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Friendly rivalry takes shape ahead of IU football spring game



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The defensive line goes through drills during the warmup against Wisconsin. At halftime on Nov. 4, 2017, Wisconsin was ahead of IU, 14-10. The IU spring game will be played at noon Saturday in Memorial Stadium. Katie Franke Buy Photos

Mike Hart likes his steak cooked medium.

Brandon Shelby prefers his cooked medium to medium well.

IU Coach Tom Allen did not discuss how he likes his steak cooked, but he will be enjoying one with the winning coach following Saturday’s IU football spring game at Memorial Stadium.

A steak dinner is on the line between Hart, IU’s running back coach and coach of the Cream Team and Shelby, IU’s cornerback coach and the man in charge of the Crimson Team.

“I’ll be able to root on both sides and eat with whoever wins,” Allen said.

Both Hart and Shelby assembled their spring game rosters during a team draft earlier this week. They also signed players via a "free agency" period. 

“It’s a great time,” Hart said. “It’s fun. The kids enjoy it a lot.”

Aside from the prized steak dinner, the spring game also marks the end of IU’s spring practice period. Allen said it was a very productive spring for his team, although he kept it simple for the defense due to the team’s youth on that side of the ball. This meant IU did less opponent-specific preparation than in recent years.

Offensively, the focus continues to be on the quarterback position.

“Crisp, clean, sharp” performances from IU’s available quarterbacks is what Allen said he hopes to see during Saturday’s game. 

The spring game will use a slightly modified format compared to normal college football games. Quarters will last only 12 minutes and no tackling of the quarterbacks will be allowed.

As a result, the dual-threat ability of IU’s mobile quarterbacks, specifically freshman Michael Penix Jr. and sophomore Peyton Ramsey, will be less of a factor. Penix and Ramsey will be part of the open quarterback competition extending into the summer months for IU, and the two will be on opposite teams for the spring game.

Along with graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins, Allen said he is confident in the ability of all three quarterbacks with a running skill set.

“There’s no question we would like to be able to become an offense that utilizes the legs of the quarterback,” Allen said. “I think that’s something that I’m going to be open about, and I think that’s the direction you can see that we’re going.”

While Dawkins is new to the IU team, he already has a prior connection to quarterback coach Nick Sheridan. Both played quarterback under Rich Rodriguez, Sheridan while at the University of Michigan in 2008 and 2009 and Dawkins at the University of Arizona during the last three seasons.

The up-tempo, shotgun-style offense run by Rodriguez’s teams, especially at Arizona, favored a quarterback who could create plays by running.  Allen said this forces the defense to use a safety to help guard against the quarterback run, something that puts the defense in conflict.

“I am a big believer in the value of the quarterback’s ability to run,” Allen said. 

The quarterback battle is a long-term storyline for IU this offseason. In the immediate future, Allen said the team’s two goals for the spring game are to have fun and to execute on offense and defense.

Saturday’s weather forecast may force the Hoosiers inside John Mellencamp Pavilion or necessitate a time change for the spring game. However, Allen said the Hoosiers have been inside so much due to weather issues the venue change would not affect the team. 

What remains the same, regardless of the time or venue of the game, is the steak awarded to the winning coach and served by the losing coach. 

“When there’s a steak dinner on the line and the pride of having to be the one who receives it, not having to serve it, I think that’s really the bigger issue,” Allen said. 

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