Of all the potential starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten Conference, Brandon Dawkins has likely had the most inconspicuous arrival to his college campus.
The graduate transfer from Arizona has been in Bloomington for little more than a week and still needs help getting access to IU’s weight room and other facilities at Memorial Stadium.
His first days in Bloomington were spent shopping at TJ Maxx for household supplies and visiting The Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis.
He’s still learning the names of his teammates and coaches, and he’s able to walk through Herman B Wells Library past groups of freshmen during their New Student Orientation without being recognized.
By Sept. 1, when IU plays its season opener at Florida International, that likely won’t be the case.
Dawkins arrives with three years of playing experience in a Power Five conference and the ability to attack defenses both through the air and on the ground.
It’s a combination no other quarterback on the IU roster can offer.
While redshirt sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey and freshman Michael Penix Jr. both took part in spring practice, neither have the in-game experience Dawkins brings to the table.
Dawkins described his playing style as “explosive,” and said his ability to adapt when a play breaks down is one of his strongest skills. Those two features at quarterback were missing from IU last season.
Ramsey offered the Hoosiers a more mobile option at quarterback than Richard Lagow, but aside from IU’s win at Virginia, Ramsey struggled to make standout plays and wasn’t the type of player to take over a game. Part of that may have been his inexperience, but it also could be due to the hits he took during the season, which caused a knee injury that kept him out of IU’s final four games.
Regardless, Ramsey showed he was a capable quarterback for IU last season, but one without the ability to dominate a game.
Dawkins has that ability.
The offensive system he played in under head coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona was based on speed and run-pass options. He played well in this system, which IU tried to use last season, with some success, while Ramsey was under center.
But Dawkins is bigger, faster and has a stronger arm than Ramsey.
This presents a tougher challenge to opposing teams, as Dawkins can run past, and run over, defensive players while also punishing them with passes downfield to open receivers.
Last season, Dawkins even posted six touchdowns in a single game, scoring three times each passing and rushing against the University of Texas at El Paso. The last IU football player to score six touchdowns in a game was Tre Roberson against Purdue in 2013.
The learning curve will be steep for Dawkins when transitioning from one style of offense and one conference, to another. But if he can harness the potential he displayed during his time at Arizona, he would give IU a dynamic dual-threat quarterback the program hasn’t had since Roberson.
Perhaps more important than anything else is Dawkins’ approach to his new environment.
"I want to do whatever I can, do my part to put more wins in the win-loss column for this team,” Dawkins said. “To end on a positive note, go to a good bowl and have an overall really good season."
He referenced his official visit to IU, and his visit host, junior wide receiver Luke Timian, when describing what attracted him to the IU program.
"When I came on my visit, they had a little scrimmage and I saw Luke Timian stayed after and caught like 200 extra balls from a Jugs machine,” Dawkins said. “Little things like that show that players are invested. I wanted to go somewhere where football was important. It seemed really important to the guys here and that kind of made me fall in love with it pretty quick."
Dawkins has one year of college eligibility left, but he has the attitude, charisma and talent to be remembered in Bloomington long after he leaves.
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