The story of Indiana’s eight win 2019 season was its depth at the quarterback position.
By now you know all about the job redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey did filling in for injured starter Michael Penix on multiple occasions. Without Ramsey, there was no eight win season, and there was no Gator Bowl.
And by now you no doubt know that Ramsey has put his name in the transfer portal. He won’t be back in Bloomington for his final year of eligibility.
IU had a luxury at quarterback in 2019 that isn’t reasonable to expect in most seasons. And it’s a luxury they won’t have in 2020.
But the Hoosiers are certainly not going into next season shorthanded.
When healthy, Penix is one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in college football. It’s just that modifier — when healthy — that has been a concern.
Penix left three games with an injury in 2019 after his 2018 season ended abruptly with a torn ACL. The Tampa, Fla. product only appeared in six games in 2019, but that was more than enough to leave IU fans dreaming about what a fully healthy season might look like.
After Penix’s season ended once again with an injury that required surgery, the good news is that the 6-foot-3 signal caller is already cleared for 2020.
“He’s been released (from restrictions),” head coach Tom Allen said at a media availability on Wednesday afternoon. “He’ll be full bore for spring ball. We don’t hit our quarterbacks in the spring. So that won’t change. But he’ll be — whereas last spring he was not full. He just threw seven on seven throughout the spring, did not take team reps. So he’s been fully cleared for that, is doing a great, great job.”
Perhaps in an effort to better absorb hits and avoid injuries, Penix has been focusing on adding to his frame.
“He’s close to 220 (pounds) — 217, 218 right now,” Allen said. “Really changing himself there which is really important.”
Penix was listed on last year’s roster at 203 pounds, and he was able to beat out Ramsey for the starting job despite the spring limitations. He would go on to complete 110-of-160 of his passes (68.8 percent) for 1,394 yards to go with 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Now slated to be fully engaged this year at spring practice, Penix could be on track for an even more productive season.
Penix is working overtime now to help ensure that he stays healthy, and does indeed continue to progress his career on an upward trajectory.
His offseason efforts have made an impression on the IU staff.
“When I came back from being on the road and obviously constant contact with our strength staff, and I had him just give me a top 5 guys in the weight room and he (Penix) was top of the list, just one of the top guys, just had a great work ethic and mindset coming back, just kind of obviously the season didn’t end with him, with getting injured, the way he wanted to, Allen said.
“Encouraged by the leadership he’s showing, the work ethic he’s showing, getting ready to have a big spring, big summer, and a good 2020.”
TUTTLE NOW NEXT MAN UP
Despite Ramsey’s magical 2019 season, there really wasn’t any doubt that Penix would reclaim his starting job in 2020. That dynamic drove Ramsey’s decision to transfer, and the domino effect is that redshirt sophomore Jack Tuttle is the new backup.
Tuttle transferred to Indiana from Utah in 2018, but with Penix and Ramsey ahead of him on the depth chart, he only saw mop-up duty in his first season at IU.
Now Tuttle is the clear backup to Penix, and that means he must be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. If the 2020 season is anything like 2019, there could be several such moments.
Allen believes Tuttle, a former 4-star recruit, will be ready.
“That’s a challenge to Jack, and he’s done a tremendous job working,” Allen said. “He has a great mindset. He’s excited to be in that position. And he’s getting bigger and stronger. And he’ll have a chance this spring to get a ton of reps and continue to grow and develop.
“It’s very, very important that you have those guys ready when called upon. And Jack’s going to be a very, very important part of this football team and very, very important part of our 2020 season.”
Tuttle didn’t take a snap during his lone season at Utah and he only attempted 11 passes for Indiana in 2019.
Now if duty calls, the 6-foot-4 Tuttle could be thrown into the fire despite not seeing meaningful action going back to his senior season of high school in 2017.
“I think it’s true at every position, but obviously quarterback position, as we know, is extremely important and you need two-plus guys to get the job done, Allen said.
“He’s got to be ready.”
WILLIAMS IMPRESSING EARLY
Stepping into the role of the third string quarterback should be true freshman Dexter Williams.
Hailing from Macon, Ga., Williams is a true dual-threat quarterback.
The 6-foot-1 Williams totaled 2,508 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior for Mount de Sales Academy. He completed 99-of-158 passes (62.7 percent) for 1,524 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also rushed 135 times for 984 yards (7.3 average) with 14 scores.
Williams enrolled early at IU, and he is already making an impression.
“I know he’s already caught the eye of our strength staff in the way he goes about his business and his athleticism and his arm talent,” Allen said. “Haven’t seen him throw here but he throws with our players, they’ve already started those things. They obviously talk.
“He’s got a million things to learn, but from a physical standpoint and a leadership standpoint, is a guy that our coaches commented on (favorably) right away.”
If all goes according to plan, Williams should redshirt in 2020 under the four-game rule to put a couple years of eligibility between himself and the two quarterbacks currently above him.
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