Tom Allen offered his three quarterbacks equal opportunity to earn Indiana’s starting job.
Through the first two practices of fall camp, that’s exactly what they’re getting.
Early in this year’s camp, Allen is splitting the field in half with one offensive unit marching North and the other driving South. With more snaps needed to go around, both for IU’s quarterbacks and young defenders, Allen is doing what he can to ensure everyone receives the necessary reps as the month unfolds.
“It’s quarterbacks, but it’s also depth on defense,” Allen said. “We have so many (defensive backs) that are young that need reps, so many linebackers that are in that same position. So we’ve got two groups going at one time. Obviously, you’re trying to get three quarterbacks lots of reps.”
So far, Allen has mixed and matched his quarterbacks with different personnel groupings throughout practice, allowing the competition between Brandon Dawkins, Peyton Ramsey and Michael Penix to play out as organically as possible.
Allen says Ramsey, a redshirt sophomore, has been “extremely accurate” through the first two days, while Penix, a true freshman, continues to show both impressive arm strength and good ball placement.
For those two, the first few days of fall camp are a continuation of the head-to-head battle that began during spring practice. Dawkins, meanwhile, continues to acclimate to his new environment.
“Brandon didn’t play all spring, so he’s kind of been off for awhile,” Allen said. “He threw the ball, I thought, well (Friday), then maybe not as well today. That’s compared to yesterday just based on (my thoughts) walking off the field right now. But he made some better decisions, which is all part of the process.
“Each of the guys have skills that are unique to them, and different strengths as well. They’re gonna get their opportunities. They’re going with different groups. It’s not each guy with the same unit each time. So we’re getting a chance to see how they move the ball. That’s the key.”
Mr. Football is Mr. Versatile
One of the best athletes in camp is Reese Taylor, the former Ben Davis quarterback who earned last season’s Indiana Mr. Football award.
During his first few practices with the Hoosiers, Taylor, who will primarily play cornerback at IU, is seeing time with all three units. While making the move to defense, Taylor is also seeing time at receiver and on special teams as a punt returner.
“He’s just got a lot of skills,” Allen said. “... It’s been a good couple days for him. He’s a bright young man, so he picks things up pretty quickly. The offense comes natural to him. You can put him in a lot of those spots and he doesn’t need a thousand reps to figure it out. He’s a guy that’s done some good things.”
Other freshmen surfacing
With two practices down, a few freshmen are beginning to stand out.
Allen has been encouraged by Cam Jones, a 6-foot-3 newcomer from Tennessee, who is playing behind starter Marcelino Ball at Husky. Safeties Devon Matthews and Jamar Johnson have both “popped,” according to Allen, and the coach says receiver Miles Marshall “really does a great job of running routes.”
Running back Stevie Scott and offensive tackle Nick Marozas have also looked comfortable this week.
Harris looks healthy
Even after three ACL surgeries, J-Shun Harris still looks like a weapon Indiana can use.
The senior slot receiver and return man appears to be back to form, impressing Indiana’s coaching staff with his latest comeback attempt.
“At receiver, he’s really kind of jumped out to me,” Allen said. “He’s a really good football player. To go through what he’s been through is just unbelievable.”
Allen says the team will take it as slow as needed with Harris, but so far he has practiced without restrictions.
“It’s just, ‘Hey, how’s it feel?’” Allen said. “As long as we don’t have swelling, as long as he’s able to come back each day and it feels good, (he’ll practice). If it ever gets to the point where it doesn’t, we’ll back him off. But he looks good to me.”