IU begins QB competition as fall camp starts

Joe Ullrich | For CNHI Sports IndianaIndiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey throws a pass down field during the first half Nov. 24 against Purdue at Memorial Stadium.

BLOOMINGTON — Peyton Ramsey has grown accustomed to competing for the starting quarterback job at Indiana.

In each of the last two seasons, Ramsey has entered fall camp battling for the role to start for the Hoosiers. In 2017, Ramsey appeared in nine games and started in four as a redshirt freshman. Last season, Ramsey started all 12 games, passing for 2,875 yards with 19 TDs with 13 interceptions.

Ramsey will take the first rep at quarterback with the first-team offense when IU opens fall practice Friday. But he’ll be pushed by a pair of redshirt freshmen — Utah transfer Jack Tuttle and Michael Penix Jr., who is back to 100 percent after tearing his ACL last October.

“There’s only one ball,” Ramsey said at IU football media day Thursday. “That’s the hardest part for the quarterback position is only one of us goes out and plays. Every single day we’re going to prepare like we’re going to be the guy.”

Ramsey, a 6-foot-2, 216-pound redshirt junior from Cincinnati, said his approach will be the same it was entering his last two fall camps.

“Just every single day being as consistent as I possibly can be,” Ramsey said. “Stacking good days on top of good days on top of good days and not comparing. Just go out and focus on myself.”

IU coach Tom Allen said Ramsey has earned the right to get the first rep with the first team based on being the incumbent starter. But all three quarterbacks will get a chance to work with the first-team offense during the course of camp.

“Initially, for sure, and then as every day passes and weeks pass, you’ll get more and more zeroed in on kind of how you see it playing itself out,” Allen said.

Allen said leadership skills will be important to demonstrate, but it also will come down to which quarterback shows the most production in fall camp. Allen will not just consult with coaches but even with offensive and defensive players before making a decision. Ideally, Allen would like to make a decision before the end of fall camp and stick with the starter getting the majority of reps heading into the Aug. 31 opener at Lucas Oil Stadium against Ball State.

“It’s not a popularity contest because they’re all three awesome guys,” Allen said. “It’s who do (players) believe and who do we believe and who believes in themselves enough to take this team down the field and go win the game.

“At the end of the day, you’re judged on the scoreboard as a coach and as a player. That’s how we get judged professionally, and it’s how we get judged in performance. That’s a big part of it.”

Another factor will be completing throws downfield. Ramsey showed that ability during the spring game, connecting with Ty Fryfrogle on a 39-yard touchdown pass. New offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer has set a goal this season for IU’s offense to generate more big plays.

“Less than five percent of drives last year that were touchdowns didn’t have an explosive play,” DeBoer said. “You need to have explosive plays and what explosive plays are to me is a matter of timing accuracy. I think all of our quarterbacks have the ability to throw down the field far enough as long as they’re throwing on time.”

Tuttle showed promise throwing the ball deep and on time during spring practice before sitting out the spring game due to an illness. A highly rated pro-style quarterback from San Marcos, Calif., Tuttle got an NCAA waiver to be eligible to play immediately after transferring to IU in January.

“It’s all about maturity, and that’s something I’ve been working on since last year, just making mature decisions, being a mature man, helping others,” Tuttle said. “I think that translates into football, just making mature decisions.”

Penix has taken a difficult road in returning to compete for the starting quarterback job this fall. After completing 21 of 34 passes for 219 yards and one TD in three games, Penix tore his ACL on Oct. 20 against Penn State. But the 6-3, 202-pound Tampa, Fla., native pushed his way through rehabilitation to return to full contact in 10 months.

“It was a very humbling experience, and I feel like it’s going to make me better,” Penix said. “… the way I pushed in the rehab and worked hard to get back where I need to be, I just feel very confident in myself.”

Allen expects all three players to push one another throughout fall camp.

“I love the number of guys in that room that worked extremely hard, and you can say that for a lot of positions,” Allen said. “So we’re going to have a very, very competitive fall camp that’s going to — as we always say, iron sharpens iron. So we’re going to sharpen each other each and every day and make each other better and get the product we want.”