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Indiana quarterback questions have answers

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For more on college athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Three experienced players vie for starting role

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 1:12 am

BLOOMINGTON -- What's up with the Indiana quarterbacks? What does an experienced group mean for what looms as a breakthrough football season?

Glad you asked.

The Hoosiers have three potential starters in Tre Roberson, Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld. Coach Kevin Wilson could rotate all three in, causing controversy and confusion, unless it works and IU reaches the Rose Bowl, in which case Wilson will be called a genius.

Nobody expects that.

Wilson could pick one, and let the others serve as backups, unless one of those backups is Sudfeld, who could be redshirted as he was supposed to be last season as a true freshman until Roberson suffered a season-ending broken leg and Sudfeld had to play.

So what's coach to do? For now, nothing. Spring practice is for sorting. Summer preparation and August camp will settle things.

Until then:

“I'm going to have fun watching the competition,” quarterbacks coach Kevin Johns said.

Here's what we know.

Roberson, who has three years of eligibility remaining, is back and healthy. He is bigger (by about 15 pounds, to 200) and stronger. He remains a defense-shredding dual-threat guy who would seem to have the starting edge. After all, he started the last month of his freshman season (finishing with 937 passing yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions), and then the first two games last of last season until injury sidelined him. In those two games he rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns, and threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception and completed 66.0 percent of his passes.

Coffman, the junior college transfer, replaced Roberson, but not the dual-threat elements. Coffman ran for minus-1 yard on 37 carries, but he did throw for 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He completed 60.3 percent of his passes.

Then there was Sudfeld, who completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 632 yards and seven touchdowns. He threw just one interception.

The result -- the Hoosiers have as much quarterback depth as any team in the Big Ten. The problem -- how do you utilize it?

“It's a good problem,” Johns said. “At the end of they day they won't all be able to play as much as they want. We went from a year ago where we weren't real deep at quarterback to now we have three guys who have Big Ten game experience. We feel great about it. All three are great leaders. They'll still get better.”

All three played in last Saturday's scrimmage. Their performances did not leave Wilson raving, but then, Wilson rarely raves.

“It's good and it's bad,” he said about dividing the plays among three quarterbacks. “It's hard for them to get the reps they need. They get out of rhythm.

“They're all adequate. Tre is healthy. You can see that. They're doing well. They're good teammates. I don't know if we have a great one, but we've got three good ones and they're playing hard. They're calm and confident. I'm glad we got them.”

So what do the Hoosiers have?

“Tre, with the injury, has gotten himself bigger and stronger,” Johns said. “That's helped him. He's taken a step back and watched a lot of film.

“Cam and Nate having a chance to play. They are playing a lot faster than they did a year ago. They're understanding things better. Even though they're playing faster, the game has slowed down for them, so they're making reads better. I'm happy and impressed with where they're at.”

Added offensive coordinator Seth Littrell: “There's a lot of room for improvement, but the effort and intensity is there. We're sharper. I'm excited about all three.”

What will separate the starter from the others?

“He has to be efficient,” Johns said. “He has to be a guy can make reads and move the ball. He doesn't throw interceptions. He allows us to play fast.

“Whoever that guy is will run out there first. We still have a lot of time before we need to name that person. I wouldn't be surprised if they all play. Who that one guy is I don't know, but the ability to move the ball down the field without making mistakes is a key.”

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.