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Michael Penix Jr.'s leadership in quarterback room setting course for IU football


Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. throws the ball in a game against Michigan State on Sept. 28, 2019, in Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. Penix was the most accurate quarterback in the Big Ten last season, completing 59.6 percent of his passes. Alex Deryn

IU already knows who this season’s quarterback is going to be, but sophomore Michael Penix Jr. is still growing into the leader the team wants him to be.

Penix said he isn’t worried about bearing the load for IU. His main goal is simply to slow the game down. Penix said he’s understanding why certain plays are called better than he did before and is more aware of how to take advantage of defensive coverages.

He’s grown into a leadership role in a quarterback room that is constantly pushing each other to be great.

“We always make sure we’re on the same page,” Penix said. 

Penix is the most experienced between himself, sophomore Jack Tuttle and freshman Dexter Williams II, although he noted Tuttle is older.

Tuttle has improved a lot since coming to IU, offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said. After Payton Ramsey transferred to Northwestern in March, Tuttle has been able to get more reps than he did last year as the third team quarterback.

He’s more comfortable with his teammates and has a better understanding of how to execute. Penix said he can make any throw on the field.

For Penix, his game is hard to define. 

Sheridan calls him a difficult person to defend. Penix refers to himself as a passer who can run. 

“I touch the ball every play,” Penix said. “I’m trying to let my guys out there touch the ball too.”

Now heading into his sophomore year, Sheridan said Penix has developed physically and his communication has improved, which will be key for him as he leads the Hoosier offense.

“The sky's the limit for Michael,” Sheridan said.

Heading into his first season as offensive coordinator, Sheridan has overseen not only the growth of his quarterbacks, but the rest of the offense as well. 

The running back room is shaping up to be an impressive group this year behind a combination of junior Stevie Scott III and sophomore Sampson James, who is all in for IU after putting his name in the transfer portal in March

Sheridan said they’ve also been challenging the entire wide receiver corps. Outside of seniors Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle — IU’s most experienced receivers — Sheridan said sophomore Miles Marshall has been the most impressive in his improvement.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” Sheridan said. “But if we have to throw it 70 or run it 70, we really care about winning.”

Philyor and Penix spent time over the offseason throwing together in Tampa, Florida, to stay in rhythm. 

Sheridan said he’s built confidence in the versatility of IU’s offense and won’t be afraid to lean on either group to help the team win.

IU had a scrimmage this weekend while creeping closer to the start of the season. Sheridan said he was encouraged by clean offensive play, although he noted he doesn’t have a lot to compare it to since this season is far different from where they would normally be in training camp.

“You’re trying to eliminate the bad football so you can start playing good football,” Sheridan said.

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