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Michael Penix Jr. and Peyton Ramsey display talents during IU football spring game


Redshirt sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey runs the ball during the IU spring game Saturday in Mellencamp Pavilion. Ramsey threw for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns against Florida International Saturday. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

Despite the changing circumstances surrounding IU's spring game Saturday in Mellencamp Pavilion, the focus was kept on the on-field action. 

The change in location from Memorial Stadium to IU's indoor facility, announced just one day before the game, made distractions a possibility. 

However, IU's quarterbacks, wearing blue jerseys distinguishing them from other players on the cream and crimson teams, remained one of the key focus points for IU Coach Tom Allen and those in attendance. 

IU's starting quarterback job is an open competition. The frontrunners are graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins, sophomore Peyton Ramsey and freshman Michael Penix Jr.

Dawkins announced his decision to come to Bloomington a week ago, but was not in action during the spring game. This allowed Penix, on the cream team, and Ramsey, on the crimson team, to take center stage.

"I think being out here and actually getting to play out these situations was really helpful for us," Ramsey said. "We didn't show a lot, we didn't do a lot, stuck to our base stuff. It was good to see us execute at a high level doing our simple, basic stuff."

The Crimson team's 37-28 victory after two, 12-minute quarters was notable not for the end result, but for what Penix and Ramsey displayed in live game situations. Allen said he has been impressed with both players during spring practice.

Ramsey started four games for IU last season while Penix, a left-handed quarterback, enrolled early at IU for the spring semester after spending two years as a starter at Tampa Bay Tech High School in Tampa, Florida. 

The spring game showed off the mobility of both quarterbacks. Almost all snaps were taken out of the shotgun formation and read-option plays were run with IU's available running backs.

"Improve as a team and myself as an individual," Penix said about what he wanted to gain from the spring game. "That's the main thing, improvement."

In similar fashion to the connection Ramsey developed with senior wide receiver Luke Timian last season, Penix frequently found sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor on Saturday.

"It wasn't too much different because we scrimmage every Saturday," Penix said. "As far as the difference, it wasn't too much." 

Penix displayed his strong arm strength, targeting receivers downfield. On a particular play, Penix forced senior safety Jonathan Crawford into a pass interference penalty when he threw a deep pass intended for Philyor. However, Penix was also more inaccurate than Ramsey during those two quarters.

Ramsey used his legs far more than Penix, scoring a 55-yard rushing touchdown to open the scoring for the Crimson team.

"I want guys that I can trust. I want guys that are tough. I want guys that are dependable, and that to me defines Peyton Ramsey," Allen said. "That's a young man that's going to help this football team win a bunch of games. Whatever that role may be, he may be the starter, and I know that's what he wants, but the bottom line is he has all those intangibles that you want in a young man."

The battle for the starting job will continue into the summer, giving each of Dawkins, Penix and Ramsey opportunities to prove why they should be the man under center for IU next season.

"You're only as good as your quarterback on offense," Allen said. "We know that position is critical."

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