BLOOMINGTON -- It's not about numbers because there are none. Not for public consumption, any way.
It's about quarterback perception and viewpoint, coming from the man who has the final word on Indiana football.
Kevin Wilson made this clear after Saturday's first scrimmage of preseason camp that the quarterback competition is over, if it ever really existed. There is Tre Roberson, and then there's everybody else.
“It's not a competition,” Wilson said. “Tre is our guy. The other two guys are on his heels. They're competing and it's encouraging.”
Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld continue to get significant reps because you never know when injury or other factors could force them into action. But Roberson, the dual-threat former Indiana Mr. Football, will run the Hoosiers' up-tempo show.
“Tre, for the athlete, is really throwing it better,” Wilson said. “That's great to see. He's embraced the I-need-to-be-a-good quarterback. I'm spending a smidge of time with him. (Quarterback coach Kevin) Johns as well. He's embracing about what we're trying to do.”
So are Coffman, a junior college transfer, and Sudfeld, a true freshman.
“All three quarterbacks are better than any three that played last year,” Wilson said. “They're still not as good as we want, but I like all three. They're excited about what we can accomplish.”
What this offense has to accomplish is increased point production, which starts with improved passing accuracy. Last year Roberson, as a true freshman, was at 57 percent. Wilson wants to bump that up by at least 10 points. He saw signs in the scrimmage. He said the defense challenged a lot of throws, forcing quarterbacks to be accurate, and they were.
“You've got to be on time and on target,” Wilson said. “The quarterbacks are getting better because the receivers are getting better at getting to their spaces on time. They're collectively working as a group.
“Nate Sudfeld, who sometimes as a young guy struggles, had a great two-minute drive. He took his team for a touchdown. That ended the scrimmage. He had a nice scramble play. He had a couple of nice plays just being creative.”
Creativity is good, but Wilson continues to push competitiveness. He wants more from veteran defensive tackles Adam Replogle, Larry Black and Nicholas Sliger, in part because he insists they're capable of it, in part because the Hoosiers have to have it.
“I'd like to see them be upper level Big Ten players instead of good players on our team,” Wilson said. “We need them to take our (defensive) front play to a better deal where our secondary guys can make plays.”
If the defensive line stuffs the run and pressures the quarterback without relying on blitzing, it takes pressure off the youthful secondary.
“When you have to shut down the run game with perimeter support,” Wilson said, “it's hard to play good pass D. When you're not getting pressure and (quarterbacks) have time to set their feet and read the coverage, they can pick apart your secondary. We need the D-line to set the tone on defense.
“I'd like to see those inside guys (Black, Replogle and Sliger) start being upper Big Ten players instead of just starters on our team. I'm not mad at them, but it would be nice to see. If we get solid, strong front-line play, we can play better defense without cheating and our secondary will be okay.”
Saturday's 122-play scrimmage, which included lots of time on the kicking game, allowed freshman running back Tevin Coleman to showcase his potential. The 6-1, 197-pounder was a do-it-all player at Oak Forest High School in Illinois. He played running back, receiver and cornerback, plus returned kickoffs and punts. He also was a track state place winner in the 100-meter dash and long jump.
“Tevin is still learning; he messes up, but he's a good running back,” Wilson said. “He's a big man. He has natural vision, good speed. He has a chance to be a nice player. He'll create some good competition.”
Wilson added that Coleman is the first running back he's seen run full-throttle sprints in practice since he had Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma.
“I said, 'Wow, that's what it looks like,'” Wilson said. “The next sprint, three other running backs were doing the same thing.”
Still, veteran Stephen Houston is the starter. He rushed for 802 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
“Stephen Houston is a good back,” Wilson said. “Tevin Coleman had the best day. That's encouraging. That's exciting. That's what good teams do. You need more than one back. Sometimes you need more than one quarterback, whether you want to play more than one, or things happen. We're not ideal yet, but we're building competition. We're a work in progress. We're getting better.”