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Indiana football: The spring quarterback battle is here

Here we go!

Calvin Matthews - USA Today Network / Robert Goddin - USA Today Sports /

Indiana football’s spring practices are underway and recently that’s meant one absolutely dominant storyline: quarterback battle.

The springs of 2018, 2019 and 2022 all featured a battle for the position of starting quarterback. And for the first time since 2018, this battle doesn’t involve Jack Tuttle, now a backup at Michigan.

Head coach Tom Allen holds his cards close to his chest, usually not naming his starting quarterback until the Fall unless the guy is already in place, as was the case with Michael Penix Jr. in 2020 and 2021.

Most of the time it comes down to two guys. In 2019 it was Penix and Peyton Ramey, 2022’s was Tuttle and Connor Bazelak. This year it’s between two sophomores: Tennessee transfer Tayven Jackson, the younger brother of Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Brendan Sorsby.

Jackson was a 247Sports 4-star in 2022, rated as the No. 13 quarterback in the nation, out of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana. Center Grove is known for its running game, but the presence of Jackson added threat through the air as the Trojans went on a streak of dominance and state championships.

Sorsby was a 247Sports 3-star out of Lake Dallas High School in Lake Dallas, Texas. He committed to Indiana in January of 2022 shortly after the hiring of Walt Bell as offensive coordinator.

Here’s what Tom Allen had to say about the two following practice on Tuesday:

On the competition:

“We have two more scrimmages that I feel like we need to know better for that. I think there is back and forth, good days for one where one may take the lead, so I think they are both obviously young, they are both learning, they are both making plays. I think it is a process you go through, without questions. I just think we are not even ready to say who is in the lead at this point.”

On when he’ll make a decision at quarterback:

“For me, we haven’t made that decision at this point. We are not ready to make that decision, but if something changed, we would. At the same time, there is so much to be done over the summer, there is so much to be done in fall camp, that it is really going to be difficult to make that decision prior to [summer], I would think. Especially when you have two guys that don’t have a lot of experience in games. At the same time, I love the way they are working. I am excited about both of them. They’ve both shown that they can run our offense and lead our football team, which is great.”

On what stands out about them:

“I will tell you what, they are really great with each other, which is always an interesting dynamic, in terms of the meeting rooms and on the practice field and off the field. I just thing you have two high-quality young men that have a lot of talent, that are highly competitive. They both want to be the guy without question. The thing that sticks out to me is that they encourage each other. It’s not like they are trying to be the other guy’s adversary. I don’t sense that whatsoever. They are teammates. I like the way they are working. We did some two-minute [drill periods] today for the first time and we have only had two full-padded practices, too, so there is still a lot left to be out there, without question. I think that they are learning the offense. We are passed the point of the initial install, now it is more about just learning to master some things and focusing on some scenarios and situational football, like we did today with two-minute, and continue to grow that. I think that you still have a lot of time ahead of us and a lot of things to be decided for sure.”

On Tayven Jackson being new to the program:

“That is probably a little more challenging because you are new to everything. Obviously, being here in January was huge, and he knew some of the guys already, which helped, I think. At the same time, you have to earn that ability to speak. he is part of our leadership council, [Tayven and Brenden] both are. They are both naturally that way, they are guys that don’t have a hard time communicating and speaking. They have that confidence about them, which is really good. I think any time you come in new, you have to establish yourself in the weight room, establish yourself by how you are going to work, how are you going to practice, and how you handle when things don’t go your way. I think that is really what we are trying to create; as much stress and pressure on them, even as much chaos as we can on them, because that is the only way you are going to get them ready for a game.”

Well, there you have it.

I wouldn’t imagine Allen names a starting quarterback this spring. That’s just not his style based on everything we know and have seen about him. He’ll wait until the last moment, be it the week of Indiana’s first game or its kickoff.

Unless someone shows clear separation, he’ll stick to that.

But I think that Jackson will ultimately be Indiana’s starting quarterback this fall. He comes to Bloomington as a highly-rated recruit from in-state as the younger brother of one of the Hoosiers’ greatest men’s basketball players of all time.

Jackson transferred here for a reason, more than the state of Indiana being his home. He’ll take the usual time to learn the offense but I think he pulls away. His ceiling is up there, from his ability to process from the pocket or make throws on the run. That’s not to discount Sorsby, who has the ability to do both, but the tide is in Jackson’s favor.