EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Allen’s first full season as the Indiana head coach (he coached the bowl game in 2016) resulted in a 5-7 record and just missing a third consecutive bowl appearance. IU lost to Purdue 31-24 in the Old Oaken Bucket game, a loss that kept the Hoosiers out of postseason competition. As we count down to the start of fall camp Aug. 2, we will be previewing the Hoosiers position-by-position. The first three installments looked at running backs, wide receivers and the offensive line. This one focuses on quarterbacks.
When the 2017 season ended, it looked like Peyton Ramsey would be the likely quarterback to lead Indiana in 2018. He would return with the most experience and had thrown for 1,252 yards in a part-time starting role as a redshirt freshman. He completed 65 percent of his passes.
Then came the 2018 recruiting period and IU picked up an 11th hour flip with the signing of Michael Penix Jr. out of Tampa, Fla. Penix was committed to Tennessee but asked out of his commitment when the Volunteers had a coaching change. He enrolled at the semester at IU and played in spring football.
So coming out of spring it looked like a battle between Ramsey and Penix was developing for training camp.
That all changed when the Hoosiers picked up a fifth-year senior graduate transfer in Brandon Dawkins from the University of Arizona. He had started parts of two seasons with the Wildcats and arrived on the Bloomington campus in June. He is a 6-foot-3 dual-threat quarterback with plenty of Division I quarterback experience. He started 10 games as a sophomore and five more last season as a junior.
So now it’s a three-man competition for the starting job looming when Indiana opens training camp next Friday in Bloomington.
Key Returners: Ramsey (sophomore) and Mike Ficable (junior)
Notable Newcomers: Dawkins (grad transfer, Arizona), Penix (true freshman), Johnny Pabst (redshirt freshman walk-on).
Losses: Richard Lagow (graduation), Nick Tronti (transfer, Florida Atlantic)
Greatest Strength: Plenty of options
As was described above, it was initially a quarterback situation with very limited options, but now Indiana has three players who could legitimately see action in 2018.
Dawkins is probably the favorite to start simply because he’s a grad transfer who has faced big-time competition in the PAC-12. Ramsey reportedly has really worked on his arm strength in the offseason and showed last year he could be effective in offensive coordinator Mike DeBord’s attack. And Penix is the wildcard. He was a high-level recruit who re-opened his recruitment late and was courted by Florida State and UCLA among others but chose the Hoosiers.
With all three quarterbacks, you have players who are very comfortable running the football which could make for some interesting wrinkles in DeBord’s offense this fall.
Dawkins ran for 1,481 yards and 18 touchdowns at Arizona. He had a 79-yard touchdown run against a good Washington team.
Position Battles: Who will be No. 2?
No one has been handed the starting job, but most figure Dawkins is the early favorite.
But that can change very quickly. And it can change week to week in the season, too.
If Dawkins is the starter, though, who would be the odds-on favorite as the No. 2? One would think Ramsey would have the edge because he has Division I college football experience as a starter and even more than that as a starter in the Big Ten. His big challenge from a year ago was he was a run first/pass second quarterback and whenever he was in the game you always thought a run play might be designed for him.
But this summer he has been working on his arm, and many insiders with the program say he has made some progress in that area.
Worth Considering/Biggest Question: Where does Penix fit in the mix?
Depending on how solid he is in training camp, he could slip past Ramsey into the No. 2 or even challenge for the starting job. He was a highly heralded quarterback on signing day and just because a player like Dawkins has more experience and Ramsey has been with the program, the reality is Tom Allen is going to play the best player at quarterback this season.
One interesting possibility, however, is could Penix be the perfect player to test the new redshirt rule with? What if you felt you had decent play from Dawkins and Ramsey and wanted to save Penix for next season? Perhaps there would be a scenario by which Dawkins and Ramsey could quarterback the team for the first two-thirds of the season, and then you would go to Penix late either because of injury or simply to see what he could do.
Under the new rules, he could play four games this season and still get his redshirt. And there’s no reason to think it couldn’t be the final four games of the season, too.