Time pushing Hoosiers toward a QB decision

Facing another round of questions Monday about Indiana’s three-way quarterback battle, Tom Allen was somewhat coy.

He even admitted, with a slight grin, there were things he just didn’t want to say.

But as IU moves into its third full week of fall camp, there is at least one factor pushing the Hoosiers toward a more concrete answer. It’s something they can’t escape.

And that’s time.

“The bottom line is we know how many days until kickoff. We know what it takes to get our guys ready,” Allen said. “A formal announcement aside, however that all plays out, we are going to get the guys ready that need to be ready to play.”

With less than two weeks until Aug. 31, the crunch of time increases. Allen didn’t discuss Peyton Ramsey, Michael Penix Jr., or Jack Tuttle individually, but he did acknowledge reps between the three will become more uneven as the Hoosiers start to ramp up for Ball State. That’s just a necessity.

But unlike IU’s first intrasquad scrimmage, which failed to clarify things in Allen’s mind, the third-year coach said last Saturday’s scrimmage did help in giving the Hoosiers a clearer picture of the most scrutinized position on the field.

Just not clear enough to make things less opaque for viewers from the outside.

“It did some, yeah, there’s no question,” Allen said. He then reinforced, respectfully, his refusal go much further than that.

“I always try to answer your questions as honest as I feel is appropriate without saying things I don’t want to say,” Allen said, which elicited some laughter from his questioners. “And I feel like that’s being honest. I feel like it did help.”

It would appear if the Hoosiers are stuck, it would be between the more tenured of the three QBs, Ramsey and Penix. Ramsey, a redshirt junior, has started 16 games from behind center. Penix saw action in three games last season before tearing his ACL. Tuttle, on the other hand, is a transfer from Utah who doesn’t have Division I game experience.

However things are narrowing, the coaches have been able to internally discuss what they aren’t ready to announce. There is also communication with the quarterbacks involved.

“We will not make an announcement for several more days, but we will start moving in that direction, from a rep-based perspective,” Allen said. “That’s just reality. You sit guys down and you have those conversations.”

Time is of the essence. IU will have a walkthrough Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in preparation for the Ball State game. After that, game day will be about a week away.

The time for quarterback competitions to end is nearing. Ohio State, for example, named Justin Fields its starter Monday.

IU just isn’t there. After he made that point clear, Allen was asked, in jest, if anything could be gained by asking a hypothetical “if the opener was today” question.

“No,” Allen said, laughing. “You’d just be wasting your breath.”

Redshirt or no?

Aside from evaluating quarterbacks, Saturday’s scrimmage did give the coaches more information about which freshmen might be ready to contribute right away.

IU’s coaches have now talked about which players might be a “four-game guy,” thus retaining their freshman eligibility. Some may burn their redshirt altogether.

“I would say, with this group, the majority of them we would like to play for the four games, and then you see where they go from there,” Allen said. “Yeah, they are a talented group, but you have some good players in front of them. The balance is, OK, we have these guys we think are really going to be good players for us, let’s make sure we are wise in how we use them, we’re not just burning (their redshirt).”

Allen and his staff have been able to recruit at an uncommon level for IU, bringing in back-to-back top-50 classes. At the same time, the Hoosiers have a roster with 25 redshirt freshmen, mainly thanks to the four-game rule instituted last season.

Likewise, a good chunk of the 29 true freshmen on IU’s roster this year could be in line for some playing time, but not necessarily more than the four games allowed to retain eligibility.

Allen did not mention any specific players Monday, but there are a few that figure to play big roles in 2019. Defensive linemen Sio Nofoagatoto’a and C.J. Person, for example, could factor into the defensive line rotation. On the offensive side, offensive lineman Matthew Bedford and running back Sampson James could be too good to sit in a majority of IU’s games.

Jordan Jakes and David Ellis have also been getting a lot of reps at receiver during camp, and Allen mentioned Jakes, a 6-foot-5 target, as having a couple of nice plays during the scrimmage. At the same time, Jakes and Ellis are still learning, so it was too soon for receivers coach Grant Heard to commit to them burning their redshirts this season.

“We’ll see what happens this week,” Heard said, “and if they can show me they deserve to play, I’ll play them.”

If nothing else, Allen’s reference to Jakes was encouraging because the freshmen receivers have had some ups and downs in camp. Jakes, in particular, has had trouble with drops. But, to their credit, Jakes and Ellis haven’t sulked.

“I’m impressed with them,” Heard said. “They show up every day and they practice their butts off and get yelled at and keep coming back and trying to fix the stuff they need to fix.”

Standouts

Along with Jakes, Allen mentioned a few others for having a good Saturday scrimmage.

Sophomore running back Ronnie Walker, who is in a battle for playing time with a host of other backs, came to mind.

“There were a couple of runs where we wound it back, I thought it was one of the other guys,” Allen said. “Just really encouraged by his continued progress. He does so many great things off the field, in the weight room, and the way he handles himself, and the way he works.”

Allen also mentioned sophomore tight end Matt Bjorson and redshirt sophomore receiver (and walk-on from Columbus East) Cam Wilson.

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Alfred Lance Bryant then got a shoutout.

“He’s really had a really good camp all the way through, but I thought he really shined at some times, both in the run game and in pass pressure,” Allen said. “He’s blossoming into the guy I thought he could be since he’s been here.”

And with senior receivers Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook often getting a lion’s share of the spotlight, it’s easy to forget about junior Ty Fryfogle. But the 6-foot-2 target has been impressive all camp.

“Awesome. I kind of forget about him, because he doesn’t ever say anything. He’s just kind of there and he just smiles,” Heard said. “But when he’s in the game, you throw him the ball, he’s going to catch it.

“I wish we had that four-game buffer when he was a freshman because he probably would have been in that. I wish I had two more years with him because he’s going to be really special, I believe.”

41 comments

  1. JT high school highlight film showed a mobile good size qb that completed a wide array of passes shorter, longer and deep hitting receivers in stride. He could run when needed also. All academic and honor society in high school. Another good California qb. Only 4 interceptions as a senior and 5 interceptions as a sophomore. Highly rated pro style nationally 4 or 5 and a highly rated player in California. Dad/Jay Tuttle a past walk on kicker at IU. Mom went to Indiana State and is from Indianapolis. JT is the qb for IU with a run game.

  2. According to Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune, “Tuttle, even as a teenager, had the best arm in fall camp.” According to Monson, what Tuttle lacked was intangibles — aspects of a player that cannot be measured with direct numbers.

    He [Tuttle] just didn’t have the other stuff, the experience, the grasp of the offense, the trust of the coaches, the wheels.” The wheels, in this instance, is referring to the running ability possessed by both Huntley and Shelley coming out of spring camps.

    1. I think FAN accurately described the Utah situation. It just wasn’t the right fit. It happens.

      Troy Aikman went from an awkward fit at Oklahoma to the HOF after transferring to UCLA.

      I don’t know why so many people demonize players who transfer. It’s what we used to call ‘situational awareness’. It’s not a bad thing.

  3. I beginning to wonder if the only question is, “Will the passes be coming from a right-handed cannon or a left-handed one?” The only other thing I can say is if there is a reversion back to the past, DeBoer bettered be a miracle worker or TA will have a lot of explaining to do.

    1. I’ve heard Chris Howell has a ‘Canon’ camera. He also has a Canon arm…ature. And that’s the closest IU gets to a cannon arm.

  4. Let me first clarify that many highly rated recruits end up having a solid college career. It’s not 100% guaranteed, I don’t know if it’s as low as 90%, but not all 4 and 5-star recruits pan out. Some literally peaked in high school. They come in looking like Tarzan, but playing like Jane. I’m not saying that is the case with Penix or Tuttle, but neither of them may be ready to be the starter. It may take a longer period before the light comes on for either of these athletes.

    Pushing any athlete into a position before they are ready can damage them severely. They can lose confidence in their abilities, either becoming rash in their decision making or hesitant for fear of making a mistake.

    All I’m saying is that I don’t know what is happening at practice so I will surrender the decision as to who should start to the coaches. It may or may not be who the majority want, but I will support that decision and will cheer for that player and his teammates.

    1. You see that stuff at all ages. The middle school stud who seems tiny as a high school junior. The are tons of NBA players who reportedly grew 6-8 inches as high school juniors or seniors.

      One of my kids was like that. Five foot, three inches, 112lbs as a freshman. Six two, 184lbs as a senior.

      These huge human beings are still kids and many of them are still growing.

      1. I grew six inches between 8th and 9th grade. But I never did totally fill out until late college years….Parents put me into kindergarten a year too early. Always sort of regretted that because I was a late bloomer as well…Two of the biggest jocks in my high school(multi-sport athletes who played football, basketball and baseball) had the bodies of grown men when they were in the 8th grade….Both were already 6 feet tall in 8th grade. One had pork chop sideburns…and swear to god his hairline was receding by the time he graduated high school.
        I still believe to this day that they both had access to steroids at a very young age….

    2. SOSD,
      I might have had to agree with you except I saw the first half of the PSU game last year with Penix at the controls. That was not a QB unready to start (H4H’s concerns aside), but rather one who should have been being seasoned for the B1G, beginning with game one. An elite B1G defense does not normally change what they are doing the moment a true freshman QB with little experience steps on the field, but PSU did. PSU did not show PR any of the respect for his ability that they showed to MP.

      This is the message everyone should be hearing loud and clear. Everyone’s opinion, especially ours but maybe even the IU coaching staff, is basically irrelevant. The only relevant opinion on the matter is that of the defenses you face, they tell you who and what they fear by how they play you. Especially in the case of a traditional top twenty program such as PSU. Penn State told us loud and clear last fall they feared Michael Penix on the field. We have yet see how defenses will react to Jack Tuttle on the field, but we do know that B1G defenses to this point, neither fear nor respect Peyton Ramsey’s ability to hurt them on the field of play.

      Nothing shows this lack of respect more than running 8, 9, or 10 men in the box as a defense. That’s putting it in bright red letters so big that no one should miss it!

    3. You bring up a good point. My son and I just got done watching all three seasons of QB1 Beyond Football. The first season was the best in my opinion because it was three guys I knew. You look at someone like Tate Martell who was the #1 rated QB IN THE COUNTRY and is now trying to switch to WR at Miami just so he can stay on the field. Then you look at Jake Fromm who didn’t look like the stud he has turned out to be in high school. He was good, but not to the level he has taken it since being at Georgia. We will see with Justin Fields this year at OSU seeing how he was named the starter the other day. He did impress me on his season of QB1. You could tell that kid has talent and will be good in the Big Ten.

  5. Another variable is every team not just IU needs more than one qb ready to play at any time without to much or hardly any drop off of ability. The ability may be at different areas but the level of play has to be kept high. What percentage of qbs play a 100% of season without dents, dings, injuries, or struggles etc??? What % of teams = qb changes at some point in season??

  6. A sizable number of fans will tune out if Ramsey is named the starter. That might not be a good reason to name Penix #1, but it’s also the truth.

    1. 123,
      Why wouldn’t fan base tune IUFB out if PR is again named the starter. They have every right to assume it to be more of the same after 2 seasons of the same. The only variable is DeBoer. If things change with PR and a new OC, then there might be reason to tune back in. However, if all we see is more of the same regardless of who the OC is, then you have your story, end of discussion. Especially in comparison to the little glimpse we saw of what might be, in the PSU game last year.

      1. Thinking anything spectacular will happen based on one very brief glimpse of Penix against PSU…?
        I sort of live my dating fantasy life in the same way. Hot girl smiles at me for two seconds in the grocery store …and I suddenly have a shot to get the nod in frozen foods….Maybe a discussion breaks out (BREAKTHROUGH, baby!) in the checkout lane during a U-Scan mishap (she’s flagged for too many items on the belt)? Harvard subs in for the U-Scan attendant busy at another lane…HE COULD GO ALL THE WAY! He makes the pass…OH, too bad. It sails deep out of bounds….when he chose plastic over paper.

  7. Look at those veins popping out of Ramsey’s throwing arm in the picture atop this story…It appears he’s strengthened the “Wiffle Cannon” and will soon tell the winds of doubt who is boss.

  8. I know of several fans and ticket holders that have said they will not go to IU games this year if Ramsey is QB again. Of course if IU starts the season 3-0 you can bet they will get to the next home game.

    This is the tough week of practice as three weeks of physical activity takes its toll. The following week has BSU as the focus and invigorates the coaches and players knowing game time is coming.

    We will find out soon what kind of team IUFB will have this year – have the changes worked to make the team better, how is the talent developing, etc.

    1. I agree V13,
      However, if the OSU game is a repeat of last with PR at the controls, what then?

  9. If everything else is equal, and it appears that it is, you go with the player who has the most talent, who has the most upside potential. Experience is important, but not as important as pure talent. So you select the guy with the most talent and let him start the first two games. If he can’t perform under the pressure of being the starter in a real game, then he gets benched and it’s next man up. But to do otherwise is wasting the opportunity to give your most talented player the experience he needs to reach his potential.

    I’m always amazed at people who confuse knowledge of something with the performance of something. You can know everything about a proper golf swing, but can you hit the ball 320 yards into the fairway? You can read defenses, but can you throw a frozen rope 20 yards into a shoebox? You can know what every offensive player is supposed to do on every play, but can you make a first down when plays break down? Last year Clemson had a really talented, experienced quarterback at the start of camp. He lost his job to a more talented, less experienced freshman, and Clemson went on to win the National Championship. I hope TA understands that talent trumps experience.

  10. I don’t even know how a discussion of anything Clemson enters an IU Football thread. I’ve probably been guilty of the same, but honestly? We should really be using Division II examples …..At the end of the day, our football program has never really proved to be worthy of a Power Five/Division 1 conference.
    Without the notoriety and bragging rights our basketball program gave to the conference in our candy stripes heyday, we would have likely been demoted to Division II decades ago.
    Maybe swimming and soccer keeps us in as well, but football?

    Just even try to imagine Peyton Ramsey (Penix or Tuttle…for that matter) trying to make a Clemson squad….”Son, have you tried IU? It’s a pretty campus in southern Indiana. Win one conference game against OSU, Michigan …or Penn State during your career and you’ll be a Hoosier legend forever. I know you’re a Christian, but a bench longer than 100 ‘Last Supper’ tables wouldn’t be long enough to put you at the end. You’ll love Indiana.”

    1. This is your annual public service reminder to look up the differences between Division I FBS, Division I FCS, and Division II.

      1. Correct…IU could compete consistently with the likes of #7 Slippery Rock…..or we could just oil up our ‘Rock’ and make it slippery.

  11. Football is almost upon us! Is this the year? I’m not taking that bait. But I will figuratively leave the tailgate and head to the stands.

    Anyway, re: QB competition, in 1998, we heard rumors of a young freshman, who had incredible upside, was challenging incumbent, steadyhand, starter Jay Rodgers. We were told the competition was tight and a starter wasn’t named until gameday (at least it was pretty damn close to gameday). Indiana opened with Western Michigan and #11 runs out under center. The rest was history. Got to experience one of the few bright lights this program had with Randle El for the next 4 years.

    In short, you have to go with the high ceiling. I’d rather see the inexperience play out against Ball State and Eastern IL versus Ohio State and Michigan, later in the conference season. Growth is a part of this game and you don’t have many chances to give a kid the chance to get better like you do in a 35 game hoops season. Going with “inexperience” tends to appear to have more risk, but they don’t actually do. I understand in the era of 24-7 news, trying to read into everything, while seeing in through the lense of 100 years of crappy football, there’s some trepidation. But for a program like Indiana, where your incumbent with experience is pretty much 2 – 4th string quality on the rest of B1G rosters, it’s a fairly obvious choice.

    I think we’ll see Penix or Tuttle under center to start the season. We’ll hear stories about how close it was and that the competition was fierce. Maybe it is. Either way, that’s probably just TA and KD demonstrating leadership and getting all the QBs rowing forward and supporting each other when that decision is made. It’s a 9 game B1G gauntlet. The chances of the starting QB who takes the opening snap, taking every snap throughout the entire season is a challenge. We’ll need attentive, engaged 2nd & 3rd string guys to step up in case #1 goes down.

    1. I agree.

      I also am of the opinion that we don’t know squat about Tuttle. He is an enigma at this point.

  12. Like everyone that suffers through this every year, I hope whatever happens works out. Realistically, as long as top ‘bigs’ continue to leave the state for places like OSU and Iowa City little will change. The level of recruiting is the Alpha and Omega at the D1 level. I have yet to see a single strong DL candidate on IU’s short or remote radar.

    1. Indeed. Speculation is all us keyboard warriors have at this time.

      “When you hedge, treat the possible as likely. When you speculate, treat the likely as merely possible.”

    2. I’m over the QB speculation. I have bigger concerns with the offense, namely the line. If the replacements don’t gel it won’t matter who starts at quarterback if they are spending half their time running for their life, and the other half on their back I wouldn’t place to much emphasis on arm strength. Will the line be able to open hole for Scott?

      The same goes for the defensive line. If they cannot control the line of scrimmage and keep guards and tackles from getting to the second level the offense might be the least of our worries.

      Can’t wait for the season to begin and all our questions will be answered. Hoping for 6 wins and a bucket win.

  13. Brandon Peters named the starting quarterback at Illinois….did Indiana football staff pass on a grad transfer that really could have help the Indiana football program and possible (may have) eliminate some quarterback controversy. Brandon Peters (.9675) was rated just slightly higher than Jack Tuttle (.9321) (not very much difference) and Mike Pennix (.8749) by 247 sports.

    1. If Peter’s signs with IU to play one season there is a good chance Tuttle doesn’t transfer to play four.

      We might even lose Penix if he thinks he drops to #3.

  14. It would be nice if one or two of these highly rated high school Indiana qbs and their parents choose IU. It might save them a lot of setting on the bench and transferring around.

    1. Maybe, not as grad transfer but I would say IU went after Indiana high school qbs including Peters but they all had the Tommy Stevens Penn State dreams. Now, Stevens…Hunter Johnson at NW, and Peters at Illinois. Then, there was KW first qb recruit from Columbus East. Maybe JT can make in roads to an Indiana connection via California since his parents have some Indiana roots. At least he and Penix could give some much needed stability at the position allowing for some future Indiana high school qb in roads. Though, on Penix Twitter he referred he wanted to make history at IU qb position. So, that would be determined how that would play out as far as decisions made because of play or lack of playing time. Like basketball Indiana high school qbs would attract support from IU football fans.

      1. IU sent a quarterback to the NFL three years ago.

        I wonder how many of those Indiana natives who passed on the Hoosiers will be as successful?

      2. Like basketball Indiana high school qbs would attract support from IU football fans.

        t- Agree. I guess a coach from Indiana spinning on the sideline like the Tasmanian Devil over a shoestring tackle will bring the fans by the tens of thousands….more than a homegrown qb.
        Then again, Jay Cutler(Santa Claus via Chesterton, IN) and Sexy Rexy Grossman(Bloomington) never lived up to their NFL hype. Grossman gave the Super Bowl to the Colts. Cutler was a massive frown-faced disappointment for the Bears.
        Come to think of it, let Illinois and PSU have those Indiana quarterbacks. I’ll take the hyperactive Indiana guy as our coach on the sideline.

  15. In recent interview (not the one where he commented on love for his teammates) JT seemed to have learned some things and maturely focused on talking about getting better with understanding what is at stake for each qb and team. Just seems he has a highly focused calm assassin’s demeanor as in completing effective pass plays.

  16. Speculation will soon be over but in latest practice/scrimmage coach DeBoer made it clear Penix and Ramsey were running one and two without coming out and naming the starter, Penix got the first reps with #1s.

    The OL has been called very good, starters that is, after watching practice by reporters. The problem is until they play someone else we won’t know how good they are. Coach DeBoer is happy with where the offense is right now so that indicates the OL is doing well. DeBoer also said he was tired of going against our defense so they must be improved. BSU is coming soon and some of the questions should be answer.

    1. This sounds like great news. Well, as much as things like this can be.

      Can’t wait until kick-off.

      1. Speaking of kick-off, zero commentary from the Scoop or anyone about special teams, which were awfully stinky last year. Yeah, there was an article about the punter and the kicker competition a few days ago, but there is a heck of a lot more to the kicking game than the guys kicking the ball.

  17. H4H. The problem is the guy spinning on the sideline can’t throw a pass. However, I suppose T.A. could be the first coach to run on the field to make a touchdown saving tackle.
    Kinda the feel of the Woody Hayes punch at opposing player from Syracuse as he ran out of bounds or the Bob Knight chair throw feel. The memories of frustration to just trying to win a game.

  18. What a deal it was back then for so much less money. Those were the days as in when there was at least some fiscal perspective.

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