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Three takeaways from IU football’s Monday media availability



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Senior wide receiver Donavan Hale attempts to make a catch during IU’s game against Penn State on Oct. 20 at Memorial Stadium. With its loss to Penn State, IU's record stands at 4-4.  Sam House Buy Photos

It was a familiar media session for the assembled IU football coaches and players Monday.

The Hoosiers gathered to talk about their third-straight defeat and fourth conference loss of the season, a 33-28 home defeat Saturday against then-No. 18 Penn State, while also looking ahead to Friday night’s game at Minnesota.

Here are three takeaways from the session.

Michael Penix Jr. is out for the rest of the season

After leaving the game with an injury during the third quarter Saturday, IU Coach Tom Allen announced Monday that freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. tore his ACL and is out for the rest of the season. 

Allen said Penix Jr. will have surgery in a few weeks before he begins his recovery process. He’s the second player to tear an ACL on the team this season after sophomore running back Cole Gest suffered the same injury during IU’s opening win at Florida International.

Freshman Reese Taylor, who has seen time at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back so far this year will be the new backup quarterback behind sophomore starter Peyton Ramsey.

Taylor has been used in special offensive packages for IU this season, but he’s no stranger to the quarterback position. He was named 2017 Indiana Mr. Football at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, as he led the Giants to a perfect 14-0 season. During his high school career, he threw for 7,631 passing yards and 79 touchdowns.

Allen said the Hoosiers will continue to use Taylor in special packages, but his use will come with the understanding he now has a more permanent role with the offense.

“A little bit of a unique situation in that regard,” Allen said. “Just gotta do a great job as a staff of preparing him and utilizing his talents as well as having him prepared for that role as well.”

Penix Jr. will be able to redshirt the 2018 season because he played in only three games before suffering his season-ending injury.

Allen said after talking with head trainer Kyle Blackman the goal is to have Penix Jr. ready for IU’s spring practices, before having him ready to go “100 percent full bore” on June 1 for summer practice.

“He’ll be a better player, more mentally tough individual, and he’ll have a confidence about his ability to overcome things when this is all said and done,” Allen said.

IU to adjust the way it covers kickoff returns

Special teams was an area of frustration for Allen after Saturday’s loss. The Hoosiers allowed a kickoff return of 58 yards to start the game and then one of 94 yards after taking a 21-20 lead in the third quarter.

This came after IU also allowed a kickoff return of 60 yards against Iowa.

“The first thing we have to address is the quality of the kick,” Allen said. “So the way that we want to be able to cover kicks, the kick has to be set a certain spot.”

In the Penn State game, Allen said the first kickoff return was due to the kick not being in the correct spot, while the second kick had a short hang time.

Allen said after addressing the position of the kickoff, the next step is putting in players who will do a better job of tackling.

“We adjust in personnel, made some changes and to get guys that we feel like will do a better job,” Allen said. “Obviously the guys we had in there we thought were going to do good job, did not get the job done.” 

Whether it’s continuing to emphasize kickoff coverage in team meetings or putting starters in to cover kicks, Allen said the issue will be addressed. 

Bryant Fitzgerald and Juwan Burgess are IU’s version of 2 Live Crew

After defensive backs Bryant Fitzgerald and Juwan Burgess both redshirted the 2017 season as freshman, both players knew they would see game action this season.

They’ve returned to the field together, so Fitzgerald said the duo calls themselves 2 Live Crew, after the hip-hop group from Miami.

“I haven’t listened to any 2 Live,” Fitzgerald said. “I've probably listened to some, but I’ve heard of 2 Live Crew. We just went with it because it looked good, sounded good.”

Fitzgerald was ruled ineligible for the 2017 season after a paperwork mistake was made by IU’s athletic department, but he took part in IU’s spring practice this offseason. Burgess also did not see any game action last season.

Fitzgerald has made a splash in recent weeks with interceptions against Ohio State and Penn State, while Burgess had consecutive games with five tackles against Ohio State and Iowa.

“It’s just that confidence that you have,” Fitzgerald said. “I said 'this is my chance right here.' They say shooters shoot so I just shot my shot.”

IU has the latest bye week of any Big Ten Conference team this season, as it comes after this week’s game at Minnesota.

While this may affect IU’s less experienced players more than its veterans, Fitzgerald said the team uses music and intense practices to “keep that juice.”

“Any music,” Fitzgerald said. “It varies from Indian tribe music to country to rap, whatever is on the mix that day.”

But Fitzgerald said there isn’t any 2 Live Crew on the IU football playlist — not yet anyway.

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