BLOOMINGTON — We can say, with 100 percent certainty, that Ben Chappell will not quarterback Indiana next season.
Everything else is wide open.
Chappell used up his college eligibility after an All-Big Ten caliber senior season. The Hoosiers have four quarterbacks on the roster — sophomores Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel, junior Adam Follett and senior Teddy Schell — who are a combined 11-for-36 for 170 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for their careers.
Also in the mix is incoming freshman Tre Roberson, last year's Mr. Football out of Indianapolis Lawrence Central. As a senior he threw for 2,611 yards and 24 touchdowns, rushed for 1,992 yards and 21 TDs.
With IU's spring game set for Saturday morning, nothing is decided. Coach Kevin Wilson figures it might be the middle of August's training camp, or even later, before a starter is named.
“It's going to take a lot of time,” he said. “That position is earned. He has to earn the respect of the team. You can't give that to him. It's not a political vote.”
Not even a big spring performance will be enough.
“Just because somebody had a good practice or scrimmage does not separate him,” Wilson said. “He has to be the guy in the summer who gets guys to the voluntary workouts. Coaches can't do that. Good teams have great summer attendance. A good quarterback gets guys to follow him. We'll see how that goes this summer.”
As the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Wilson helped develop Sam Bradford into a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. What quarterback attributes does he look for?
“First is someone who commands the game and does not give the ball to the other team,” Wilson said. “The quarterback gets all the credit, but he can screw it up quicker than anybody. He has to take care of the ball and properly communicate. He has to get us in the right plays, manage things when it's not there and throw it away. Play the next play. Understand that punting can be a good thing. Give the defense a chance to get it back for us. Be a guy who can play within himself.”
Wilson wants a quarterback who leads by action over word.
“Leadership is best coupled with performance,” he said. “So if he's performing well and doing it day after day, it's easy to be a good leader. A guy who's a talker is not a good leader.”
With Wilson, quarterbacks must talk fast. He wants to run a play every 15 seconds as part of his up-tempo approach.
“It's not like he's giving win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches. We're a no-huddle team. He calls the plays and runs the offense.”
Kiel and Wright-Baker have the edge. They shared backup duties behind Chappell last season. Wright-Baker threw for 80 yards and a TD. He rushed for 25 yards. Kiel threw for 71 yards and rushed for 12.
As for Roberson, true freshmen rarely start at quarterback. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen did, but only after he graduated from high school in December of his senior year so he could enroll at Notre Dame for the second semester and participate in spring practice.
Roberson won't join the Hoosiers until June, but he will get an opportunity.
“Our plan is to play as many freshmen as we can,” Wilson said. “I'm counting on a bunch of them playing, so we'll see if (Roberson) is ready.”
If it takes close to the Sept. 3 opener against Ball State to settle things, Wilson will wait. He said he did it when Bradford first became the Oklahoma starter.
“We named him 10 days before the first game. We wanted to name him a couple weeks earlier, but he had a couple of bad scrimmages. He hadn't separated himself. We were waiting for him to earn the job.”