On December 5th, 2021, Michael Penix Jr. entered the transfer portal. Indiana has been lost in the dark ever since.
Another No. 9, Connor Bazelak, quickly arrived from Mizzou as his presumptive replacement. One game-winning drive and several frustrating three-and-outs later, he too was gone, replaced by a revolving door of Jack Tuttle, Brendan Sorsby and eventually Dexter Williams II.
Quarterback stability is a gift for a college football program, allowing an offense to truly settle in and get into a rhythm. Hoosier fans had to watch about four Penix replacements while the man himself mounted a Heisman campaign with old friend Kalen DeBoer out west.
Indiana looked to perhaps have some in the last two games of 2022 before Williams, who showed promise, went down with a knee injury against Purdue. So, yet again, the Hoosiers entered a football season with a quarterback question: Brendan Sorsby or Tayven Jackson.
The state title-winning star quarterback at suburban Center Grove just south of Indianapolis had entered the transfer portal after the position room at Tennessee became incredibly crowded.
His next move? Watching his older brother Trayce dunk all over the Wisconsin Badgers in Assembly Hall with Tom Allen and a sleep-deprived Walt Bell, who’d caught a redeye off the recruiting trail for the occasion.
One day later, he was a Hoosier. Many months later, he and Sorsby were battling it out into the regular season to be named Indiana’s full-time starting quarterback.
Now, on Saturday night, it looks like Jackson could be the answer.
After throwing just five passes (???) against Ohio State, Jackson went 18-21 for 236 yards against Indiana State on Saturday night. His passes were crisp and well-placed and his pocket presence mindful, standing tall through pressure.
He made the routine throws from the pocket and plays off of scrambles. His one demerit is that he’s not the runner Sorsby is, which tends to be helpful in Walt Bell’s offense.
Jackson-led drives contributed 38 of Indiana’s 41 points on the night. The offense seemed to sputter somewhat without him, though a mistake-laden early second quarter drive didn’t exactly set Sorsby up for success once he entered the game.
What is clear is that there’s a reason this was a battle, Sorsby is no pushover. He gives tremendous effort on every play, blazing down the field to try and catch the fumble return. I wouldn’t fully discount him here. Should Jackson be named the starter, Sorsby would fill in admirably if necessary. There’s also Williams II to consider, who will absolutely be a factor in the eventual full-time quarterback decision once healthy.
For now, the Hoosiers’ next game is in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Might help to have a guy who quarterbacked back-to-back state title wins in that building leading Indiana’s offense.