Hoosiers excited by potential of Penix

Stevie Scott remembers being deep enough into a wheel route that he barely expected the football to come his way.

But on that one play in practice, Indiana’s sophomore running back was surprised.

It wasn’t a bird, or a plane. It was a throw from Michael Penix, jetting through the air and deep down the sideline.

“I wasn’t expecting him to throw it as far as he did, but he threw it,” Scott said. “I ran underneath it. It was a beautiful pass.”

After it was announced Monday that Penix won a three-way race for IU’s starting quarterback position, Scott gave a sneak peek into what he’s seen from the redshirt freshman. He knows everyone has only glimpsed at his potential.

Fans saw Penix enter three games in 2018, throwing a total of 34 passes before he tore his ACL against Penn State. Most haven’t been at practice to see Penix spin it since, as he did so marvelously to Scott on that wheel route.

But this Saturday, when IU faces Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium, the program will have a chance to unveil an offense led by a new offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer, as well as a new starting quarterback. And it’s the 19-year-old lefty from Tampa with a live arm.

“In practice, Penix, he’s good,” Scott said. “He just has to show the world, really. I can’t explain too much of what he does in practice, but he’ll definitely be able to show it to the people that’s been watching. And shock the nation, I feel like.”

IU coach Tom Allen came into fall camp saying the Hoosiers’ next quarterback would have to win the team, and Penix certainly has his teammates’ backing. They see what he can become.

At the same time, Allen reiterated Monday how difficult it was to turn from returning starter Peyton Ramsey to Penix. The redshirt junior, who has started 16 games under center, currently sits atop IU’s career completion percentage list (65.8). Allen called him “one of the finest young men” he’s ever known. That made the sitdown with Ramsey, explaining his decision, extremely difficult.

But for a program that’s finished 5-7 the last two years, the move to Penix provides another opportunity for growth.

From the outside, it appears Penix’s arm is just stronger than Ramsey’s. His ceiling, it seems, is just higher.

“It wasn’t what Peyton didn’t do,” Allen said. “It’s more what I believe Mike can be.”

When it’s all said and done, IU hopes the experiences of the last year have strengthened their new starting quarterback.

Allen says Penix is fully recovered from last season’s ACL injury, and the way he responded to the first season-ending injury of his life showed a level of resilience. The way Penix, Ramsey, and redshirt freshman Jack Tuttle handled the competition was also instructive.

“He cares what Peyton thinks, and he wants him supporting him, behind him,” Allen said.

Penix said he has talked with Ramsey since the decision was made.

“He said he’s going to just continue to push me, he’s going to continue to lead the team as well,” Penix said. “He’s going to always make sure that we’re always in the film room together, we are always studying together, making sure we are on point, because you never know.

“We are going to need every single person on the team to be successful.”

Allen was clear in saying the quarterback position will not be a game-to-game decision. Penix is the starter from here on, barring unforeseen circumstances.

That provides some clarity for DeBoer, who going into camp said it would be a challenge to not “lock arms” with one quarterback. He can now build a stronger rapport with Penix.

“It’s developing, and it’s going to be that way all season long,” DeBoer said. “We have not been through any adversity together, and that’s where you become tight is when the bullets are flying and things are intense, and especially when things aren’t going well.

“That’s where the relationship between myself and Mike or whoever is on the field, and not just at quarterback, but the other positions, that’s where we grow, and that’s where we fight. And that’s where, like you said, we lock arms together.”

IU has a depth of supporting pieces. Scott set IU freshman records in 2018 for carries, yards, and touchdowns. Penix also has an offensive line with three senior starters, as well as a pair of fifth-year targets in Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook.

Allen doesn’t necessarily need acts of heroism from Penix on the football field.

“I said, ‘Mike, you just gotta go be you. You don’t have to be Superman,’” Allen said. “Just go be you. Just play football and distribute the football to the guys around you.”

Allen believes Penix is ready to do that. And something he didn’t want to see may have provided further proof.

In a recent scrimmage, a defensive lineman accidentally rolled into Penix’s legs.

“He was probably concerned at first but was like, ‘OK, I’m fine, I took a hit and now I’m good to go,’” Allen said, smiling. “He’s going to get hit on Saturday. So it’s live bullets now. There’s no more blue jerseys. He’s 100 percent.”

Penix agreed.

“That just showed me that I’m ready and I don’t have anything to worry about,” Penix said. “I just need to go out and play.”

45 comments

  1. I’m interested to see how having a quarterback with the mobility of Penix will paly out. I don’t know just how much different the offense will be under DeBoer. It may appear relatively similar to what they showed last year formation-wise, but with the skill players running different routes. I believe the emphasis will be to get the ball to the IU playmakers and let them create a one-on-one mismatch that will lead to more explosive plays.

    The season starts Saturday against Testical Tech, and the first two games should allow the offense to iron some wrinkles. Come week three we’ll have a better understanding as to just how potent the offense actually will be.

    1. No disagreements from me SOSD,
      There is a difference for the receiver when the football is coming to them with the velocity MP can put on it. Most pitchers have a fastball, but there is a difference between the one who can throw it at 80 mph and one who can send it at 98 mph. That is the difference between MP and PR. For the receivers it is the difference between having a chance to make a big play and being waylaid by the DB or worse a LB. Figured the S train would be excited about MP on the field, he remembers the big run he had against PSU not long after MP stepped on the field and PSU couldn’t continue to pack the LOS.

  2. Something that I have not heard talked about much recently that I think is worth noting are some intangibles regarding Penix. Penix seems to be exactly what IU needs in a qb for its current level of play. 1. Penix enrolled early (spring of 2017) as very focused confident in his abilities to accomplish his goal. 2. I don’t know this but when he wasn’t starter last year I never heard one complaint from HIM or team. 3. Nor did I hear any transfer talk. 4. When he was called upon to play in Penn State game he came in game and did his very best until injury. He was excited about opportunity and brought enthusiasm and excitement. 5. He must have attacked his injury and rehabilitation with animalistic motivation; listening, learning, and hard work to get recovered to go at the start of this season. 6. Penix competed and won the job in a positive high character way. This is an observation from the outside from a distance.

  3. well its
    MP
    PR
    JT

    From the article coaches what to stick with the MP …not much rotation..if any at all…
    am ready to see what this kid has.. what type of production he brings..

    i’ll say it again.. if the order stays the same.. at the end of the year .. JT will have his transfer ..wheels on again….

    1. Fan,
      I’m not so sure JT will transfer so easily this time. Last time was an obvious decision for him as the there was total change in offensive strategy at Utah which did not play to his strengths. Why stay in a system you are unsuited for? At IU he may be able to stay patient with the process. If MP stumbles along the way over the next two years, JT could be the starter. If MP does what we all HOPE/Dream for in the next two years, the third year we may all be watching him play on Sundays. If IUFB was so fortunate to have MP play that well, JT would be well positioned to start with two years of eligibility left and a lot of nfl eyes on him as MP’s successor.

      As for PR if he desires, coaching is in his future and he would probably be a very good one. If he still wants to play, I can see him transferring out next year to a competition level better suited to his abilities. I can also see TA paving the way for a coaching career for PR, I would too.

  4. TA will give some reps to Tuttle, just as he gave Penix reps last year. Probably in garbage time or if Penix is struggling in a game. If Tuttle has a lot of potential that DeBoer and TA say he does, then they must assume he’ll be needed on the field sooner or later. And TA and DeBoer should be aware that if Tuttle doesn’t get any reps during the non-conference games, it will increase the likelihood of Tuttle transferring. TA and DeBoer keep pointing out that Tuttle has the tools, but that his key limitation is that he’s never taken a snap in a college game. Well, that should be easy to remedy, especially in this year’s non-conference games. As I said yesterday, if TA and DeBoer are smart, assuming the non-conference games are under control, they’ll give Tuttle significant reps in a real game. That’s one of the reasons IU needs to blow out teams like BSU, Eastern Illinois and UConn.

    Here’s the question TA needs to ask himself. Is it likely that IU will sign another quarterback in the next two recruiting classes who would be as good or better than Tuttle? Probably not! It’s unlikely that any highly rated HS QB is going to sign up to be a third-string QB for a team like IU. It’s one thing to be a freshman third string QB for a power program contending for championships, but not for a program like IU. And given that Ramsey is academically a senior and on track to graduate, and can therefor transfer without sitting out a year, TA and DeBoer need to give Tuttle enough love (i.e., playing time) to keep him motivated and feeling like he’s a valuable member of the team. If not, we could see history repeat itself in the way Wilson lost two quarterbacks to transfer and eventually had to play a freshman linebacker.

    You have to feed the pigeons in order to keep them in the park.

  5. IU is finally beginning to get stability at qb position and will need to continue to get competent TRANSITION from year to year with a good backup/s ready to go anytime. The transfer picture needs to be the exception (relatively rare for those who competently fit system with good ability rather than transferring to a lesser level program). Penix is an example for a starting point. Stay, don’t complain and win job. If you don’t win job work hard and be ready. Participate and enjoy college life and take advantage of what sports (football) and college has to offer (opportunity at your particular school). Yes, there are exceptions. However, they should be somewhat rare. There is no reason for every or most backups to leave or transfer as in case with IU a few years ago.

  6. I do expect to see JT on field when opportunity arises with continued development of Penix. At some point percentages say JT will be needed at some point. If Penix has a super college career JT will be the qb after Penix time is done. That is if JT is as good as they say he is.

  7. t, disagree for kid to stay and tough it out .. while holding a clip board .. especially after yr 2 ..
    tough it out is a mental strain.. and at IU football .. makes zero sense.. go kick butt and play some ball .. have fun .. holding a clip board is no fun.. especially after a win and team is celebrating .. that you had no hand in the win. ( an athlete’s gut will tell them they need to transfer ) i say follow it and never look back …

    true competitors want to compete … i agree .. coaches will give JT .. a shot or two with playing time..
    but couple turn overs.. no TD passes.. he will be holding a clip board ..

    want to see what JT has …just as much as I do MP

  8. Still question whether or not Penix will hold up to the physicality presented by the BigTen East. Will the knee hold up? Will he feel a need to get rid of a ball faster because of the knee?
    Probably the best plan to see how he reacts and holds up against a team we can likely handle pretty well up front. My concern is later down the road.
    My initial view was Tuttle starting because it would give Penix some activity in early games while not pushing him too fast. Penix must be 100% …but the concern is for how long. Did he put on enough mass and gain enough strength to survive on an Indiana football team against the likes of OSU, Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State, MSU, etc…..Cupcakes will tell us little.

    Thankfully, we went with one of the bigger arms. Allen would have lost much of the fan base with more dunk and dink.

  9. I want to see IU’s offense really take off this year and BSU is a game to do that. IU is in a very good situation right now at QB after going through a few seasons of being in danger. How the coaches manage the QBs will go a long way to keep the QB room in good shape.

    I think fans will be surprised by how good Penix is. I want to see if he can make game winning plays with the game on the line. I agree that Tuttle needs to see the field this year to see what he can offer in a game. Some players raise their level of play in game situation, Tuttle deserves to have that chance. At the same time Ramsey has earned the right to get quality reps in the games.

    Penix getting named the starting QB can pay dividends in several ways as players and fans look to opening the season. For recruits looking at IU it shows if you are good enough you can earn playing time no matter who is in front of you. The OL looked better when Penix was in last year so I expect that happens this year. RBs benefit as defenses loosen up to deal with Penix’s arm. Receivers, including TEs, will never know when they may be “the” receiver as Penix has strong enough arm to get the ball anywhere on the field. I look forward to see how coach DeBoer takes advantage of the talent on offense this year.

    1. V13,
      I recommend no one forget something from last year which was the BSU – Notre Dame game. BSU almost caught ND with what would have been a major upset. IUFB should be reminded that teams like BSU can be a major problem even for top level programs.

  10. Ramsey will be the starter if Penix goes down with an injury this year, but Tuttle should get all the plays in garbage time this season. He needs in-game experience for the future. Ramsey does not need to get plays in garbage time, and it would not be worth the risk to put him in those situations.

    I respect any kid who wants to transfer because he’s not getting to play. Given the time these kids invest in order to play a varsity port, how it affects their academics, and the risk of injury they face, if you’re never getting to play in games, it’s just a miserable grind. All work and no play sucks, especially if you know you can play somewhere else.

    Hate to say this because he’s a great young man, but Ramsey is not the future of IU Football. Penix and Tuttle are, and TA should manage their playing time accordingly. My guess is that Ramsey will be a graduate transfer after this season unless Penix suffers another season-ending injury.

  11. I just want the game to look like a Big Ten team playing a MAC team. I want IU to dominate the lines of scrimmage and finish drives with touchdowns, not field goals. I don’t care if they blow them out, just have the game in control the whole way. I also hope the coaching staff and players play with poise and avoid dumb mistakes/penalties.

  12. I was watching the Big Ten Network and the panel was discussing the transfer portal. One panelist mentioned Chris Peterson at the University of Washington. He had two solid QB’s going into preseason camp, and he kept repeating that both would see equal time at the start of the season. Last week he named the starter for game one, and the guy who didn’t get the nod immediately went to the transfer portal. UW isn’t the only program that had this happen. I fear that this will be more the norm than the exception. Too many of these athletes have been told how superior they are, and if they aren’t handed the position they take their ball and go home. The thought of having to develop their skills more than what they were in high school is often beyond their comprehension.

    1. SOSD,

      I know transfers are now a part of ncaa athletics. However, I wonder if how the recruit is brought on board helps in retention despite whether they start or not. By all accounts many thought MP should have started last year early on, but he stuck it out. If the program develops the reputation of being very honest with the recruit and a willingness to help them develop over the long haul, could this not prove useful? These kids get bombarded from all angles with the sales pitch to sign, but going against this and backing it up with results might be just the ticket.

      Just speculating.

  13. SOSD, I hope the transfer portal works itself out as several transfers found out they aren’t starting at their new schools. As more see this happening it should slow down players bailing out just because they didn’t win the starting job. Fields went to Miami just to lose to a freshman and then move to receiver. As players get used to the reality of transferring I expect it to be slowing down in the next year or two.

    I think speculation of IU QBs transferring is premature and something we shouldn’t do. IU has enough negatives around IUFB without speculating about transfers that haven’t happened. Now a transfer in the making is Winters our Freshman RB who put his name in the portal. Why he has done this isn’t reported but I hope it is the overwhelming talent in the RB room.

    1. I think you mean Martell. Fields is the starter at Ohio St. this year. Tate Martell transferred to Miami after Fields transferred to OSU. Fields committed to Georgia, but saw that he would have to sit behind Fromm for a season or two wasn’t his cup of tea and transferred to OSU. I watched the three seasons of QB1 and these three guys were featured on that show. It was a good show.

        1. My son and I watched all three seasons one weekend. Hindsight being what it is, but you could tell Fromm was going to be a good college and probably pro QB. Good family and pretty smart kid. I think Fields will be a stud at OSU and have a shot at winning a Heisman. With Martell you could tell he was a primadona. I did and said dumb stuff when I was a high school kid, but he really showed himself on that show. I think he knew Fields was better and he would never see the field at OSU. Kid was pretty talented, but I think has issues between the ears.

  14. TA has built in a timely manner a legitimate qb stable. It is not great but where it should be and is what I would call fairly good and competent at this point. Some think that if IU gets 1 competent or good qb all the other qbs run for the hills. That’s just silly because IU fans are not use to having a good stable of quarterbacks and now IU does. Good teams usually have a stable of good or able competent quarterbacks and not just 1 quarterback.

  15. It’s not just college athletes, it’s western society. If you’re a young, capable, ambitious and a highly marketable professional who has worked your butt off to earn a promotion, and you get passed over for someone you do not believe is better than you, you’re likely to start contacting headhunters. I admire people who are willing to pursue their dreams, especially when it involves overcoming the adversity associated with making a major change. Better to do that than to some day decades in the future look back and say “I shoulda, coulda, woulda…”

    The kid at Washington who just accessed the transfer portal was probably one of the ten best quarterbacks in the country the year he graduated from HS. Of course he’s going to transfer, because he believes he’s good enough to be the starter at 90% of the FBS schools in the country. Everyone is entitled to a second chance.

  16. But no one is thinking about how this Penix move could backfire on IUFB. What if IU wins ten games this year? Then what? Glass will never match the salaries dangled in front of Allen and DeBoer if that happens! Maybe we should have stuck with Ramsey . . . .

    1. Bottom line most good teams have more than 1 good quarterback and often more than 2 good able legitimate quarterbacks.

  17. The stable of good quarterbacks argument doesn’t fly. Good programs lose good quarterbacks regularly. Just look at the past few years: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, just to name a few. Heck, the kid from Clemson left a national championship contender (and eventual champion)! IU picked up two quarterbacks who left their programs with good quarterbacks. Tre Roberson transferred from IU. It’s clear that good quarterbacks generally don’t make for good back ups. They want to play and be The Man.

  18. The powerhouse teams you mention others have a stable of quarterbacks. They don’t replace their transfers or if one goes down replace him with a toothpick or a linebacker that may have played quarterback in high school. IU for the first time since I don’t know when has a legitimate stable of quarterbacks. None of them are superstar quarterbacks. Just diverse in their abilities. The level is rated as good not great at this point. Yes, it does fly but IU is just not use to being legitimate at quarterback position. So, when IU gets more than one legitimate quarterback fans don’t know how to act and go in a tizzy.

    1. t, legitimate ? who are you talking about ( JT ,,? ) hasn’t took a college snap in a game ..

      ( MP ? ) hasn’t started more then 1 game … hasn’t played a full season. Now are you calling ( PR ) legit..?

      need to wait a full season and see production … before calling anyone legit..

  19. Believe me if IU wins 10 and more $ are what’s required to keep those 2 in town AD Glass will have the contracts written in 72 hours. Now if there’s continued success after the next 3-4 seasons then the prospects get stickier.

  20. Fan. Legitimate at this point are that they had rankings in the 3 star to high 3 star rankings at quarterback position; some success track record at high school level. PR has game experience. Fan. You make my point. IU does not have star status at quarterback but they are better and legitimate because they don’t have to play a linebacker or a toothpick at qb. IU does have better identity at qb. IU is not over talented at quarterback but more solid now. However, qb is one position. There are 10 other positions which make up other variables. The running backs should be a big plus that will help quarterback play. Of course there is the OL. IU can now say they have a legitimate stable of quarterbacks.

  21. no P5 college has anyone playing qb.. but a qb..

    high school.. is NOT P5 caliber of play to judge legitimacy..
    we have zero proof of qb play being legit… ( only PR ..can be evaluated )

    using that word ligit ( loosely ) with zero production .. at the P5 level…

    but i do totally feel you .. want iu ..qb situation to be tight..

  22. davis, that’s the kind of problem every IU fan hopes Glass has to deal with! If IU were to somehow win ten games this season (not going to happen), I’d write a check to help IU fund the higher coaches salaries, and I’d do it with a smile on my face!

  23. PO- Me, too! And winning twelve games would be an outright disaster!!!! But sometimes the speculation on this board gets so far-fetched that I just had to see whether anybody would run with my wild pitch.

  24. Glass went as far as to say one of the department’s next big expenses should be a contract extension for Allen. “I’m confident he’s going to be successful, I’m confident we are going to retain him, and I’m confident it’s going to cost a little bit of money,” Glass said. “I’ve got a little bit in my cookie jar for that.”

    Hope that “cookie jar” has enough to cover about $4 million per for five years. Because that’s at least what it’s going to take to keep a Big Ten head football coach who has turned a long-term losing program into a winner.

    And please, don’t tell me TA will work for a lot less just because he’s from the state and loves being at IU. He’s a highly competitive professional whose first loyalty is to his family and its financial well being. Given how tenuous a college head coach’s job security is, TA would be a fool to settle for a below average compensation package (his rival at Purdue is making over $5 million per). And Glass would be stupid to offer TA a contract that left the door open for other Power-five programs to lure TA away. TA is no fool and Glass is not stupid.

  25. FAN, you should change your screen name to “TROLL.” I doubt anyone who posts comments on this site needs to be reminded of IU Football’s Big Ten record. But two consecutive top-40 recruiting classes and legitimate Power-five conference quarterbacks provide reason for hope of better things to come.

    As a life-long Cubs fans, my perpetual hope was generously rewarded a few years ago. Besides, I can still remember IU’s 1967 FB team and the joy it brought to Bloomington.

  26. you might go by .. maybe’s and if’s .. you might go by what makes you feel good,,but i go by production .. bottom line is production .. ( players and coaches .. especially head coaches.. )

    truth hurts but got to be real ..got to show up on game day.. winning = positives ..

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