In the midst of an expected quarterback competition, IU enters spring practices with four quarterbacks on its roster after Danny Cameron was indefinitely suspended from the program in early March and officially dismissed last week.
Of the four quarterbacks, junior Richard Lagow’s name has been tossed around the most when the position is discussed by IU coaches. Redshirt sophomore Austin King and redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey are also under consideration, along with redshirt sophomore Mike Fiacable.
While no offensive coach has shown much partiality to any quarterback, one of the four at the position needs to show consistency before any can solidify a spot in the competition, quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan said.
“I’m pleased with the abilities of the players,” Sheridan said. “We’re just focused on consistency. You can’t afford to have good plays and bad plays. You just have to be consistent all the time.”
Lagow brings a full season’s worth of experience as the starting quarterback, and that’s recognizable in practice, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. That’s how it is for every position, he said. The players that have played understand the speed of the game.
Lagow’s season of experience is certainly backed by numbers. He ranked second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, fifth in touchdowns and sixth in passing efficiency. In his first season, the transfer quarterback guided IU to its second consecutive bowl appearance.
Inconsistency marred parts of Lagow’s first year as the field general for the Hoosiers, though. He threw 17 interceptions, second most among Big Ten quarterbacks, and completed 57.8 percent of his passes, which ranked seventh in the conference.
There were flashes, a word IU Coach Tom Allen uses to describe players that can produce but don’t maintain that production. Lagow would hit a streaking Ricky Jones to get into scoring position and then fail to get the Hoosiers into the endzone or throw an interception on the next drive.
His deep overthrows would frustrate fans and stunt drives early, but then the quarterback would lead IU on an impressive 80-plus-yard scoring drive.
That inconsistency needs to stop, Sheridan said.
“Whatever is the expected result of a play, we expect that to happen,” the quarterbacks coach said. “The ball is supposed to be completed because the guy is open, and we expect that to happen. If the best that can happen is you have to throw it away or you have to take a sack, we expect that to happen. We want expected results. We don’t want any surprises out there.”
Sheridan said while he can’t speak too much to Lagow’s performance last season, he can tell the soon-to-be senior quarterback wants to get better.
Lagow went to San Diego, California, for spring break to work in a camp sponsored and run by quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., who played college football for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State before establishing his quarterback academy called Whitfield Athletix Whitfield has worked with NFL quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.
“I think he was just working on his craft and trying to get around guys that are in more situations,” Sheridan said. “College quarterbacks are kind of a unique fraternity of guys that go through the same types of things. I think he was just trying to improve, and at the same time he got away to sunny California.”
Sheridan said there’s been a steady improvement from Lagow, not just in his footwork — an aspect of quarterbacking that DeBord said is crucial and one that former IU Coach Kevin Wilson said the quarterback needed to improve upon — but also in his attitude and leadership.
Meshing with the team and taking charge is what Sheridan said he’s calling upon all of his quarterbacks to work on. DeBord wants to run a fast-paced offense, even faster than last season. A take-charge quarterback is in demand for the 2017 season.
While DeBord said adjusting to a new offensive system takes time for any quarterback, Sheridan said he’s been pushing all the quarterbacks to have a commanding presence, especially King and Ramsey, who haven’t taken the field as quarterbacks during their careers in Bloomington.
Sheridan said he believes King and Ramsey are getting the most reps at quarterback than they’ve gotten in their years at IU in preparation and that he’s trying to prepare them to be starting quarterbacks, even if they don’t take on that role in 2017.
“We preach to the guys that all of them need to be ready to play,” Sheridan said. “Your preparation for practice, for meetings, for workouts needs to be in line with what a starter would do. If you handle your preparation, your play on the field will follow.”