Big Ten Media Days returned to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Friday, bringing along IU football junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr., senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle, senior linebacker and head coach Tom Allen.
The Hoosiers talked about Penix’s health, Name, Image and Likeness deals and returning to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Big Ten Championship. Here’s what you should know:
Penix: “Sept. 4 I’ll be ready 100 percent”
Penix said he’d be fully recovered from his ACL tear last season by the opener against Iowa on Sept. 4 in Iowa City.
When asked for what percentage he's currently at, Penix said he's right where he needs to be heading into fall camp where he added that he will be doing everything except live reps.
Fryfogle said with Penix back, IU is locked in to the first game.
“Mike looks awesome,” Fryfogle said. “He’s been attacking his rehab. He’s the first guy in there and the last guy to leave.”
With Penix healthy, IU has lofty goals. Head coach Tom Allen talked about his desire to return to Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 4 for the Big Ten Championship Game, and Penix said the locker room tries to do something with training to win the Big Ten each day.
"That's just something we just expect to happen," Penix said.
IU starts its Big Ten Slate immediately
For the first time since 2017, the Hoosiers will open their season with a Big Ten game before playing its non-conference opponents.
IU plays Iowa on Sept. 4 in Iowa City in what will likely be a top-25 matchup. It means both teams will quickly be thrown into higher level competition
"The only benefit I see is our player's awareness,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “If it isn't heightened, it needs to be, because we're not playing St. Mary's."
Allen said playing a conference opponent sets the team up for a better season.
“I love the way that it creates a sense of urgency with your team,” Allen said. “The start of the season always creates excitement. There's always that level no matter who you play but when it's a conference opponent and when it's a team that’s of their caliber, to go and play in that venue to start the season is going to be very challenging.”
It’s the third time in Allen’s five years as head coach that IU will start against a Big Ten opponent, including the 2020 conference-only schedule.
IU isn’t focused on Name, Image and Likeness
While Penix doesn’t have any NIL deals himself yet, it’s pretty clear how important the legislation will be for players like him.
“I haven’t really been focused too much on it to be honest, just because of the injury stuff,” Penix said. “But I feel like it’s a great opportunity for guys to make deals with these different companies and being able to put their face out there.”
For now, Penix will wait before making any deals.
Fryfogle said he was focusing on football and leaving the NIL deals to his marketing agency, Rubicon Sports.
“It eventually had to come to this point,” Fryfogle said. “Guys are leaving school early because of issues that some people deal with. I’m just excited that NIL came and people can profit off their name, image and likeness.”
Fryfogle said most of the locker room wants to let their play speak for itself instead of focusing on NIL deals.
“All the guys on the team are really excited about it,” Penix said. “What we do on the field is definitely going to determine that.”
There’s excitement about the Bucket game returning
After the Old Oaken Bucket game was canceled twice last season due to COVID-19 issues within both IU and Purdue’s programs, coaches and players were excited about getting the chance to renew the rivalry.
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said the game is something the teams look forward to from the beginning of the season with the bragging rights on the line.
“It's something that has a lot of history and tradition,” Brohm said. “And normally for us, and even Indiana, there's a lot of riding on the game beyond that.”
Indiana played the Bucket game with bowl eligibility on the line for four straight years from 2015 to 2018, winning the first two and losing the second two. Purdue’s victories in 2017 and 2018 both earned the Boilermakers bowl eligibility.
Fryfogle said when he first got to IU, the signs around the locker room saying, “What did you do today to beat Purdue?” confused him. Now, he’s fully sold into the rivalry and is looking forward to the game.
“The Bucket’s gonna stay in Bloomington as long as I’m here,” Fryfogle said. “I hope the Bucket stays in Bloomington forever.”