More than a week into Indiana football’s fall camp, its quarterback competition remains tight.
Redshirt freshmen Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby have been battling for the starting job dating back to spring, and that’s continued into fall. Head coach Tom Allen previously asserted the Hoosiers won’t announce their starting quarterback before taking the field against Ohio State on September 2, but the team will aim to make a decision by the end of fall camp.
And six practices into preseason, neither Sorsby nor Jackson have separated themselves from the other. Allen said in a press conference Wednesday that the quarterbacks are seeing the same amount of practice reps.
“They’re in an equal rotation at this point,” Allen said. “Basically just rotating, going with the ones and the twos, and that will continue.”
IU is holding the first of two preseason intrasquad scrimmages in the coming days, and that should start providing clarity at quaterback. That will put both players in game situations, more so than what they face in typical practices. How Jackson and Sorsby fare in those spots could allow one player to begin separating themselves as the starter.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Walt Bell said it’s unlikely the Hoosiers would pick a starter after the first scrimmage, noting the importance of taking as much time as possible to make the right call.
“I think it will start to focus itself (after the first scrimmage). I don’t think that we’ll have a decision made, unless it’s evident,” Bell said. “We have plenty of time between now and September 2. If it’s done after the first scrimmage or if it’s pretty evident, good. If it’s not, good. We have a second scrimmage. We have a lot of time. But that’s typically when you start to see a little bit of that separation.”
Allen has, on several occasions, praised the camaraderie Jackson and Sorsby have displayed while battling for the job. He said both players have similar skill sets and entered the fall on equal ground.
Bell has been pleased with the way both players have competed this fall, as well as in spring ball and over the summer. He said they’ve moved past some of the fundamentals they focused on in spring camp — ‘ABCs,’ as Bell said — and are now working on more advanced concepts and thought processes — ‘DEFs.’
“Both of them have done a great job,” Bell said. “They’re both really physically talented. In these first six days, you had some really, really, really good moments and special moments, some average moments, and below average moments. So two young guys that have a lot of physical talent, they’re competing really well.”
Meanwhile, redshirt junior Dexter Williams II — the most experienced quarterback in the room, with two starts for IU last year — is continuing to progress in his recovery from a brutal knee injury suffered in last season’s final game.
Williams is back throwing in practice, sporting a brace on his surgically repaired right knee. Allen said Williams received a positive report from doctors ahead of fall camp, which made IU feel more comfortable ramping up his on-field activity. After so much time away, and after a significant leg injury, Williams has a lot of lower body strength to rebuild and readjustment to do in getting used to how his knee reacts when throwing. But Allen said Williams is further along than the staff — or Williams, himself — expected him to be at this point. Allen said Williams has felt good through his increased practice work.
Williams timeline for a potential return to action has continually improved, and Allen said Wednesday that Williams is once again ahead of schedule. Allen, at Big Ten Media Days in late July, said the Hoosiers were hoping to have Williams back around midseason this year. That’s improved from an optimistic target to a realistic target.
“Midseason would be, I would say, a good projection, but it may continue, if he progresses at the rate that he is currently. It could be maybe a game or two before that as well,” Allen said. “I know everybody’s very pleased with where he’s at. He is too. He’s just such an awesome young man. Teammates, coaches, everybody on our staff (is) pulling for the kid because of what he’s been through. So he’s just a little bit further ahead than we thought.”