The Daily Hoosier has spent several days at Indiana football’s 2019 fall camp observing one of the better quarterback competitions in the program’s recent history. We’ve also spoken with several other members of the media to get their take.
One way or the other, a decision will be reached by the end of next week to allow the starter a full week to prepare for IU’s season opener on August 31 against Ball State in Indianapolis.
Each of Michael Penix, Peyton Ramsey and Jack Tuttle have shown the ability to win the job — but they all have shortcomings as well.
We go through each of the contenders and tell you why they will, and will not, be the starter when IU takes the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in two weeks.
PEYTON RAMSEY — “THE RETURNING STARTER”
Why He’ll Start
Ramsey’s bio would lead the more casual observer to wonder why we are even having this debate.
He is Indiana’s all-time completion percentage leader (65.8) and shares fifth in 300-yard games (3), ranks sixth in completions (429), ninth in passing touchdowns (29) and attempts (652), and 10th in total offense (4,707).
And he is just a redshirt junior.
Ramsey could rewrite the IU record books if he starts during his final two years of eligibility.
He won the job last year because he didn’t turn it over at camp, he sustains drives, and he has really good instincts and feet.
Moreover, the Ramsey you think you know is the Ramsey that played under former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, not the new owner of that role, Kalen Deboer. How much of the so-called conservative Ramsey was due to the old system vs. the quarterback?
Why He Won’t
Despite all of that, we’re still having the competition, right?
Clearly Tom Allen wants to see more, and let’s not forget, if Michael Penix doesn’t tear his ACL against Penn State, Ramsey might not have finished the 2018 season as the starter.
Ramsey is steady and reliable, but in order for IU to win big games, they need dynamic and explosive. Moreover, Ramsey ended up throwing 13 interceptions last year.
When compared to his competitors, Ramsey appears to have the least pop on his throws, meaning elite defenses have to cover less of the field, and have more time to make up ground on balls thrown into tight windows.
At camp, there is nothing about Ramsey that tells you that he is clearly better than the others, beyond perhaps leadership.
Whereas Ramsey had the clear support of the players in 2018, that might not be so clear in 2019. Last year Penix and Brandon Dawkins were relatively unknown in the locker room. While Tuttle is the new guy this year, Penix is well known — and well liked.
MICHAEL PENIX — “THE GUNSLINGER”
Why He’ll Start
You know about Penix’s arm. His throws seem effortless and yet probably have more zip on them than either of his competitors. If you need a guy that can put a little something extra on a ball against a Michigan or Ohio State, Penix is your guy.
As mentioned above, Penix seemed to have already claimed this job mid-season in 2018 — as a true freshman. He has that kind of ability, and many thought he might even win the job at last year’s fall camp.
While he didn’t complete passes at the same rate as Ramsey, Penix wasn’t far off. His 21-for-34 performance in 2018 was good for 61.8% and would actually be the second best career percentage at IU if he had enough attempts.
Penix has also been more vocal in his second season. It’s clear that he is attempting to take on a leadership role.
Why He Won’t
Penix says he is 100 percent recovered from his knee injury — but what does 100 percent mean? While he may be fully cleared to play without limitations, is he rusty, is he confident, and does he have his mobility back?
Perhaps he is just being cautious in camp, but we don’t see the same Penix in 2019 when it comes to his ability to escape the pocket.
While his arm looks good, Penix doesn’t look fully comfortable in camp. He doesn’t look like a guy that is playing without thinking about his knee.
And while he’s been throwing for months, Penix has only been playing without limitations for weeks — and it shows, even for a guy that knows that he isn’t going to take a hit in his blue jersey.
Beyond the zip on his ball, Penix isn’t doing anything to separate himself at camp, and he isn’t the only one with a big arm…
JACK TUTTLE — “THE PROTOTYPE”
Why He’ll Start
If you had to pick one of these guys as having the best shot at playing in the NFL someday — Tuttle looks the part more than the others.
He is the tallest (6-foot-4), he can make all of the throws, and he is more mobile than you might expect. You can see why he had the highest recruiting rankings of the three coming out of high school.
Plus, with DeBoer installing a new offense, the playing field was leveled somewhat. While Tuttle is the only one of the three that is new to IU, they are all new to this offense.
Finally, while experience counts, don’t forget that Allen turned to an inexperienced Ramsey in 2017 and Penix in 2018. The head coach isn’t going to let that one factor alone make the decision.
Why He Won’t
Despite the obvious talents, Tuttle hasn’t stood out at camp. Inconsistent might be the best word. He’ll wow you with a beautiful throw one minute, and then throw an interception the next.
A redshirt freshman with no game experience, Tuttle just doesn’t appear to be fully comfortable yet, at least not all of the time.
Finally, with two must wins to open the season, will this coaching staff really put their full faith in a guy that has never taken a college snap? The pattern with Allen seems to be that he starts the season with his known commodity and then considers a change as the season progresses.
Ramsey. With no one standing out, the returning starter gets the nod. Indiana absolutely must win against Ball State and Eastern Illinois to open the season, and Allen knows Ramsey can get that done. As mentioned, Allen also has shown a propensity for mid-season changes, so nothing will be set in stone here. Once Penix shakes off the rust and Tuttle gets more comfortable, either could pounce on an opportunity if Ramsey doesn’t produce.
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