Indiana’s quarterback competition will be the center of attention Friday night against Indiana State.
The Hoosiers used both Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby against Ohio State, and they’ll do the same against the Sycamores. Sorsby started last week, Jackson will start this week. Both redshirt freshmen played around the same number of snaps last week, and the distribution should be similarly even this week.
It’s a period of continued evaluation as the Hoosiers look for one of the two players to pull ahead and win the starting job. So far, that hasn’t happened.
“Overall, I don’t think either one of them just separated from the other,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “I think that they showed their youth in some situations (against Ohio State), but I thought they both showed poise. I think they both showed that the moment wasn’t too big for them. But that was their first time playing that amount of snaps at this level. You’ve just got to continue to evaluate, which we will. They can both throw and both run it. You’ve just got to be able to figure out who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win on game day.”
And so the two-quarterback strategy rolls on.
It’s not unheard of for a team to utilize two quarterbacks for an entire season, particularly if the players have different skill sets. But Jackson and Sorsby have pretty similar skill sets, likely rendering that concept moot in the big picture. And it’s easier to pull off that sort of strategy in lower levels than it is in the Big Ten, with a constant spotlight.
Indiana doesn’t seem to be taking that route. The Hoosiers are clearly trying to find one starter to roll with. They aren’t the first team to extend a quarterback competition into the season, and they won’t be the last.
The players have similar abilities, which allows IU to keep the same offensive system in place regardless of the quarterback.
“With Tayven, for a tall, long kid, he’s a way better athlete than you expect him to be,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Walt Bell said. “He takes a great deal of pride in his work. He puts a lot of internal pressure on himself, which can be good and can be bad. That and he can distribute, he can spin the football. Brendan is very similar. Brendan can hit spots. Brendan can distribute the football. He’s a big, physical runner. They’re very similar. They’re both really smart, they both retain information well, they both are composed.”
But there are real challenges created by a two-quarterback system, which could affect the rest of the team. Each player has their own mannerisms, styles, and quirks, and it could cause confusion with regular switching between the two. Jackson and Sorsby will have different sounding cadences at the line of scrimmage because they are, in fact, different people.
Ohio State is a difficult first matchup for anyone, no matter how talented the player is. A team with that much talent makes it hard to do a lot of things well. And given the way Sorsby and Jackson looked in that game, it may not have ended much differently if IU was using only one.
And Friday’s Indiana State game is, most likely, the same way, on the other side. The Hoosiers should win this game, and it should happen whether they use one or two quarterbacks.
So in that sense, it doesn’t necessarily matter as much that Indiana is using two quarterbacks for these first two games. The Louisville game next week is the first opponent where it could make a difference. So if the results shouldn’t swing on a quarterback being in place, this gives IU’s staff extra time to make a decision.
But this ongoing competition may hurt both players in terms of developing as a starter. Not only are Jackson and Sorsby splitting game time pretty evenly, but it’s the same with first-team reps in practice. If IU had one starting quarterback locked in, that player would get all of (or at least a large majority of) the first-team reps in practice. That’s not the case here. And there were times against Ohio State where both players looked like they hadn’t taken a full slate of first-team reps like a normal starter would.
So it’s a sort of give and take for IU with this quarterback situation. It gives the staff added time to evaluate these two players who have yet to run away with the job, and it puts them in live game situations against other teams. It also gives them a chance to see how each player fits into what is a somewhat unique scheme with multiple running back formations and option looks.
The results of these first two weeks, most likely, won’t hinge on IU’s quarterback situation.
But the amount of time it’s taking to settle this battle could impact both of these players going forward. And if those lost reps lead to a missed opportunity later in the year, this early-season situation will take a different context.
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”