B1G caliber arm. Being able to game plan around this is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Especially against the upper levels of B1G competition.

  2. The last 2 years we got stories about what vocal leaders Lagow and then Ramsey had become. Both were supposed to be great leaders and then both under performed on the field. I’ve met Joe Montana and Roger Staubach. Neither were “vocal” leaders yet both were great quarterbacks. Mike Penix is going to lead and inspire confidence by making plays. Letting his talent speak for itself is a nice change of pace from the last two years. The biggest cheerleader isn’t necessarily the best player. And forcing the most talented player to become a cheerleader probably isn’t the best idea.

    1. 123,
      I agree the QB must command the respect of his teammates with his play on the field, not just be popular to the team. Anything else is a recipe for what IUFB has seen for the last 130 years. Lagow was vocal with a strong arm but too slow footed for a weak and inexperienced OL 2 years ago. Ramsey may be vocal and able to run, but can’t throw deep enough to pull a defense out of 8,9, and 10 men in the box. Don’t care how quick footed you are, with that many defenders in the box you will have limited effectiveness with a dink and dunk offense. Penix and Tuttle need to be able to speak their mind as needed, but play on the field, as you said, is the biggest statement any QB needs to make. A QB can’t be overly shy, but neither does a QB have be all that vocal if you can play a a high level.

  3. What was it that I heard a former NFL player say, “You can’t fool a locker room full of your teammates.” The guys on this team will know who has the ability to lead them, to make them better, and who has the skills that make the difference between a close loss and a win. I doubt how vocal they are will make any difference at all. My hope is that the coaches come to share the same understanding.

  4. I think of quarterbacks more as generals than cheerleaders. Your desire is to lead….from the battlefield. Your leadership skills come to the forefront via calm and quite determination …and natural confidence in abilities.
    Tom Allen appears to lack a great deal of maturity. Everything is worn on the sleeve. Theatrics become the order of the day for every minor good…or bad play. The style is as if coaching puppies in potty training exercises and throwing a snack treat along with giant outbursts of affirmation when the pup hits the paper. I have my theories as to why there is such lack of social maturity….Saw the same thing with Crean. Impressionable. Easily ingratiated. Fawns over certain traits. Critical decisions get conflicted between loyalties/impressions and capabilities. Emotion takes over and investment in “favorites” based on limited parameters and shallow levels of maturity fosters growth in those who desire to pull/manipulate the strings of your limited sophistication in human variances/tendencies/expression while frustrating or driving away others.
    I don’t understand the need to make a prop out of Penix. Let the young man be comfortable in his own skin. Allow him to lead when he is ready to lead. Understand his frustrations in not being out there and encourage him to believe your eye will be fair when his time comes. Force-feeding a young man by heaving treat biscuits at everyone…is not leadership.

  5. Sounds like benching Ramsey…might be as difficult as it was for Crean to bench Verdell Jones III. I wouldn’t get my hopes up, Hoosier fans. This looks like Dawkins all over again….It’s Peyton’s job to lose…..while we lose….and we lose some more. “Could you hand me that clipboard, Michael?”

    1. H4H,
      If TA pulls that stunt again with Ramsey, it is time to cut your loses at the end of the season.

  6. There is a faction, my friend…There is a faction wanting that “stunt” again. A program doesn’t remain dysfunctional for this long without the oddities of nepotism and unfounded loyalties. Though the stands don’t fill…and the volumes of dollars only a fraction of what could be, there are those who can still profit via the BigTen’s football oddity.

  7. This season IU has a chance to have a very talented QB leading the team and the OC coaching the QBs knowing which player will be best for the offense. I expect that Penix or maybe Tuttle will be the starter but I have been surprised in the past.

  8. Is IU quarterback going to come down to whoever can do the best summersalt, perform the best back flip, who has the loudest voice, who can cheer in tune, who has the prettiest pom poms, who can fit into a cheerleader outfit or who can complete a pass downfield?

  9. With the new OC’s new offense, each of the three QBs start from scratch. There should not be any advantage tied to knowledge of the previous offense, the playbook, etc. Familiarity with one’s teammates should be a significant factor in determine who starts at QB. So it should come down to skills. And if our new OC can’t see the difference in arm talent between Penix, Tuttle and Ramsey, he’s not worth the money he’s being paid. But I trust he is worth every penny and that he will quickly realize that either Penix or Tuttle give the team a more potent, versatile attack. Ramsey will make a very good back-up.

  10. Pretty astute observations. I’ll just be glad if the compliance office provided all of the paperwork, crossed all of the t’s with signatures. On the surface, Tuttle should have been cleared weeks ago based on other, even more complicated transfer requests. I pointed this out weeks ago and many of you thought I was making something out of nothing. Hope you were right.

  11. I didn’t Brad. I was equally suspicious of the NCAA’s approval process. They look for ways to appear relevant by hassling less-wealthy athletic programs over relatively small, insignificant matters while being totally feckless and cowardly when it comes to holding the wealthiest athletic programs accountable for major violations (UNC’s academic fraud, Louisville BB, etc.). The people who make up the NCAA are “posers” who major in minors and who work hard to appear to be enforcing the rules. They know who pays for their generous salaries and palatial office buildings, and their first priority is to sustain those perks. Those schools that they identify as being most essential to generating revenue often get a slap on the wrist while the less-wealthy schools get hassled for minor administrative issues. At the very least, the NCAA has a major problem with optics and how they are perceived. And if we learn that some IU staffer screwed up the paperwork, that person should be fired. Having Tuttle on the roster next September is essential for IU Football.

  12. Having Tuttle and Penix eligible for the 2019 season is very important for IUFB in 2019. The success for DeBoer’s offense will be determined by an improvement in the QB. IU has the skilled players to be very good so the OL and QB are the offensive questions heading into 2019.

    The NCAA has a bad record on enforcement because of the uneven way they have ruled on issues. Root was approved last year but it took until after the String Game to gain the approval. I hope Tuttle’s comes through as IU needs all three QBs ready to compete in the Fall.

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