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IU football 2022 position previews: The quarterbacks

The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2022 Indiana football season on Sept. 2 against Illinois (schedule here).

Today we take a look at the quarterbacks.  For a complete position-by-position look at who is coming and going in 2022, go here.

THE ROSTER

THE SURE THING

The sure thing is that there really was no sure thing, or so we’ve been told.

Unlike the last two years, Indiana didn’t have a starting quarterback in the spring or first couple weeks of fall camp after Michael Penix, Jr. transferred to Washington (where he won the starting job).  Instead, IU went through spring practice, summer workouts and two scrimmages in August before choosing a first stringer.  Who is it?

More than half of FBS teams will be starting a transfer quarterback this year, and Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak is widely viewed as the favorite by the outside world, although no announcement has been made..  The main reasons are his experience in the SEC, and flashes of high level play.  He threw for 5,084 yards with 23 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a 66.4 completion percentage in 20 starts (24 games) for the Tigers from 2019-21.

Bazelak’s main competitor has been program veteran Jack Tuttle.  This will be Tuttle’s fourth year in Bloomington after transferring from Utah.  He’s appeared in 14 games, but has attempted only 170 passes and completed just 56 percent of them with more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (four).  Tuttle did look more nimble and confident in camp, and he is very well liked in the locker room.  He also led an impressive drive last year vs. Ohio State before getting injured, and he played well at Wisconsin in 2020.

The staff has raved about the development of Dexter Williams, who we assume will open the season as the third-stringer.  Williams has never appeared in a game and missed the entire 2021 season after suffering an ACL injury.  The Georgia product is known for both his big arm and running ability.

Indiana also brought in true freshman Brendan Sorsby from Texas, who they’d like to redshirt this season, and walk-on Grant Gremel is back after playing admirably a year ago.

Donaven McCulley, who played quarterback a year ago as a true freshman, has moved to wide receiver.

THE BIG QUESTIONS

Who will line up under or behind center and take the first snap of the 2022 season has been and still is THE big question of the offseason.  And it appears as though head coach Tom Allen just might successfully get to Friday night without his starting quarterback secret being revealed, despite already sharing the news with those inside the program.

Which quarterback will fit best in new offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s system?  That system is another closely guarded state secret, but based on his prior stops, it seems clear it will involve tempo, and an ability to read a defense and react.  Allen is also looking for more big plays down the field rather than dinks and dunks.  Bazelak and Tuttle are fairly similar when it comes to arm strength and mobility.  Neither has a massive arm and neither is lightning fast, but both are good enough in both areas to get the job done.

It seems obvious to say that without solid offensive line play this group will struggle, but it would seem incomplete to leave that out of the equation after two quarterbacks were injured a year ago, and in the end, four ran for their lives at various points.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

Allen on the QB competition:

“It was a very, very long detailed process we went through, and just collectively as a whole group,” he said. “Obviously, I gotta make the final call and the buck stops with me. But at the same, it was a group decision and really feel good about it.”

Bazelak on if coming to Indiana has been a reboot to his career:

“Last season was definitely up-and-down,” he said.  “I had a really bad grade two and a half hamstring last year and played through that which was tough, couldn’t run. But nobody cares, you know, you go out there and you’ve got to win games that’s what they want. So, able to make a bowl game but thought it was best to come here, everything’s great, I love it here. The players have been awesome, the quarterbacks were super welcoming in the spring and can’t say enough about Coach [Tom] Allen, he’s an unbelievable man, coach, leader and Coach Bell has been great, just the hospitality has been awesome, and I think it’s a great fit for me.”

KEEP AN EYE ON

As we said above, everyone is excited about the progress of Williams over the last six months.  If last year taught us nothing else, we learned you never know just how far into the depth chart you may venture.

If his number is called this year, it is sounding more and more like the staff trusts Williams can do the job.

“Dexter is going to be a really good player someday,” Bell said.  “I’m really impressed with the improvement that Dexter has made between spring and now. So excited about him.”

Because the 2020 season didn’t count eligibility-wise, and he didn’t play in 2021, Williams still has a full four years of eligibility remaining.

COACH SPEAK

New offensive coordinator Walt Bell is also the quarterbacks coach.  He was previously the head coach at UMass following stints as offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Maryland and Florida State. For more background on Bell, GO HERE.

Here he is at 2022 fall camp:

SEE ALSO:  No Quarterback announcement until Illinois kickoff | Tuttle and Bazelak fall camp Q&A

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