Ramsey tries to take hold of Hoosiers’ starting QB gig
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana Hoosiers are dealing with yet another quarterback competition.
Sophomore Peyton Ramsey knows the offense better than anyone else in the mix after making four starts last season. Brandon Dawkins, a graduate transfer from Arizona, has the most college experience. And true freshman Michael Penix Jr. enrolled in January so he could get a jump on the competition.
Now it’s up to the coaches to pick a winner.
“That’s going to be the priority, to create practice opportunities so these three guys can show us what they can do, instead of doing two (guys) like we have in the past,” second-year coach Tom Allen said Thursday. “They are three talented players with different skill sets but they all get along, which is great, they’re all competing and they all want to play.”
These early season battles became routine during Kevin Wilson’s coaching tenure when rotations were the norm. One year, he even used three quarterbacks based on the circumstances.
Allen and associate head coach Mike DeBord, the offensive coordinator, appear to be leaning toward a more clear-cut depth chart, which will be determined between Friday’s opening practice and Indiana’s Sept. 1 season opener at Florida International.
For most of the offseason, it looked like it would come down to Ramsey, a part-time starter in 2017, and Penix, the highly-touted lefty from Tampa, Florida.
Ramsey wrested the starting job from senior Richard Lagow four games into the season, started the next and missed the last four with an injured knee. He finished 134 of 205, with 1,252 yards and 10 TDs while rushing for 226 yards and two more scores. He returns this year with a thicker, more muscular body and no intention of giving up the job he won last season.
“I think I’m more confident in my play,” he said. “Having traveled and played in some big-time games, I think that helped me gain confidence.”
As well as experience — something Penix lacks.
During his final two prep seasons, Penix threw for 61 touchdowns, ran for another 16 and had only six interceptions. Participating in spring practice will help, too.
And while the 6-foot-3, 208-pound track and baseball star has been impressive on the practice field, he must still show the coaching staff why it would want to break up an offense that averaged 26.8 points in 2017 and has all 11 starters back.
If Penix doesn’t win the job outright, the consolation prize could come courtesy of a new NCAA rule that allows players to compete in up to four games — any four — and not burn their redshirt season.
“Everybody’s competing, everyone wants to be on top,” he said. “We’re all trying to show we can get there.”
Dawkins entered the picture after earning his journalism degree from Arizona in May and arriving on campus in June. Since then, he’s been trying to learn a new playbook, get his timing down with a new group of receivers and become acclimated with a conference he doesn’t know much about.
The bigger problem: Hoosiers coaches don’t know where he is in that progression because NCAA rules prohibit them from monitoring summer workouts.
Instead, they been watching tapes of the 14 starts and 21 games he played at Arizona and determined he, like Ramsey and Penix, has the athletic ability to make plays with his arm or his legs.
Allen wouldn’t establish a timeline for a decision. DeBord said he expects the similar playing styles will make the Hoosiers the big winner.
“I felt like last year, we had a little bit of two packages. We had one for Rich and one for Peyton,” he said. “With all three of these guys, with their ability to run, we’ll have one offense and I think that will be good for everyone.”
NOTES: Allen has given running backs coach Mike Hart the additional title of assistant head coach and defensive line coach Mark Hagen the title of co-defensive coordinator.