REGGIE HAYES: Who will name its starting quarterback first, Indiana or Purdue?
Shortly after time began, Indiana and Purdue universities started competing in sports. But this fall’s football duel might well be a first:
They’re low-key racing to see who picks a quarterback first.
This is either a good or bad problem to have, depending on perspective. Both teams have an open quarterback competition. This could be a bonus in talent surplus or a glaring uncertainty at the most important position on the football field.
Purdue, which got the best of Indiana on the field last fall, has a battle between fifth-year senior David Blough and junior Elijah Sindelar.
Indiana has a three-way competition among redshirt sophomore Peyton Ramsey, graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins and freshman Michael Penix Jr.
Neither Purdue coach Jeff Brohm nor Indiana coach Tom Allen has offered hints about their respective frontrunner or a definite leaning direction. They have mastered the art of making their fan bases believe their QB situation is a positive at worst, a joyous celebration of talent overload at best.
Here’s Brohm: “Our team firmly understands they’re going to give it everything they have, and they set the example and the bar high and others have to raise their level of play.”
Here’s Allen: “Each of the guys has skills that are unique to them and different strengths, as well. They’ll all get their opportunities.”
For Purdue, the issue of leadership won’t be an issue since both Blough and Sindelar started games last season and won games last season. Blough put up huge numbers in the passing game two years ago and Sindelar finished last season throwing for 396 yards and four touchdowns in a bowl win over Arizona. Oh, and he had a torn ACL at the time.
To generalize, Blough is more of a game manager with an ability to throw on the run and Sindelar has a bigger arm capable of deep throws. Again, that’s generalizing. In actuality, both are capable of either type of performance.
Brohm seems inclined to run with both quarterbacks for the time being, and maybe beyond. Yes, one of the two will run onto the field for the first offensive series against Northwestern on Aug. 30, but Brohm hasn’t ruled out – at least publicly – playing both quarterbacks in a two-quarterback type of system. The guess here is he’ll maintain that posture up until that Northwestern game. Why not give the Wildcats’ defensive coaches more to consider as they lead up to the game?
Brohm seems comfortable with either quarterback, which should put the team at ease.
Allen has the bigger issue because he seems inclined to zero in on a starter and roll with that to open the season.
Ramsey, Dawkins and Penix have similar skill sets with subtle differences in approach but significant differences in experience.
“We have a quarterback room where all three of us have the ability to run the ball and I think it adds a different element when a quarterback can run,” Ramsey said on IU’s media day. “It stretches the defense and keeps them on their toes. I think (running) will be implemented more because all three of our skills sets are so similar.”
Ramsey stepped in and threw for 1,252 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, completing an IU single-season record 65.4 percent of his passes. Dawkins transferred to IU after a career at Arizona where he played in 23 games, started 14, passed for 2,414 yards and rushed for 1,582 yards. Penix enrolled early so he was able to get in on spring practice before his first fall as a freshman.
Allen said during Big Ten Media Day he hopes to settle the quarterback position as soon as he “feels good” about it.
So in this undeclared race between rivals to name a starting quarterback – which is more of a coy progression than a race, to be honest – I’d give the edge to Indiana.
I’d expect Allen will pick a quarterback and start going with him soon.
I have a feeling Brohm won’t reveal whether Blough or Sindelar will take the field first until he has to do so, which could be after the opening kickoff.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel.