Photo By Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

Indiana football 2020 position preview: The quarterbacks

The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2020 Indiana University football season on October 24 against Penn State in Bloomington.

Today we take a look at the quarterbacks.


It is all about No. 9 in 2020.

After grueling quarterback competitions each of the last two seasons, there is no doubt this time.  This is Michael Penix’s team.

But while there are no questions about who is the starter, there are still concerns.

Can the often injured Penix stay healthy?

And if duty calls, is his backup ready?

WHO IS GONE

There would have been no memorable eight win 2019 season without Peyton Ramsey.  This year, he will be starting for Northwestern, a team IU will not face unless the schools are paired up in the game nine Big Ten champions week.

In a release from Northwestern, Ramsey thanked IU for his four seasons in Bloomington.

“I would like to thank everyone at Indiana University for allowing me to live out my dream of playing college football,” said Ramsey. “I would especially like to thank my teammates that pushed me, encouraged me, and trusted me. Sometimes the road to realizing your dreams can take you in a different direction than you expected.”

During his time in Bloomington, Ramsey completed 66.5% of his career pass attempts for 6,581 yards and 42 touchdowns, while rushing for 832 yards and 14 more touchdowns.

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native was named honorable mention All-Big Ten (media) in 2019 after finishing second in the Conference for completion percentage (68%), fourth in yards per attempt (8.2) and fifth in passer rating (147.7).

THE 2020 ROSTER

RETURNING WITH EXPERIENCE

Michael Penix’s talent is unquestionable.  He considers himself a “pro-style quarterback that can run,” and that self-assessment seems spot-on.  Penix has NFL cailber arm accuracy and strength, and he is more than athletic enough to make plays with his feet.

The Tampa product completed 110-of-160 passes (68.8 percent) for 1,394 yards to go with 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.  The breakout performance for Penix was a 33-of-42 passing clinic at Michigan State that included 286 yards and three touchdowns.  That game highlighted a 2019 season that saw Penix set the program’s completion percentage record at 68.8 percent.

The 6-foot-3 Penix also ran 22 times for 119 yards (5.4 ypc) and 2 TDs.

Penix is fully recovered from a collarbone surgery that ended his season prematurely.  That was one of several injuries that derailed his redshirt freshman campaign.  He started six games, but only finished three of them while missing seven contests completely.

To address the injury concerns, Penix added around 18 pounds of extra mass to absorb hits.

The bottom line for Indiana’s 2020 season against an all Big Ten schedule is this:  The Hoosiers will go as far as Penix can take them.

NAMES ON THE RISE/IMPACT NEWCOMERS

Jack Tuttle is a former 4-star recruit entering his third year in a college program.  After not playing at all for Utah in 2018, Tuttle saw limited action in 2019 for IU.  In five games of mop-up duty Tuttle completed 6-of-11 passes for 34 yards and ran 9 times for 20 yards.

Because of Penix’s injuries in 2019, Tuttle spent much of the season as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, meaning he saw more practice reps.  That included the extended practice period leading up to the Gator Bowl.

Big with a strong arm, Tuttle looks the part of a capable Big Ten quarterback.  But we won’t know for sure until he is tested in meaningful action.

Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

Dexter Williams is a true freshman from Macon, Georgia.  He was ranked the No. 21 dual-threat quarterback nationally by 247Sports.  Williams enrolled in the spring which should help him be ready if his number is called.

As a high school senior Williams completed 99-of-158 (62.7 percent) for 1,524 yards with 15 TDs.  He rushed 135 times for 984 yards (7.3 average) with 14 scores.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

OC Nick Sheridan on Michael Penix —

“I think Michael has developed physically. I think he is bigger, stronger,” Sheridan said.  “I also think his communication has really improved. I think that comes from time. He came in, and despite being a super talented freshman, it is a little bit different. He was 18-year old kid and he was coming into a locker room full of 22-year olds. I just think he has really grown into that. I think he is very well-liked and respected by his teammates. I think that is probably where the biggest growth has come, certainly the ability is there. I think his consistency has continued to improve.

“I have already told you guys several times on what I think about Michael Penix Jr., so it is our job to continue to push him and put him in the best situations to be successful. But I think his leadership and communication has grown. I think that just comes with time and being comfortable with the guys and getting to know the team better. But the sky is the limit for Michael. I know I have told you guys that many times, so we are very excited.”

Wide receiver Whop Philyor on Penix —

“Mike is always going to be cool, calm and collected,” Philyor said.  “He will take control of everything because he is the big dog, obviously. He is always going to be cool, calm and collected. He will always have a poised look on his face. Mike will take control. He is the big dog right now. We will fall behind him. He is going to lead us.”

Sheridan on Tuttle —

“I think Jack has come miles since he’s been here,” Sheridan said. “I think he’s gained the trust and confidence from his teammates, and he continues to get better and better.  Nobody is perfect, that goes from Mike (Penix), to me to Jack to everybody — there’s room for improvement. But just his comfortability to execute down in and down out, and we look forward to him continuing to grow.”

THE OUTLOOK

Indiana fans will cringe every time Penix gets hit in 2020.  That is just the way it is going to be after the way 2019 played out.

But assuming Penix gets through the season healthy, IU projects to have one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten.  And that should mean that the Hoosiers will be competitive in just about every game against a daunting all conference schedule.


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