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IU impressed with early returns from McCulley

The Indianapolis native is Indiana’s quarterback of the future. For now, IU has the depth to allow him to learn at his own pace.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Donaven McCulley competed in three sports at Lawrence North and earned nine varsity letters in football, track and basketball. In football as a senior, he led the Wildcats to their first winning season in 15 years. McCulley was named the Marion County Player of the Year in 2019 and 2020.
Robert Scheer/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The hope is that he won’t have to play a truly meaningful snap for at least another year. And when the time eventually comes for Donaven McCulley to take over Indiana’s offense, the Hoosiers believe they’ll have a special quarterback on their hands.

Prior to last Friday’s first practice of fall camp, it had been a while since IU head coach Tom Allen and offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan had seen McCulley, the No. 100 overall prospect nationally in the 2021 recruiting class, compete in any sort of athletic setting. For Sheridan, the last time he could recall was a basketball game of McCulley’s during the Indianapolis native’s junior year of high school in 2019-20.

So these first few days of camp have been instructive for IU’s coaching staff. Although the 18-year-old McCulley still has plenty to learn, the Hoosiers are already seeing signs of boundless potential in their newest quarterback. Indeed, the Lawrence North product so far seems to be exactly who IU hoped he’d be.

“You are able to isolate certain parts of what we do, and you could just see the talent,” Allen said of watching McCulley across the first four practices. “It has shown up from the beginning. His comfort level, when you minimize the reads and you’re not trying to see everything, (is impressive). Sometimes for a young guy, you are trying to see too much and that makes it hard. He is a gifted player. Very talented.”

Physically, McCulley is starting to look the part, too.

Since stepping onto campus earlier this summer, McCulley has already added approximately 15 pounds to his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame.

“He has a good presence,” Sheridan said. “He has a good way about him. I think he’s gotten more and more comfortable throughout the summer, just acclimating to the team. I think he’s got good leadership qualities. (Now), we’ve got to teach him the systems and put him in position to be successful, same thing with a lot of young players.”

Certainly, a lot goes into learning how to play the position at this level. The good news is that McCulley will have time to catch up as he works behind Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle on the depth chart. That, too, is a testament to Allen’s program building that the quarterback room has adequate depth and a quarterback the caliber of McCulley does not need to run before he learns to walk.

Even better for Allen and company, McCulley is already demonstrating that he’s quick to learn and fully embracing the responsibilities that are coming his way.

“He is just trying to learn the offense,” Allen said. “Definitely has a long way to go, for sure. But the other thing that impresses me about him is his attitude. He is such a sponge. He’s so humble, eager to learn, and a great listener. I watch him when he interacts with our coaches and he doesn’t ever get defensive. He just has a great demeanor about him and he wants to learn and grow and get better. That is a good sign for his mental development and how he is going to just keep getting better and better. He is going to be a special one.”