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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 14, 2018 1:00 am

No beef about it, a lot on line at IU

Spring game loser will have to serve winner steak dinner

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – A steak dinner is on the line when the Hoosiers take the field for the Cream and Crimson Game today.

The annual intrasquad scrimmage, the finale of the spring practice season, will pit Team Crimson, led by running backs coach Mike Hart, against Team Cream, helmed by cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby. The losing team will serve the winner a steak dinner, which has prompted some good-natured trash talking between the squads this week.

“I'm a medium (steak) kind of guy,” Hart said. “I'm gonna have Coach Shelby deliver my steak to me.”

The game was originally scheduled to be played in front of a crowd at Memorial Stadium, but inclement weather in the forecast forced the game indoors to Mellencamp Pavilion. It will no longer be open to the public, but will still kick off at noon as planned.

Aside from playing indoors, the biggest deviation from a normal game will be the rule prohibiting the quarterbacks from being hit. Coach Tom Allen doesn't want his young signal-callers taking unnecessary punishment, so the whistle will blow when a tackler gets in the vicinity of the quarterbacks.

Redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey and true freshman Michael Penix Jr. are the top two on the depth chart at quarterback for the game and both will be hampered by the rule because they excel at making plays with their legs. Allen said he's eager to see how well they execute the offense from the pocket, with opportunities to scramble limited.

“I want them to be crisp and clean and sharp,” the coach said. “(I want them to) make their reads, get the ball out quick. That will allow us to be able to get our tempo going and do the things that we do from that position.

“It's about decision-making and being able to run the offense.”

The quarterback competition, which had been mostly a two-man race, got a shake-up this week when former Arizona starter Brandon Dawkins announced he would transfer to Indiana for his final year of eligibility. As a graduate transfer, he doesn't have to sit out a year, so he'll jump directly into the race this summer, making the spring game the last time Ramsey and Penix have the spotlight to themselves.

“(The quarterback competition) is awesome,” Ramsey said Tuesday, before the news of Dawkins' transfer broke. “It helps us every single day because we know we have to be at our best and we're pushing each other to get better.”

As unsettled as quarterback is, running back may be even more up in the air. The Hoosiers didn't have a 1,000-yard rusher last season for the first time since 2013, but they return a talented stable of runners, including Morgan Ellison, who gained more than 700 yards on close to five yards per carry as a freshman in 2017.

Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said he's excited about the play of the running backs this spring, and several of them will have opportunities to make impressions in a game situation today.

Ellison will have plenty of competition to be the featured back, including from senior Mike Majette and redshirt freshman Ahrod Lloyd, who impressed DeBord this spring.

“(Lloyd) gains a lot of yards after contact and when you're a really good running back you're measured by that,” DeBord said after practice last week.

The quarterbacks and running backs will have the luxury of running behind an experienced offensive line, which returns all of its starters.

Allen said that the linemen have been favorites in the weight room in the offseason, adding a lot of strength, and he expects them to be one of the team's best units.

dsinn@jg.net