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Indiana’s QB Derby coming down the home stretch

With just a few weeks left until the beginning of the season let’s take a look at who could be leading the Hoosier offense in 2018

NCAA Football: Arizona at Oregon
Arizona Grad Transfer Brandon Dawkins is one of the QBs competing to be IU’s primary signal caller this season.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

(pokes head out from behind curtain) Hello folks, it’s me, I’m back. During the spring and summer I wrote for the Indiana Daily Student, but now I’m back to blogging. Now let’s get down to business and talk about sporps.

With IU football’s opening game against Florida International just weeks away there’s still a big decision for Tom Allen and his coaching staff to make: Who will be under center when the Hoosier offense takes the field for the first time? They have plenty of options, with three candidates vying for the job that each have their pros and cons.

The first of these candidates is Brandon Dawkins. The former Arizona Wildcat is spending the final season of his collegiate career in Bloomington as a grad transfer after giving way to breakout star Khalil Tate in Tucson last season. The California native has 14 starts under his belt and played in 20 games total during his time in the desert, making him the most experienced candidate for the job. In 2016 he gained a total of 2,289 yards and scored 18 touchdowns both in the air and on the ground for the Wildcats, his best season by far in the Pac-12, just a year before he suffered a concussion and Khalil Tate became Khalil Tate.

What Dawkins lacks is experience in IU’s system and the Big Ten, which is notably different from the Pac-12. His ability to claim the job could very well come down to how quickly he can learn IU’s playbook and system while still performing well in practice.

Wanna see some highlights set to a recent pop hit? Of course you do, check it out:

Another quarterback with his hat in the ring is redshirt sophomore Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey split time with the now departed Richard Lagow and then took over as IU’s starter last season before an injury forced him to miss the final few games of the season, so he’s the de facto returning starter. He impressed at times in 2017, particularly in the Virginia game in Charlottesville, but he struggled to prove himself against stouter competition like Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Overall, he recorded 1,478 yards and 12 scores on the ground and in the air in his first season in the cream and crimson. Ramsey’s biggest selling point in this competition should be the fact that he’s spent the most time in IU’s system, having a full season as well as offseason time to get acquainted with the playbook. Other than that he can point to his good performances against Virginia, Charleston Southern, and Maryland as well as his relationships with the rest of the team that he’s had time to build.

On the flip side, Ramsey needs to prove that he can step up in big games. He also needs to prove that he can consistently make throws downfield, otherwise opposing defenses won’t be afraid to load the box against the Hoosiers.

Highlights round two? Let’s see it:

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Hmm...interesting. Let’s move on. The third and final competitor for the starting job is Mike Penix Jr. The true freshman was rated as a three or four-star prospect depending on where you look, and the Hoosiers beat out Florida State for his commitment so there’s an understandable amount of hype surrounding him.

In his senior season at Tampa Bay Tech HS, Penix threw for 2,165 yards and 30 touchdowns and added 449 yards and 10 scores on the ground. He’s young and doesn’t have much experience, but that could be seen as a positive as well. The lefthander could very well be the future for IU at quarterback and giving him this season to get settled in as the starter could pay dividends in the future. If you watch Penix’s high school footage (yes it’s high school footage but that’s basically all we have right now), you’ll notice that his deep ball is probably better than Peyton Ramsey’s which could bring something to the table that IU lacked at times last season. You can see that and more of what Penix brings to the table in this reel from his junior season:

Tom Allen has a decision to make. He could make it as soon as this week or we might have to wait until the offense takes the field in Miami to find out. The decision that he makes will tell us what he values, whether that be experience, youth, arm strength, or any other number of factors that could help separate these quarterbacks. This decision and the way that it’s handled could very well be one of the defining moments of the Tom Allen era in Bloomington—it could make or break Allen as IU’s head coach.