Penix named IU’s starting QB

Redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. was announced Monday as Indiana’s starting quarterback.

Penix has overtaken returning starter Peyton Ramsey, who IU coach Tom Allen called the man to beat coming into camp. Ramsey, a redshirt junior, passed for 2,875 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in last season’s 12 games. His current completion percentage of 65.8 ranks atop the Hoosiers’ career list.

“It was a very difficult decision in regards to the competition involved with the young men, Jack Tuttle and Peyton,” Allen said. “Peyton’s just an awesome kid. He’s one of the finest young men I’ve ever been around. I have so much respect for him, and that was a hard conversation.

“I love each one of them, and that doesn’t change.” 

While Penix wasn’t the starter in ’18, the Hoosiers did get to see him as a true freshman before a torn ACL sidelined him versus Penn State. In three games, he posted totals of 219 yards and one touchdown on 21-of-34 (61.8 percent) passing.

IU was also considering Utah transfer Jack Tuttle as part of this year’s three-way quarterback battle, but he has yet to play in a Division I football game and probably needs more time to develop.

While Ramsey retained an edge in experience, all three quarterbacks in this year’s race had to absorb a new offense from coordinator Kalen DeBoer. Penix has apparently grasped the playbook enough to be the Hoosiers’ opening day starter, and the Hoosiers must be confident in his rehabbed knee.

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

This move has a lot to do with upside, as well, given Penix’s strong arm and his relative youth. He just turned 19 years old on May 8.

At the same time, Penix should have support. The Hoosiers currently have three seniors slated to start up front. Sophomore running back Stevie Scott, who set IU freshman rushing records in 2018, leads a deep backfield. Penix also has two seniors, Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook, and a junior, Whop Philyor, at receiver.

With Penix’s stronger arm, the Hoosiers could also stretch defenses more. Last year, IU ranked No. 123 in the country in explosiveness, according to statistics published by SB Nation. The Hoosiers were also 80th in red zone efficiency.

At the same time, DeBoer did counter the notion that downfield throws are the priority, or that all three quarterbacks weren’t capable of getting the ball deep.

“What Mike brings, even when he throws on the short and immediate balls, it gets there faster so guys can make plays with their legs, and a little bit more space to create yards after catch,” DeBoer said. “It isn’t just about the deep throws down the field.”

Winters in transfer portal

(12:45 p.m. update)

In other news, freshman running back Ivory Winters has entered the transfer portal, per an IU spokesperson.

Winters, a 6-foot, 216-pounder, was in a deep running back room with Stevie Scott, Cole Gest, Sampson James, and Ronnie Walker.  He hails from Hayti, Missouri.

26 comments

  1. Announcement early in day….decision made several days ago after letting process play out and determining healthy to go.

  2. This announcement was anticipated and is welcomed. I hope he really helps open up the offense and makes it much tougher for B1G defenses. DBs will be more stressed and as a result it should help open up the running game even more. I hope the receivers excitement about more deep passes comes true and we see more seem routes by TEs and slots.

  3. Reading this news gave me a sense of relief! I really like TA and am very optimistic about DeBoer. But if they had named Ramsey the starter, I would have been very disappointed and would have questioned TA’s judgement and his ability to build a winning football. This news gives me reason to be optimistic about this year and the future of IU Football.

    Now, if TA and Deboer are really smart, they’ll insert Tuttle into every game during garbage time in order to give him experience. His lack of in-game experience should be easy to remedy in the early part of the season, and playing Ramsey in garbage time is not going to be nearly as valuable to him, the team, or the future of the program as it is to get Tuttle some valuable experience.

  4. Now that it has been confirmed that Penix is the starter IU has decided to go in a new and exciting direction. Congratulations young man I’m sure you earned it.

    To all of you who were campaigning for Penix I hope he proves to be the difference between a 6 plus win or another 5-7 season.

    1. SOSD,
      It is not so much we were campaigning for Penix as it was a lot of people wanted to see what he could do. It was very frustrating to see the problems the offense was having last year and knowing it was due to PR being unable to stretch the defense with his arm. It became very apparent what the problem was by the way B1G defenses would play him that they had literally no fear of him beating them with his arm. Even more frustrating was to see MP come into the PSU game and his just stepping on the field forcing a major PSU defensive alignment change. That is not an OC issue that is a TALENT issue.

      We will probably never know why MP was held back for so long last season and his injury only made things worse. The big think is getting the answer to the question of, “What can he actually do?” If he can’t get the job done, then we will know. If he can get the job done, then the questions as to why was he held out last year for so long be appropriate.

  5. Not sure if any one player can make the difference, but there is no question in my mind that Penix gives IU a much better chance to produce a winning season. It takes an entire team to produce a winning season, but my guess is that his teammates are happy and excited that Penix was named the starter. His superior arm talent just creates opportunities that Ramsey could not provide. Watching him last year against PSU made that quite obvious.

  6. PO. Agree a 100% giving JT a chance when opportunity is available. PR is in the wings as player/coach if ever needed. PR will end up in coaching anyway if he goes that direction with a career. Now, after Penix and Tuttle for the next few years, IU is showing interest (offered) Lawrence North High School Junior QB . So far he will probably be good enough to be on team but not sure how good he is? Tall but needs to get bigger. He should put on some weight. Of course IU should try to get a higher rated qb for future.

  7. The thing about Penix winning the job is the receivers may be more optimistic and work harder on catching passes that come in quick. Penix can also add a shot in the arm to the team with a new QB going along with the new offense. I know his arm will make it tougher on B1G defenses as they will have to account for his strong arm or get beaten often on passes. We shouldn’t see many 8 and 9 man fronts in early downs with play-action threats.

  8. This is welcome news, indeed. I’m thrilled to see what MP does from the opening snap. I also like the leadership from TA and DeBoer. They made Penix work for it. Feels good that they are taking upside risks, versus managing downside risks. Coaches who do the latter don’t have a prayer of turning around a losing program.

    I have no predictions about this year. I have no idea. I will say, I FEEL different about IUFB than I have in the past. When Coach Hep took over, I felt like he was a leader that was a guy who understood what it took to rebuild a program. I’m getting that same feeling now. TA turning over DC responsibilities, and focusing on being a head coach. I felt like TA made a lot of tactical errors as a game coach last year. I think he gets the game, but without having to manage all the details of running the defense from the sideline and all the prep leading up to it, he can focus his attention here.

    The players love him. Seems like some of these guys would walk through fire for him. But not in a coddled, let them do whatever they want BS. But looks like genuine, hard work, accountability and walking the talk on “togetherness.”

    Hard not to root for the guy. Really hoping the program starts producing some fruit…

  9. I went from skeptical to optimistic for the season with this announcement. But maybe Penix will stare down receivers or have accuracy problems or get hurt again. There are no guarantees. But there’s also no doubt he has the best combination of arm strength and running ability I’ve ever seen in an IU quarterback. Breakthroughs can happen with talented qbs like Penix. Also, expect Ramsey to handle the situation with class. He’s been a great representative of IU Football.

  10. Mike can throw the ball all over the field, and he’s accurate, too. I think this is what the fan base wanted. Coach DeBoer probably had a big say, too. Another thing that I like is his quick release. I think we’re going to see him drill some short darts over the middle that get taken to the house.

    That said, Peyton is a solid, underrated quarterback. I think he got better each year, and I think his arm is stronger than he gets credit for. He also knows when to take off with the ball.

    One thing I disagree with, though. I don’t think TA had to say we’re only going to go with one guy. Why show your hand? I’d let all three guys play, depending on the opponent and the situation, if for no other reason so they don’t transfer.

    If we are going to compete in our division, we need the depth, and this quarterback competition showed that increasing depth. When Ohio State won the first playoff a few years back, when one QB got hurt, the next one stepped up without any loss in production.

    1. I hear ya. OSU was able to step up because their #2 QB would be the #1 recruit in the history of Indiana Football.

      I think with a young guy like Penix, you have to give him as many game reps as possible. He has to be ready for the speed of the game. Watching that Miami/Florida game, you can see how many players, specially the QBs, were reacting to the speed and atmosphere in a real game. It was a slopfest. I’d rather Penix iron out the kinks for two games leading into OSU vs sharing snaps with guys who are there to hold the clipboard.

      I get it though, if Penix goes down, the other guys have to step up cold. This is the tradeoff: capping upside at the expense of downside. I think ya gotta for it.

      We’ll see, though. Good thoughts.

      1. If you go back to the beginning of the year he was actually the #3 quarterback. He would havestill been the #1 recruit in the history of IU football.

  11. We will see he’s got potential its a wait and approach with me he needs to play well against a 4 win ball state team if doesn’t id be really concerned

  12. BOOM! is right!! Kills me how so many rallied for Penix, and the naysayers are already showing up. I sure as heck hope TA and the crew don’t read all the negativity that flies on this board. Hope springs eternal before the first play has been run. Support the Hoosiers, enjoy the moment, and save the let’s see, “same ol’ IU Football” garbage, etc. for if and when it happens. I for one am more excited about the possibilities with IU football than I have been in seemingly forever. Go Hoosiers!!!

    1. PacNW Hoosier, I am with you about being excited about this season and people holding off on the same old Hoosiers. Lets see Saturday how this year’s team looks and keep supporting them to win every game.

  13. DD, your first post above was excellent! I especially liked your comment, “Feels good that they are taking upside risks, versus managing downside risks. Coaches who do the latter don’t have a prayer of turning around a losing program.”

    That comment is right on target.

    1. Po and DD, so very true. Both Dabo Sweeny and Nick Saban have benched extraordinarily successful quarterbacks for backups with a higher upside in recent seasons.

      They were both right.

  14. the biggest issue with penix… is going to be his health.. will or can his body hold up.. blind side hit .. running out of the pocket … have to remember he is less then a yr out of major surgery.. his athletic instinct is going to be run out of trouble…

    number 2 qb….. better have the mind set .. he is going to see the field…

  15. This was exactly the correct decision! Penix has the most talent, the best arm, the best legs, and a real enthusiasm! Great choice! Go IU!

  16. FAN, you’re probably right about the backups needing to be ready, and I’m sure they will be. That was the value of having such an intense competition for the starting spot. Tough for any IU QB to play the entire season without injury. However, having suffered a severe injury that required surgeries and a year of rehab, I can tell you that such injuries change players’ risk quotient. They instinctively play smarter in order to protect themselves. It’s not as if the body part is not fully healed, it’s that such a trauma makes them aware that they’re vulnerable and makes them play smarter.

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