Indiana football concluded its second preseason scrimmage Friday afternoon and will end fall training camp on Sunday. As the depth chart enters its final stages before the season opener, the most important position — starting quarterback — has yet to be determined.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen spoke to the media Friday, and the quarterback battle was the first thing addressed. Allen said a decision will be made in the ‘near future.’ Well, I’d hope so, considering Indiana’s first game against conference foe Illinois is in less than two weeks.
The starting position has come down to redshirt senior Jack Tuttle and redshirt junior and University of Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak. Tuttle has appeared in 14 games at Indiana, passing at a 56% clip with four touchdowns to his six interceptions. Bazelak got more reps with the Tigers, playing in 24 games and eclipsing 5,000 yards at a 66.4 completion percentage, including 23 touchdowns to his 17 interceptions.
While the numbers point to Bazelak earning the starting role, it appears Allen wants qualities beyond statistical success. He said there are three things he is looking for from the starting quarterback: command of the offense, protection of the football and winning over the locker room.
I could try to break it down from Allen’s key points, but to be frank, I just don’t know what to expect. In fact, only the players and coaches have a good understanding of how the position battle is progressing at the moment. Allen has made it known that even if a decision had already been made, he wouldn’t make it public in order to prevent Illinois from gaining any scouting advantages.
However, that isn’t quite the case. He just admitted the decision is still in the air. Is that a bad sign? I’m going to keep some hope and say it isn’t a problem, and that instead there are a couple factors delaying this decision.
The first is adaptation. Bazelak would’ve been learning a new system regardless, but with a new offensive coordinator in Walt Bell, Tuttle had some learning to do as well. It’s hard to get a good gauge on the talent level and the control of the offense if they don’t know the system, so it likely took longer than usual for both quarterbacks to get a hang of the new blueprint, if they even have yet.
The other factor is trust. This is part of the adaptation element, as the coaching staff needs to see who they can trust within the system. This also checks out in regard to winning over the locker room, as each guy needs to establish trust with his team. Even Tuttle, who has been here three seasons already, still has new teammates joining this year and would need to win them over.
While the timing of the decision isn’t all that important, it means a lot to an anxious Indiana fanbase that is hanging on by a thread. After a 2021 season marred by injuries, especially at the quarterback position, Hoosiers fans are hoping for some stability to lead the offense compared to last season’s quarterback carousel.
I predict that Connor Bazelak will win the starting role, with his in-game experience and talented arm playing a large role. If Allen is true to his word, it’ll take 12 days until we see if my prediction comes true.