To win the job, QBs must win the team

The question at quarterback looms large as Indiana opens fall camp today, but the answer to the Hoosiers’ riddle may be simpler than most think.

It may not be the tightest spiral or the most affable personality that “wins” the job for Peyton Ramsey, Michael Penix Jr. or Jack Tuttle. The “winning” they have to do, in the eyes of IU coach Tom Allen, is “winning the team.”

“It has to be when it’s 1:20 to go in the game, and we’ve got the ball, who do our guys believe is going to take us down the field and go score and go win the game?” Allen said. “To where we have the mindset as coaches, and our team feels, that as long as there’s time on the clock, if that guy is in the huddle leading our offense, that we’ve got a chance to win.”

Allen doesn’t have that answer yet, but it will be delivered on the practice field in the coming days and weeks, and eventually in games. It’s something IU’s coaches and players will less see with their eyes than feel in their gut.

Making that case is nothing new for Ramsey, who won a three-way race in 2018. The redshirt junior knows how to mentally frame a challenge like this.

“The one thing I’m going to continue to focus on is myself,” Ramsey said. “That’s one thing I think I did better toward the end of last fall camp. Don’t worry about what’s happening outside of myself and focus every single play on my responsibility, because I can’t control anything that’s going on other than the way I go out and attack every single day.

“It will be more me-focused, not selfishly. It will be me-focused in terms of competing with myself every single day.”

Experience is one advantage Ramsey has over Tuttle and Penix, even when it comes to learning new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s scheme. This is Ramsey’s third coordinator in four years, so he can recognize the overlapping concepts that appear in almost any playbook.

The one advantage Tuttle and Penix may have over Ramsey is arm strength, but the veteran signal caller smiled when he was reminded of all the slants and outs he threw for former OC Mike DeBord. Ramsey thinks he has been wrongly pegged as a weak-armed quarterback.

“It’s a lot stronger than people realize,” Ramsey said. “Obviously, it’s not Mike or Jack strong, those guys have freaky strong arms. But I do have the ability to make every throw in our offense. Now it’s just obviously a matter of proving it … which I was better at this spring, and continuing to work on this summer.”

“Yeah,” Ramsey continued, smiling wider. “My arm is strong enough.”

As for Penix, the focus isn’t completely on his arm.

The redshirt freshman played in three games in 2018 before going down with an ACL injury versus Penn State. From breaking onto the field as a true freshman, to breaking down and building back up, Penix has a new perspective on things.

“It was a very humbling experience, and I feel like it’s going to make me better,” Penix said. “A few people on the team, they always say, ‘I came back stronger’ (from an injury). I really feel that way. The way I pushed in the rehab and worked hard to get back to where I need to be, I feel very confident in myself.”

Of course, all three QBs want to win the job. But Penix isn’t going to turn against his teammates in the process.

“Everybody says it’s competition, but we’re brothers at the end of the day,” Penix said. “We’re all on the same team, we are all fighting for the same thing. We all want to win a bowl and be together as a team.”

Ramsey echoed that sentiment. He remembers not having another quarterback to confer with after Brandon Dawkins left the program and Penix went down. With three capable quarterbacks, again, they have not only been able to push each other but lean on one another as they absorb DeBoer’s offense.

Not having a clear starter does complicate matters for DeBoer and Allen, who will have the three rotate first-team reps initially. That means getting them all in two-minute drills and other yardage-and-down-specific simulations in practice.

“(It’s ideal) when you can pretty much lock arms with a quarterback and you know who that person is going in and you can develop everything you do around him and talk through every scenario,” DeBoer said. “You can do it with all the quarterbacks as a whole, but until that person is in that situation, it’s really hard to simulate and hard for them to kind of grasp really what’s going to happen and how it’s going to go down.

“You know, it’s one of the tougher things that we’ll have to handle during fall camp. But it’s what it is. … They’re very intelligent guys, and they pick things up quickly. It comes natural to them.”

Tuttle, a transfer from Utah, has been trying to cram as much information as possible since DeBoer’s arrival in January.

When asked to guesstimate the number of hours he has spent with his head buried in a playbook, Tuttle was honest.

“It was definitely a little more than school,” Tuttle said. “Which wasn’t … you know … but that’s just how it is. I love football, and I want to be the best I can for this team. I just care.”

Whether that makes him IU’s starter remains to be seen. But Tuttle certainly says the right things.

When it was suggested New England’s Tom Brady was his favorite quarterback, Tuttle clarified — it’s Indianapolis icon Peyton Manning. He was also asked what his father, Jay, a former walk-on kicker at IU, told him about Hoosier country growing up in California.

“I didn’t even know I was going to come here, and I hated Purdue, just for no reason,” Tuttle said. “He’s like ‘Ah, I hate Purdue,’ and I started to hate Purdue.”

Like any Hoosier would.

Tuttle also admitted he came to IU intending to win the quarterback job. But what quarterback wouldn’t?

Today, the Hoosiers’ signal callers will begin to make their respective cases.

“I’m going to be honest with you guys, I’m tired of just — I love lifting, I love running and practicing and all this stuff, but I would say all of us are just super excited for this season,” Tuttle said. “You can practice and lift, but at a certain point, everyone just wants to do the thing and play football.”

34 comments

  1. Reports coming out that Tuttle looked the best of the three in the spring. Does anyone have a source for this? I haven’t seen anything confirming this completely.

    1. FS,
      I would take those spring reports with a grain of salt at this point. Penix was severely limited in the spring due to the injury recovery. As for PR thinking he has been, “wrongly pegged as a weak-armed quarterback,” it not the media or anyone else saying this, it is the opposing B1G defenses. Unless PR can prove to the opposing defenses his arm is a threat, they will continue to crowd the line of scrimmage. Hopefully all 3 candidates will push each other to much higher levels than we have seen in previous QB rooms.

      1. Think- We’ve all had the Ramsey arm debate numerous times. As Kalen DeBoer noted, Ramsey’s arm is strong enough to call every play in the book. At the end of the day Ramsey is the one that has to make those throws. I still think his decision making last year was his weakness. Overall he played really smart ball but he also didn’t take a lot of shots that were there to be taken. I’m still Team Penix until I see what Tuttle really has to offer.

        1. FS,
          I agree, and for PR sake, I hope he can make all the throws, but he will have to prove it to the B1G defenses. I do have some concern if DeBoer is saying he can make all the throws, either PR has improved his arm strength or we no further along than with DeBord. If all we are going to see is short under 30 yard throws all season, have mercy on our receivers. TA might be right, may not have enough receivers to get through the year with the beating they will take.

    2. He didn’t look better than Ramsey, and Penix was held out of contact. There weren’t any reports that Tuttle was the best of the three.

  2. Tuttle would be very positive news for IU.
    PR admission that Tuttle and Penix have much stronger arms than he does relegates PR to 3rd string as both, can probably move, read defenses, and run at least as well as he can thus as T. A. wants win the team. For PR intangibles only go so far. Ability level has to kick in at some point. If it’s true regarding what T.A. and staff say they want; explosive plays and go down field then P.R. will end up as IU’s 3rd string qb while adjusting flexibility for possible dings or injuries and certain game situations.

    1. IU has three excellent QB’s to flesh out their talents in fall camp. IU can make the “Breakthrough” season happen this season, but only if we score 34-40 points/game. Never take your foot off of the gas offensively. If IU can score 60-70, do it!

  3. I assume that’s a shot of Tuttle above…? I predict Tuttle gets the nod to start.

    a. He’s professed to align strongly with Allen’s faith doctrines
    b. He has that “Broadway Joe” smile.
    c. Knee injuries are stubborn. Penix will have to be nursed back into a comfort level.

      1. With that in mind, if those are your reasons for Turtle to start they could also be reasons for Ramsey to start.

          1. Thank you. They do near a passing resemblance but, honestly, I can rarely identify football p.ayers by their face.

  4. This crappy new format pretty much eliminates commenting on any article other than the most recent one. Who has time for combing through comments on older articles to see if anyone responds to questions or follows up on comments?

    Whoever came up with this sorry new format needs to find a new line of work. It is terrible.

  5. I’m no geek by any means. But this fix for a server problem would be fixed by my IT vendor contractor in 2 hours and $450.00. Anyone understanding marketing would deplore this change as unfriendly. A bloggers new image of the HT.

  6. From some pieces I’ve sort of scanned on the web, sounds like Tuttle is quite the personable young man. He has real leadership qualities and those around him seem to absorb his positive and infectious outlook/demeanor on just about everything. I didn’t realize he had been recruited by USC and Alabama …..rather late in the game.

    Should be interesting but I think this kid will be tough to overshadow. And I don’t think he’s going to be happy holding a clipboard. There’s plenty on the internet giving credence to some unwillingness to wait his turn at Utah.

    Timing is everything in life…Penix may start feeling like Tuttle did at Utah and not want to hold a clipboard for a team still rebuilding.

    1. No question that Tuttle has the skills to get the attention of the big boys. Coaching issues at Utah were kinda messy.

      Maybe everybody wins in this one.

  7. The question isn’t whether PR can make all the throws in the playbook, but can DeBoer expand the playbook with either Tuttle or Penix throwing passes. I really like PR as a young man, and no one can argue with the value of his experience, but I’m not buying that his arm “is a lot stronger than people realize.” Sorry, but we’ve been watching for two years, and he just does not have Power-five-conference level arm strength. Maybe I should say it another way. IMO, PR does not have the arm talent necessary to instill fear into Big Ten defenses, making them back farther away from the LOS. Nor do I believe he has the arm strength to take over a Big Ten game. Maybe PR’s arm has gotten a little stronger, but I’ll remain skeptical until I see otherwise.

    DeBoer has to get this decision right.

  8. “It has to be when it’s 1:20 to go in the game, and we’ve got the ball, who do our guys believe is going to take us down the field and go score and go win the game?” It ain’t Ramsey. His team gave up on him at the end of the Penn State game. The team responded to Penix last year. Like to see what Tuttle can do to. But inspire confidence? That’s not Ramsey with his 2-14 record against Big Ten teams not named Rutgers.

  9. Comments like IU can win games 60 to 70 is just downright ludicrous. How many times has IU scored 40 (against good competition) let alone 70? Yes, once in awhile IU football scores in the 40s and many get their hopes up only to see less than 20 the very next game. After being scouted by opponents by the end of the season IU football has been inconsistent having trouble scoring at all; meaning opponents control the game and IU ends up with 20 plus points or IU May score after falling behind two or three touchdowns as game progresses and opponents are in control of game. Some argue that games are close. I would argue that often IU loses are not as close as they appear by the score as opponents usually have game in their control resulting in IU loss.

    1. Learn to read not distort! I said IU must score 34-40/game to have a breakthrough season. What do you say? I said if IU can score 60-70, then do it. What do you say? In 2 years I have seen Coach Allen’s team, with a different OC, try to squeak out a winnable game with a horribly conservative offense, with no victories! What have you seen? Other teams have scored 60-70 against us. IU needs to take no prisoners on offense. Change the culture. Be bold and aggressive? What do you want to see?

  10. t – you are so correct…..with the previous statement…Usually the other team has the game in control and Indiana score a meaningless touchdown at the end of the game, thereby making the score closer than what the game really was. Why are we worried or looking for a quarterback that can score on the last drive (1:20) of the game versus a quarterback that can score on every drive of a game…JMO. Maybe we should be looking at a defense that can cover a tight end at some point in a game.

  11. Thanks for clarifying reality. IU football has always tried to score as much as they could, just like all teams. However, IU was just not good enough to score more than opponents to win. (maybe not in certain circumstances or situations). I do recall IU with K.W. taking his foot off the gas allowing a Rutgers comeback and IU lost the game.

  12. IU football fans are conditioned….
    Conditioned to have low expectations.
    Conditioned to the futility of tuning into a game at its onset or paying much attention in its early quarters.
    Conditioned to not waste my hopes on IU Football appearing as world beaters in the first half.
    Conditioned to absorb all preseason hype as if I had just stepped [stepping] up to a carnival booth.
    Conditioned to know that’s not Joe Montana behind center.
    Conditioned to see a full crowd only when OSU is in town.

    Is what it is, I suppose. It’s the condition of IU Football. 4th Quarter against a top Big10 foe? I’ll just drop in to see what condition my condition is in. Anything other than the “condition” would be like Kenny Rogers not singing country.

  13. t, I think some are saying that IU needs to develop a much more aggressive offensive philosophy and to take the field in every game with the intention of scoring a lot of points. With a defensive minded head coach, a lot of times over the last two seasons IU has played conservative, game-management offense. It ain’t working. So perhaps a change in philosophy is required along with a quarterback who can put defenses on their heals and make big plays. IU did not make a lot of “big” back-breaking offensive plays last season and our young team got worn out.

  14. “Young team worn out” Lol. Young team worn out for decades!
    And a definite lack of reading comprehension on the Hoosier Scoop Blog.

  15. t, in football more than other college sports, there’s a HUGE difference between 19 year-olds playing against guys who are 21 or 22. The group with mostly 19 year-olds is going to get worn down by the group with the more physically and mentally mature players during the course of a game. So if you’re coaching the group of younger players, you don’t want your guys playing into the strength of your opponent, and that’s where a good, strong-arm quarterback can make the difference.

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