We are just over three weeks away from the start of the 2019 Indiana football season.
I spent the day in Bloomington on Wednesday to observe practice. Here are some of the more significant things I picked up from the team’s fall camp just north of Memorial Stadium on the IU campus.
Of course the question on everyone’s mind is the quarterback competition.
Who stood out? That is really tough to say.
Mike Penix appears to have the best arm, but he took several sacks and you have to wonder where he’s at mentally with his recovery from knee surgery less than 10 months ago. Does he have the confidence to plant on that knee? Is he thinking about the knee?
Receiver Nick Westbrook said he took more than a year to fully shake off the rust and forget about his reconstructed knee last year. Several members of the media observed that Penix looked sharper on Wednesday than he had in prior practices, so perhaps he is progressing as we speak.
Jack Tuttle also throws an impressive ball and clearly has the raw ability to play high level college football. Don’t count him out of this race. Despite missing the spring game and never taking a college snap, if he can continue to progress and earn the trust of Allen, he looks more than capable. If not this year, then someday soon.
And then of course there is Peyton Ramsey. Counted out each of the last two seasons, and each time he emerged as the starter. Tom Allen refers to him as the “returning starter,” but does he stand out as the clear leader? Simply put, no. IU wouldn’t be having a competition if that were the case.
Ramsey can throw the deep ball just fine. That narrative should be put to bed. But can he put enough zip on the ball, without sacrificing accuracy, to fit it into tight Big Ten East windows and make defenses respect out patterns? Those are the real questions.
Head coach Tom Allen’s word for the season is grit, but it just as well could have been intense.
There is simply no better word to describe Allen, his assistants, and the entire scene at fall camp.
I didn’t keep count, but there weren’t enough fingers and toes to track how many times the third year head coach barked the word intensity through his omnipresent megaphone with his clearly challenged voice throughout the day.
New defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said last week that “I work for Tom Allen so I better have a pretty aggressive defense or I’m going to lose my job.”
That mindset applies equally to everyone in this program — players and coaches.
Allen’s intensity continued right down to the final snap of the day as he blared his megaphone directly into the ear of kicker Charles Campbell as he attempted a field goal.
The kick was good.
When there is that much intensity there are bound to be incidents.
Probably nothing more than your run of the mill fall camp scuffles, but memorable still.
There is a lot of talk about the talent in the defensive backfield and at the wide receiver position, and both sides seem to take that personally.
During one non-tackling 11-on-11 session, a reverse tripped up the defense and receiver Whop Philyor broke loose for 20 yards before he was driven down to the ground after already going out of bounds by cornerback Raheem Layne.
Philyor took exception and a fight ensued. Allen was the first there to break things up, arriving after a full speed 25 yard sprint and nearly taking down Layne upon his arrival.
Another incident involved receiver Donavan Hale flipping the ball at defenders after a first down reception. That resulted in screaming and yelling from both sides and ultimately Allen yanked Hale from the session.
Speaking of intensity, the clear leader on the defense is Marcelino Ball.
Vocal, demonstrative and a physical specimen, Ball was actively engaged whether on the field or on the sidelines.
Tom Allen has said repeatedly that he is looking for verbal leadership, and Ball is obviously stepping up.
This defense just might go as far as the still just 20 year old redshirt junior husky takes them.
Ball also played the role of peacemaker. He had long conversations with both Philyor and Hale as the practice wore on.
Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier
They say if a coach is yelling at someone a lot, it is because they are invested in that player. Freshman receiver David Ellis‘ name comes up a fair amount as someone that could see snaps this year.
Receiver coach Grant Heard was yelling at Ellis a lot on Wednesday as his young player seemed to struggle with knowing where he was supposed to be. Ellis looks the part physically. If he can get the mental side down in year one he could be a name to watch.
- Kalen DeBoer provides an update on the offensive install.
- Hart and the running backs discuss a talented position group.
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