Much of Indiana’s success defensively since Tom Allen arrived in 2016 has been based on deception at the line of scrimmage and giving the quarterback pre-snap looks he hasn’t seen.
Based on what IU defensive coordinator Charlton Warren has seen of Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, much of that trickery may be of little value on Saturday. The fifth-year quarterback from Louisville has been running the show for a college football eternity, and he has a list of accomplishments a mile long.
Most notably he was the 2020 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and the 2020 AAC Championship Game Most Outstanding Player. Ridder has 22 career rushing touchdowns, the most ever for a Cincinnati quarterback and tied for No. 8 all-time for any player at the school. Ridder is the active career leader in winning percentage among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision signal callers, winning over 88% of his career starts, and he is ranked as the No. 2 passer in school history, throwing for 7,443 yards and 63 touchdowns.
It goes without saying, Indiana is going to have its hands full trying to contain the 6-foot-4 and 215 pound Ridder. And Warren knows that better than most.
“He’s played a lot of football,” Warren said. “It’s hard to trick him. He’s seen a bunch of things, he can make checks. He’s one of those guys he can truly hurt you with his arms, with his legs, and with his brain. He’s very accurate, very tough, very fast.”
Warren’s perspective comes from watching film, but it also comes from game planning for Ridder just over eight months ago. Warren was a defensive backs coach at Georgia when the Bulldogs faced Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Ridder is a special enough talent that Indiana has been studying him not just this week — but throughout the summer. Consider Allen among the impressed.
“He’s a special player,” Allen said this week of Ridder. … “Runs a lot and runs really effectively. As we all know, that puts challenges on a defense when a quarterback can do that. He runs the ball a lot but has to be able to stay healthy, and that’s a tough thing to do at this level.”
Ridder became the Cincinnati starter at the beginning of the 2018 season after taking a redshirt 2017 campaign, and he has missed only one game during that span.
His health has allowed for development, which pops to Allen when he compares recent vintage film to Ridder’s early games as the Bearcat quarterback.
“Really, his passing just keeps getting better and better,” Allen said. “You go back and watch in years past, which we’ve done that. We spend a lot of time studying over the summer as well and look in previous years and see his growth as a quarterback. He’s just really throws the ball down the field with a lot of accuracy now and has a really talented receiver core.”
Preparing for Ridder at the Peach Bowl no doubt gives Warren a bit deeper insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an opposing quarterback than he might ordinarily have for a non-conference foe. But Ridder was a steady 24-of-37 for 206 yards and two touchdowns against a very good Georgia defense.
So while Warren knows what to expect — he also has come to the realization that there is only so much you can do against the veteran signal-caller.
“Playing them last time tells you how much you’ve got to respect what they do schematically, how hard and well they’re coached, and how well he (Ridder) can execute (whether) under pressure, under zone, he’s just seen a lot,” Warren said. “Very capable group, very smart quarterback. One of the best in the country.”
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”