The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2021 Indiana football season on Sept. 4 against Iowa.
Today we take a look at the quarterbacks.
No discussion about the outlook for the 2021 Indiana football season is complete without a discussion of the quarterback room, and specifically the health of Michael Penix, Jr.
With Penix IU has someone who is perhaps the best quarterback in the Big Ten and one of the best nationally. He is enough of a difference maker that a healthy Penix means the Hoosiers can legitimately have a chance to win every game on their schedule.
But Penix has had three consecutive seasons ended early due to injuries, and the outlook would change considerably in 2021 if that pattern were to repeat.
WHO IS GONE
Indiana has everyone back from the 2020 season at the quarterback position.
THE 2021 ROSTER
RETURNING WITH EXPERIENCE
Michael Penix, Jr. has been fully cleared to start. He owns a 10-2 record as a starter and enters 2021 second on the program’s career list in career completion percentage (61.6) and tied for sixth in 300-yard passing games with four. In 2020 he completed 124-of-220 (56.4 percent) throws for 1,645 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Jack Tuttle is a former 4-star recruit who proved to be a talented backup in 2020. He started the final two games and played in the final three. Tuttle went 44-of-72 (61.1 percent) for 362 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and he rushed 15 times for 37 yards.
Indiana also has three walk-on quarterbacks on its roster.
NAMES ON THE RISE/IMPACT NEWCOMERS
Dexter Williams did not see the field as a true freshman and is not expected to in 2021 after a spring knee injury.
Donaven McCulley is one of the highest rated recruits in program history. The true freshman closed his prep career with 6,211 passing yards, 1,274 rushing yards, 47 touchdowns, and a 128.1 quarterback rating at Indianapolis Lawrence North High School. McCulley was the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in his class nationally according to Rivals.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Tom Allen on Michael Penix’s rehab and readiness for week one —
“I think that all along it’s always been about just constant progress, constant working for him and as a matter of fact I met with him this past weekend and met with several different guys and for different reasons and he and I talked about that. I really commended him on buying into that process and how hard it is. You’re going through fall camp, fall camp is hard and he’s doing more than he’s ever done in regard to every time we had a special teams period or a different type of period he was always with the training staff doing extra work, with our both weight room staff as well as our medical guys, just doing rehab and strengthening and conditioning and just doing extra things and he did that all fall camp. But even he did it last week.
So, he bought into that. He understood that was part of it. It was a constant process to get him ready for September 4 [at Iowa]. So very encouraged by his progress and he’s right where we hoped he would be and he’s 100 percent ready to be the starter on Saturday and so that’s great.”
Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan on Jack Tuttle —
“I think getting Jack to settle down a little in the pocket, fundamentally. I don’t think it was intentional but just making sure his feet were underneath him with a good platform and a good base I think has lent itself to him throwing the ball more consistently, more accurately. Jack is an accurate passer. Jack has good arm strength. Jack has mobility. Sometimes, as a quarterback, if you are a little bit hesitant or not quite confident in where the route is going to be or you’re not seeing the defense, sometimes the ball can be off. It doesn’t mean the guy has bad accuracy, you just need to teach him better and help him better.
“Jack is a joy to coach. He is always prepared. He always asks good questions. We’ve really focused on quieting his feet and quieting his mind so he can play fast and free. He’s shown that throughout camp. Jack has had a good camp. He’s done a nice job and we’re lucky that he’s here and have full confidence in him.”
Allen on freshman Donaven McCulley —
“I’ve really been encouraged by his growth. … He’s a very gifted player. … When you walk out there, you notice (McCulley) and the way he moves.”
How good is Penix? You could argue he has never been the reason Indiana lost a game. In games he started, he threw for 773 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception in the two losses. Can he block the injury risk from his mind? Can he continue to be a dual-threat? Those are legitimate questions, but as long as he is healthy you can never count Indiana out.
Collectively Indiana has to have one of the best quarterback rooms in the country. Few teams have a backup as competent as Tuttle, and McCulley has already shown that he has all the tools to be the program’s next star signal-caller.
MORE 2021 POSITION PREVIEWS
- The cornerbacks
- The safeties and huskies
- The defensive line
- The linebackers and bulls
- The offensive line
- The wide receivers
- The tight ends
- The running backs
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