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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, August 08, 2019 1:00 am

Indiana offense sharp as camp continues

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana is seemingly no closer to choosing a starting quarterback from among the three contenders vying for the job: Peyton Ramsey, Jack Tuttle and Michael Penix Jr. Those three players aren't making it easy. All three have had big moments in camp and Wednesday was Penix's day to put on a show.

The redshirt freshman, who is coming off a torn ACL that ended his true freshman season early, has the strongest arm of the group and he showed a little bit of emerging touch in Wednesday's work. He hit one 35-yard pass down the right side to Ty Fryfogle that looked like it was dropped directly out of the sky into the receiver's hands. That was probably the best pass of the day, though Ramsey had some big plays through the air, as well. Interestingly, Penix ran with the first-string offense in live 11-on-11 drills with the "game" on the line near the end of the practice, while Ramsey, the incumbent starter, was with the second-string offense. It's not a good idea to read too much into that, but it probably doesn't mean nothing, either.

Penix started slightly behind the other two because he wasn't able to participate in spring practice following his injury, but he's clearly made up ground and is learning his checks and reads very quickly.

"He did a really good job," offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said of Penix. "You can see where we need to make throws down the field, he not just has the arm talent and explosiveness to throw it there, but the accuracy (as well)."

"I thought all the quarterbacks did a good job of knowing situations today," DeBoer added. "Two-minute drill, it's the second time we've done it and we weren't in some very favorable positions at times, but we found some ways to move the sticks, make a play, put some pressure on the defense."

As for a timetable for a decision on the starting quarterback, DeBoer said there isn't one right now.

"We've gotta let it play out a little bit," the first-year Indiana coordinator said. "I don't want to stick to something and then not be able to hold to it, make a bad a decision, things like that. We wanted to let the first five, six practices happen here, see where we're at."

Regardless of who the quarterback ends up being, he will have plenty of receivers ready to catch the ball. Indiana appears to have an embarrassment of riches on the outside, including Fryfogle, a junior who is poised for a big season, redshirt freshman Miles Marshall, who looks the part and then some, and another freshman, Jordan Jakes, who is tall and athletic but probably isn't as game-ready as some of the other young players. Those youngsters are ready to add to a position group that already includes veterans such as Nick Westbrook and Donovan Hale. Between them and the talented running backs room, this offense could be explosive.

Marshall continues to be the most impressive skill-position newcomer in my eyes. He made a couple of tough catches over the middle in traffic Wednesday and caught one jump ball from Penix that was actually underthrown. He looked back, found the ball, shed the corner (who was in good position) with a swim move and hauled the pass in along the sideline.

"Our receiving corps is just not fair," Indiana offensive lineman DaVondre Love said after the catch.

It seems as though defensive star Marcelino Ball has targeted Marshall as a player to watch, as well. Ball reserved a lot of his trash talk for the freshman wideout, jawing in his direction after Marshall was unable to catch an overthrown pass along the sideline. After getting on Marshall all practice, Ball went up to him near the end and made clear he was only messing with him. 

Ball is clearly a leader on this team. At another point in practice, I saw him with his arm around true freshman defensive back Tiawan Mullen, encouraging him. Ball, a redshirt junior who is one of the most physical players on the team, is also one of the most vocal Hoosiers and the defense will follow his lead.

I also feel compelled to note that Tom Allen, master of the bullhorn at Indiana practice, has already nearly completely lost his voice from yelling after just a half-dozen workouts. It's a long season, Tom, pace yourself.

dsinn@jg.net