Indiana played four quarterbacks on Thursday's blowout of Indiana State. Three of those quarterbacks have legitimate claims to the throne that is Indiana's starting quarterback position. Tre Roberson, Nate Sudfeld and Cam Coffman all received snaps in the first half of the game against Indiana State and all three fell on a spectrum of flawless to still very good against a soft competition. After hearing from Kevin Wilson in his press conference on Monday, we can say with certainty that Indiana is still trying to figure out what to do at QB.
Tre Roberson came into the game and threw six passes, completed three and threw two touchdowns for a total of 71 yards in his first quarter debut. To go along with his 71 yards in passing he ran on 5 attempts for a total of 19 yards. So we got to see both what Roberson is capable of in the air and on the ground and he was rightly impressive. The rushes weren't anything special, as most of them came not on designed plays but broken blocking schemes by the offensive line. So we didn't get to see any amazing plays with his legs, but we do know that even when the line fails Roberson is good for a couple of yards. That's always a positive.
Most impressive was his 43 yard strike of his back foot to a streaking Shane Wynn for a touchdown. The arm strength has never been a question with Roberson. It's the accuracy. Unfortunately when Sudfeld came in for him in the second quarter he mentioned a pain in his side to the trainers and they found some rib bruising. As a precaution Indiana elected to keep him out the rest of the game. So we didn't have the opportunity to see more. According to the coaching staff, he's fine and is already back at practice.
Next on the audition stage after Roberson was Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld received the majority of snaps for the game and was very impressive in doing so. Nate went 12 for 17 for 219 yards and four touchdowns. Now he did have a minor lapse to start the second half when IU was up big. Sudfeld threw a pick six right into the defense. Look at that more as lesson learned than concerning decision making. Other than the interception Sudfeld looked like the quarterback on this roster with the most potential to really be something amazing. He was dissecting the Indiana State defense and putting long passes on a dime. The strength was there, the velocity was there and the accuracy was there. Sudfeld looked good.
Finally we had Cam Coffman get some time in the back half of the second quarter as well. He had the most heady game of the three in his limited time. Coffman's first two snaps were picking on an Indiana State cornerback who obviously could not compete with Kofi Hughes. Coffman went long to Hughes twice on back to back plays and put the ball where the defender was either going to have to give up the reception or interfere. Both times he interfered. Coffman then threw an incomplete to Kofi Hughes before Indiana had to settle for a field goal on Coffman's next incompletion/throw away to Stephen Houston.
The coaches spoke about that play in the presser and stated that one of the young receivers ran the wrong route. So Coffman was forced to adjust to a broken play and ran of time to do so. Thus the incompletion. Coach Wilson said that if the play was run correctly, the receiver was wide open and they aren't faulting Coffman for that pass. Coffman went on to make a few routine plays and then threw an interception on his only pass of the second half to finish 2-7 with an interception and 29 yards. Those numbers look rough, but in actuality he was looking more at 60+ yds passing but for the pass interferences and a potential TD with the broken route. The coaches are giving him credit for 5-9 for 60ish yards or so, so I think we should factor that in too if we're discussing the merits of starting QB.
Despite the hypothetical numbers of Coffman, I think we're looking at a two horse race with Indiana's starting spot. Both Roberson and Sudfeld were very impressive to Coffman's pretty good. I think that puts Coffman on the outside looking in at this moment in the quarterback competition. Now the question turns to, do you take Sudfeld and his larger sample size of awesome? Or do you go with Roberson and his small sample size of explosiveness? It's not really an easy question to answer.
When Roberson played his first three drives and showed what he was capable of, everyone was lauding him. Even Travis at Hammer and Rails tweeted that Roberson was obviously the right choice at quarterback for Indiana. Then of course, he sat down and Sudfeld repeated those results over a longer period of time. The two are just very different quarterbacks and both made the vanilla offense look downright deadly. I think we all better get used to seeing a multi-quarterback system. I doubt we see any substitutions within drives of quarterbacks, but for the foreseeable future I think we're going to see 3 drives on 3 drives off type of play share between Sudfeld and Roberson. They both bring such different looks to the table that it might actually work to confuse defenses. But if we have to name a starter, I'd say we'll see status quo on Saturday against Navy. Roberson will start, but be prepared to get a heavy dose of Sudfeld well before halftime.