Indiana Football 2022 Position Preview: Quarterbacks

For the first time since 2017, Indiana football faces a future without Michael Penix Jr.

It had been Penix the guy since arguably 2018, when an injury kept his true debut at bay.

But now he’s in Washington with Kalen DeBoer. So, how did Indiana go from here to addressing the most critical position on offense?

The program borrowed a bit from former 22-commit Josh Hoover, but he transferred to Texas Christian University in his home state shortly after Penix announced he was entering the transfer portal.

At the time, Indiana was looking at a quarterbacks room with Jack Tuttle, Donaven McCulley, Dexter Williams and a couple of walk-ons including Grant Gremel. Allen said he tried to add a transfer and a high schooler in the coming weeks and ended up getting his wish.

The transfer: Missouri’s Connor Bazelak

The High Schooler: Brendan Sorsby

These are definitely improvements for the party, but there’s still a long way to go before any of them see the field. Of course, that includes the football quarterback fight in Indiana, which happens about every few years.

The competition has narrowed down to a two-man race between Tuttle and Bazelak, according to reports in the Herald Times and Indianapolis Star. Donaven McCulley has reportedly switched to wide receiver.

Cool!

Now that we know…er, a little bit more, we’re going to try to break down what it all means.

Remember that tenure counts less than it normally does. Walt Bell’s system is new to the entire team, so no one has an advantage if they’re familiar with Indiana’s offense.

Jack Tuttle

You should be familiar with this.

When Jack Tuttle moved to Indiana in 2019, he became the highest-rated high school quarterback ever to fight for the Hoosiers. Of course, this ended up being third string behind Penix and Peyton Ramsey.

Tuttle time finally came in 2020 when, to the relief of an injured Penix, Tuttle led the Hoosiers into Camp Randall Stadium and defeated the Wisconsin Badgers. You can’t really blame Tuttle for Indiana’s loss at the Outback Bowl after he suffered a severed shoulder early in the game and played through the pain.

Indiana challenged Jack Tuttle again in 2020, though he only made two starts before an injury against Ohio State ended his season. The first, a close loss to Michigan State, featured a whopping 52 pass attempts by Tuttle.

Neither of them found the end zone, but two ended up in the hands of the Spartans’ defense. That was easily negated when Michigan State’s Payton Thorne threw two interceptions of his own, but even a single touchdown pass could have resulted in a win for the Hoosiers.

But again, I wouldn’t blame Tuttle entirely for this (although those INTs really were on him) because the play calling was lackluster and the offensive line was unable to keep up. He wasn’t really placed to help Indiana win the game.

Tuttle moved the ball right down the field and threw a touchdown in Indiana’s scripted opening series against Ohio State, but was injured mid-game and unable to return to the field.

Off the field, Tuttle is well liked by his teammates and is known to be friendly when encountered around the facility. That’s the key for Tuttle in this quarterback fight: The staff and his teammates know who he is. You know Jack the quarterback and Jack the teammate.

As a quarterback, Tuttle is physically able to make most of the throws in the book. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but he can shove the ball down if he needs to. He won’t pocket the ball and climb like Peyton Ramsey might, but he has shown he has enough agility to move around in the pocket and make some plays with his legs.

In his Indiana career, Tuttle has thrown four touchdowns to six interceptions. Not exactly the ratio you want to see. Indiana was also more reluctant to ask him to pitch the ball down than they did at Penix, opting for more game action to open things up for Tuttle (which doesn’t work when the game in progress isn’t there) .

Tuttle has been reluctant to let games die when he’s on the field, for the worse. It usually results in a few forced passes to cover and, well, six interceptions. If Tuttle can correct that mistake, he can definitely put himself in a position to win the starting job.

Connor Bazelak

Ah, the new one.

In truth, Indiana has probably secured one of the better quarterbacks on the transfer market this time. It helped that Bazelak was already familiar with Tom Allen because Indiana recruited him from high school in Ohio.

Bazelak can boast that he was there and did that as a starter. He won the job in Missouri and won the SEC’s Co-Freshman of the Year Award. In a league full of 5 stars, that’s no small feat.

We didn’t get to see the team’s work at bounceball, so we can only go from what we saw in Missouri to consider what brings Bazelak into the fray. Is his career with the Tigers, Bazelak threw for 23 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. It’s not a fantastic ratio, but it’s not absolutely terrible.

He also did this against SEC defenses, which are superior to most Big Ten defenses outside of Ohio State, Michigan, and occasionally Penn State. Bazelak rushed for over 300 yards in three games in 2021 and defeated several high-ranked opponents in Missouri.

If Bazelak has one downside, it’s his lack of mobility. He definitely won’t pop out of the pocket and run down on a regular basis, but she’s shown trouble with lengthening plays throughout his career. He could rely on his arm to make up for it, but that can lead to interceptions.

That lack of mobility will definitely hurt more given the types of games Indiana can block (not too many) for.

Every body else

All right, so either Tuttle or Bazelak will be the starter. Whoever loses the job will be the backup. But looking at recent history, Indiana’s third string could be pushed into playtime if another injury plagues the space this season.

In this case, Indiana will likely bet on Dexter Williams II or Grant Gremel, with Williams gaining an advantage. Williams would have been Indiana’s third string against McCulley last season if a cruciate ligament rupture hadn’t sidelined him for the entirety of 2021.

Williams is a dueling threat, so the offense would likely adjust to his needs if he’s pushed into playtime this year. It almost happened against Wisconsin in 2020 when Tuttle entered the locker room with an injury.

Indiana will in all likelihood keep Sorsby off the field so the Hoosiers can see what potential he has going forward. When Walt Bell first arrived in Bloomington, he left less than 24 hours later to set off and eventually find Sorsby.

A former 247Sports 3-star player, Sorsby had 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2021 as a senior at Lake Dallas High School in Texas. He also added 791 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

Additionally, Sorsby played baseball for Lake Dallas that spring. Tom Allen is known for liking multisports, so we’ll have to wait and see how those skills translate.

Spring. Indiana has a two-man quarterback fight without a clear favorite and a potential future play in Sorsby. The key offensive position is mysterious, we’ll all just have to wait and see how that plays out.

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