Photo Credit: IndianaHQ / Nithin Krishnan
In the blink of an eye, August is about halfway done, and the Indiana Hoosiers are a little over two weeks away from kicking off the 2019 season. Fall practice began Monday, August 5 in preparation for the year. IndianaHQ was there to take in all the sights and sounds from the gridiron. Below are our top five takeaways thus far.
1. Peyton Ramsey comfortably handled all drills and the starting job is his to lose
With no announcement being officially made yet, the QB race continues to be highly contested. During practice, Peyton Ramsey was first up in the highest percentage of drills, which may be a hint to who the team is leaning towards at this point. Fellow competitors Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle consistently followed him, in that order. Furthermore, in the two-minute drill to conclude practice, it was Ramsey who was called upon by the staff to run the offense, and he did so successfully.
On a related note, not only was Ramsey first up in almost all drills, but his passes looked the best. Ramsey routinely threw accurately to his receivers, on short and long passes. Penix and Tuttle struggled more than Ramsey with consistency, but overall looked good. At one point, Tuttle was intercepted for a would-be pick six by freshman CB Josh Sanguinetti.
IU head coach Tom Allen reiterated to Big Ten Network last Monday that Ramsey was the returning starter, and that Penix and Tuttle had to beat him out to start. Allen also told the BTN crew that a decision would likely come “before the week before the first game” (August 31 vs. Ball State in Indianapolis). Since then, Allen has mentioned that the QB race has still been up in the air.
I think all three of them played pretty well. It’s still open,” Allen said. “They’ve got to keep doing what they’re doing and try to find a way to separate themselves a little bit. I don’t know that (the scrimmage) made it easier or clarified things at all.Tom Allen, Source: Indystar
2. The wide receiver room will be the Hoosiers’ biggest strength in 2019
In case there was any doubt, IU’s wide receivers seem ready to make big plays on a routine basis for the offense this year. Senior Nick Westbrook, senior Donavan Hale, junior Whop Philyor, and junior Ty Fyfrogle regularly made contested catches, ran sharp routes, and executed downfield blocks throughout the week.
Freshman Jordan Jakes was given a number of opportunities throughout the week; keep an eye out for him in future seasons. Whoever starts behind center for IU will have the luxury of throwing to a highly talented group of pass catchers that should easily eclipse the 136 receptions and 14 touchdowns they tallied last season, especially with new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer calling the shots.
3. If Stevie Scott struggles, expect freshman Sampson James to take over
After one of the most impressive freshman seasons in IU football history, in which he amassed over 1,100 yards, RB Stevie Scott is entering the year with plenty of expectations on his shoulders. However, freshman Sampson James, one of the highest-rated recruits in Indiana football history, was a steady feature in IU’s practices last week.
RB coach Mike Hart was constantly providing tips and coaching to James, who looked every bit of the 6’1″, 220 lb. frame listed on IU’s official roster. There does not seem to be an “easing in” process for the freshman sensation from Avon.
4. Marcelino Ball looks ready to lead the defense this year
While a lot of IU fans’ focus might be on the offensive side of the ball, Tom Allen’s defense plans on improving. Last year, they finished 75th in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ ratings. One player that new defensive play caller Kane Wommack will rely on is Marcelino Ball. While Ball is listed as a defensive back on IU’s roster, he was moved around the defense and should be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
Additionally, it seemed that the junior carried more responsibility as far as communicating with coaches on the sideline and making pre-snap adjustments.
5. Energy around the program is abundant
Possibly the most remarkable achievement by a single person during practices last week was head coach Tom Allen shouting into a megaphone from start to finish each session, using inspirational words and phrases to motivate his team. Echoing the same sentiment from Big Ten Media Days back in July, Allen has consistently preached how belief and confidence are crucial to this team’s success.
In addition to Allen, WR coach Grant Heard, RB coach Mike Hart, and safeties coach Kasey Teegardin frequently roared words of encouragement. Players regularly cheered big plays, expressed frustration during mistakes, and there was even a verbal altercation or two. IU wants to play a 13th game this season, and in order to do so, they don’t seem to be lacking intensity.