The hard part is almost over for Michael Penix.
But next comes the hardest part.
The Tampa, Fla. native has nearly worked his way back from a season ending ACL tear that he suffered last October against Penn State.
Right after the injury, IU head coach Tom Allen indicated that the goal was to have Penix back for certain aspects of spring practice, and then back to “100 percent full bore” by June 1.
It looks like things are more or less right on track.
Penix participated in a limited capacity in spring practice, and played quarterback in special 7-on-7 scrimmages implemented for him as part of the Cream and Crimson game.
Nearly two more months have passed, and head coach Tom Allen told us this about Penix’s recovery.
“Feel really, really good about his progress,” Allen said. “He’s right on schedule where we expected him to be with his movement. May was really big for us in his next step in his progression to be able to get him to 100 percent back to full speed. Our medical staff feels very good that he’s where he needs to be right now. He’ll be 100 percent by the fall, but he’s really close right now.”
An injury of this magnitude is a lot for anyone to deal with.
Although he was still just 18 years old when he suffered the ACL tear, Penix accepted his fate and rolled up his sleeves.
“I’m just really encouraged by the way he’s handled that because the ability of those guys to dive into that rehab and handle it the proper way really determines their recovery and you can’t take anything for granted with that even though we’ve gotten better and better with ACL surgeries medically, the effort they put into rehab is really key to how quickly they can come back,” Allen said.
You had the right attitude. You put in all of the hard work. You are almost ready to go.
Oh, and there’s this.
“Peyton is the returning starter, and they’re going to have to beat him out,” Allen said.
For the second year in a row, Penix will be engaged in a three way race for the starting quarterback job along with incumbent starter Peyton Ramsey and transfer Jack Tuttle.
While last year in fall camp it became quickly apparent that the three way race was really a two way race between Ramsey and Penix, this year appears to be different.
Tuttle is fully recovered from an illness that caused him to miss the spring game, and there are not so quiet whispers that he was very impressive at spring practice before he fell ill.
Allen sees three talented quarterbacks that are worthy competitors for the job.
“Three guys there that I think are very, very talented and have all different attributes for sure that make them unique in who they are and what they bring to the table but I think each one of those guys is going to make for a very interesting competiton,” Allen said on The Ride With JMV on 1070 The Fan.
While acknowledging that “they all can run and throw,” Allen also sees some clear differences in his quarterback room.
“Two of them are pretty young,” Allen said. “There are some arm strength differences and different builds.”
The youngsters are Penix and Tuttle, who are both redshirt freshmen on the roster. Ramsey has the clear advantage of three years in the program and having played in 20 games, although that is somewhat mitigated by the insertion of new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer. All three quarterbacks are learning a new system.
But that’s still 17 more games than Penix, who is able to take advantage of last year’s new redshirt rules by virtue of participating in four or fewer games in 2018.
And Ramsey has 20 games on Tuttle, who has never seen a snap in college after riding the bench for a year at Utah.
But what Tuttle lacks in experience, he makes up for with his arm. The California native was a 4-star recruit out of high school and one of the top ten pro style quarterbacks in the class of 2018 according to the 247Sports Composite.
Penix boasts a similarly strong arm, and each of the young gunslingers appear to be capable of accepting Allen’s challenge and beating out Ramsey.
Of course only one of the three can win the job.
And that’s where things get difficult for Allen.
Now headed into year three with no bowl appearances thus far, it’s a decision that could impact his job security. At the very least, a major misstep here would have the masses howling.
Allen recognizes this.
“Very important decision we have to make, and a very, very important part of our next step as a program,” Allen said.
Three seemingly capable quarterbacks, and of course only one can start.
The direction of the program is at stake.
A very interesting competition indeed.
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