Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

New offense, critical season opener, has IU football on need-to-know basis, especially at QB

It’s no secret — Tom Allen wants to keep things a secret until the IU football season kicks off on Sept. 2.

That started with not opening spring practices to the media and not holding a public spring scrimmage, and it continues into fall camp.

Yes, the media can attend portions of practice this month.  When it comes to the position battles and schemes on both sides of the ball, there are some clues.  But not much.  Most of what we are seeing are drills.  Full scrimmages such as the the first one this Friday will be closed to outside eyes once again.

With two new coordinators, five new position coaches, and position battles ongoing, the logic behind a secretive approach is fairly obvious — IU has information others want, and there’s no sense in sharing it.

Another key fact — the Hoosiers will play their most significant season opener in a long time.  In so many ways Indiana and Illinois appear to be programs in similar positions heading into this season.  It’s reasonable to speculate the loser won’t be able to rebound against a grueling league schedule and achieve bowl eligibility.

“There’s multiple reasons (for the secretive approach) and the most obvious is who our first opponent is,” Tom Allen said of playing Illinois in week one.

Allen is returning to calling the defensive plays on game day, and IU returns a bunch of veterans on that side of the football.  So there aren’t many unknowns when it comes to personnel or the 4-2-5 scheme.

But on the offensive side, a whole new look is expected from OC Walt Bell, and there are several good competitions for playing time ongoing.

Allen cut his teeth as a defensive coach, and he knows Illinois would love to glean insight when it comes to what is going on behind closed doors in Bloomington.

“I just know as a defensive minded person when there’s those questions marks there it creates multiple options you have to prepare for which detracts from the focus you really want it to have,” Allen said.

On the top of everyone’s mind is who will be the starting quarterback in just over three weeks.

Based on what we have seen at fall camp, the quarterback competition appears to be legitimate.  Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak and Jack Tuttle are both heavily involved in all aspects, and both are taking leading roles.

Allen spoke about what has liked about each quarterback to this point during fall camp.

“Jack [Tuttle], just so competitive and such a great preparer and is just really doing a good job of just learning; where to get his eyes, where to make the throws, running the system from the wholistic perspective is where I’m seeing growth there, which is what you want,” Allen said.

“And with Connor [Bazelak], just the quick release ability,” Allen said.  “You’re seeing the growth in the mastery of the system because he hasn’t been here as long as Jack, but bottom line is throwing catchable balls. One thing that sticks out to me about Connor is that he can throw a catchable ball and that is really the key. The completions are what you’re looking for.”

It would be an out-of-nowhere stunner if sophomore Dexter Williams II earned the starting job.  But if last season taught us nothing else, we learned you can never look too far down the quarterback depth chart.

Williams is the presumed third-stringer right now, but offensive coordinator Walt Bell sees a bright future for the 6-foot-1 Georgia product.

“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, but all three of those kids, great teammates, good people, they’re doing everything they possibly can to go win and compete for the job.”

How long this quarterback competition drags on is anyone’s guess, but Allen pointed to that Friday scrimmage as a significant marker.

“I think that will be pretty telling for us to get the feedback were trying to get,” Allen said.

But even if a decision on the starting quarterback is reached this weekend, that won’t necessarily mean we’ll hear about it in any kind of official way.

If Allen’s historic pattern holds, the Monday (Aug. 29) of Illinois week might be a date when an announcement on the starter is made.

Of course there could be no announcement at all, and then everyone will watch to see who runs out on the field for IU’s first drive on Sept. 2 at Memorial Stadium.

Bell hinted that latter scenario might be the case this year.

“As little as we can possibly let Illinois know is probably a good thing for us,” Bell said.  “On the first play against Illinois they’ll be 11 people, and somebody will be catching the snap.”

With an eye toward winning that opening game at all costs, Allen isn’t particularly concerned about what anyone thinks of his approach right now.

“People may not like it, but it doesn’t really matter to me, it’s what we’re going to do,” he said.  “The whole goal is what we feel is best for our team and we feel that’s the best for our team and we’re going to stick with it.”

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