Freshman quarterback Zander Diamont had just three days of practice as IU’s starter before playing against then-No. 8 Michigan State two weeks ago.
Diamont and the IU offense used the extra time to go back through installation plays from the first day of preseason camp, a time when Diamont was the third-string quarterback and was hoping to redshirt his first season.
Now, the Hoosiers (3-4, 0-3) have had a chance to start from the beginning in preparation for this weekend’s matchup with Michigan (3-5, 1-3) in Ann Arbor.
“What we have to do is gear things toward what he can handle, what he’s good at, what can he manage,” Johns said of Diamont.
“We’re not in a good situation from a quarterback standpoint, from an experience standpoint, but we still have all the confidence in the world in him.”
In his first collegiate game, Diamont had to face the No. 8 team in the nation.
In his second, he’ll have to play in one of the toughest atmospheres in college football.
Michigan Stadium, more commonly known as “The Big House,” holds 109,901 fans. Playing in front of a crowd that big can be daunting for anyone, especially a young, inexperienced player trying to manage an offense.
Johns said if they consistently put Diamont in good situations, he can handle the rest.
“All you have to do is take the snap, manage the play and we’ll move onto the next one,” Johns said. “Don’t get us beat; don’t put us in bad situations.”
Diamont threw for just 11 yards against Michigan State on 5-of-15 passing.
After the game, IU Coach Kevin Wilson blamed his performance on first-game excitement that led to ?errant passes, saying Diamont was “a little bit hyper.”
Now that Diamont has one game under his belt, Johns said he has a better understanding of the college game. It isn’t high school football anymore.
“After the Michigan State game, his eyes were a lot bigger, like, ‘Wow these guys come fast,’” Johns said. “From that standpoint, I’ve seen him really understand now exactly what he’s up against.”
The Venice, Calif., native has now tripled the number of snaps he took before that first game. He’s had more reps with his receivers, giving them a chance to get more in sync.
It’s also allowed him and IU’s offensive line to develop a stronger sense of trust.
Offensive lineman Dan Feeney said a lot of Diamont’s progress can only come in game-time situations. For the most part, rather than the IU offense changing too much, Diamont has been thrown into the mix and is expected to learn what was already established.
But his playing style varies from Nate Sudfeld’s, something the line has had to adjust to.
“He’s a little more comfortable with running,” Feeney said. “With Zander you just have to be ready to go run and block for him whenever he gets out of the pocket.
“Especially since he’s a freshman, we’re definitely trying to limit the hits on him.”
The Michigan defense is allowing 23 points per game and 210 yards passing through five games.
Wilson said a solid two weeks of practice from Diamont and his offense, though, means nothing until he sees in it in the game Saturday.
“Right now, it’s not his job to lose, but it’s his job to play better and help us win,” Wilson said.