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Allen: Penix remains on track to start at Iowa

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On the eve of fall camp, IU coach Tom Allen is confident that his starting quarterback will be ready for next month’s season opener

2021 Big Ten Football Media Day
IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. speaks at Big Ten Media Day on July 23.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Tom Allen has fielded the question all offseason. On the eve of Indiana’s fall camp this week, the fifth-year head coach heard it again.

Where is quarterback Michael Penix in his recovery from season-ending knee surgery last fall?

Standing at the front of IU’s team room during the program’s local media day Thursday, Allen knew the question was coming — “Yes,” Allen says with a smile, “I’ve been asked that many times, for sure.” — and he appreciates the intrigue. The good news, for Allen and his program, is that the answer is a positive one.

IU fully anticipates Penix will be standing in the backfield when the Hoosiers’ first snap is delivered in the season opener at Iowa next month.

“He’s right where I kind of expected him to be coming into fall camp, where I hoped he would be coming into fall camp,” Allen told reporters. “(I’m) expecting him to be our starter on September 4.”

Whether Penix, who has yet to play a full season during his three years in Bloomington, remains healthy enough to start all 12 regular season games is the ultimate question facing Indiana this season. But that answer will come in time. For now, the focus is on Friday’s first day of fall camp and the Hoosiers’ plan for working Penix into practice over the next four weeks.

“We’re obviously not going to touch Michael,” offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said. “If we feel like the drill is going to potentially put him in the way, we’ll be smart about that. ... There will be periods where we’ve got to tackle people, and if we feel like it’s a situation where Mike doesn’t need to be anywhere near that, then we’ll be smart about that. I think anytime you’re coming off a surgery and you start to get into preseason practice, you’re just day-to-day, evaluating how he feels.”

If the footage of Penix throwing this summer is any indication, it appears that the IU quarterback is, indeed, well on his way toward a full recovery. Take, for instance, this beautiful delivery from Penix’s appearance at last month’s Manning Passing Academy:

There have been other behind-the-scenes moments, too, that have shown Allen and his staff that their top quarterback is gradually progressing in his recovery from a second ACL tear in three years. The objective now is to continue that progression over the next 30 days and get Penix to the point where he’s fully ready and prepared to sling it for a dozen games beginning next month.

“We feel really good about where he is,” Allen said. “Does he need to continue? Yes. It’s a process to be able to go through and say, ‘OK, this is the goal date, Sept. 4. (The goal) is to get him to be 100% for that date. As you move through fall camp, we’ve got a good plan for that. Obviously he’ll be fully practicing, doing everything with us. Nobody is going to be hitting him, as is the case with all our quarterbacks. They’ll be in blue jerseys like they always are. Probably maybe a heightened sense. You get guys that trip or fall or whatever in different drills. You want to eliminate all that threat, but continue to develop. ... I know it’s been a long haul for him. He’s once again responded and stepped up to the challenge.”