It’s Week 1, and Indiana’s revolving door of personnel remains in full swing. Days after the program announced an indefinite suspension for starting running back Morgan Ellison and one-game suspension for linebacker Mo Burnam, there is more.
Days before opener, Brandon Dawkins leaves the program
Brandon Dawkins has left Bloomington. The Arizona grad transfer arrived here in June, lost the competition to incumbent sophomore Peyton Ramsey, and departed in August. It’s a rather intriguing story, one that we dissected on today’s podcast. When Dawkins committed, he figured to be the de-facto starter. But he arrived late because of Arizona graduation, and brought accuracy concerns with him. Tom Allen wants his team to protect the football, and Ramsey gives the Hoosiers their best chance at that.
“(He’s) just going a different direction with his life,” Allen said. So he kind of wanted to sort some things out, figure out what’s next for him.”
The repercussions of Dawkins’ departure are endless, really. The obvious one is that he’s gone — and with him goes a possible package in Mike DeBord’s offense. A Dawkins package certainly could have helped Indiana generate big plays, something the Hoosiers lacked in 2017. At the very least, Dawkins also would have provided IU with an experienced backup in the case of attrition — which we saw last year with injuries to both Lagow and Ramsey.
“I don’t know,” Ramsey said of Dawkins leaving. “I don’t really know how to answer that question. He was good to me the entire time that he was here and I wish him nothing but the best.”
The importance of depth: Reese Taylor moved to quarterback
In any case, Dawkins’ departure left Indiana with only two scholarship quarterbacks. On Monday, Allen officially moved true freshman Reese Taylor from cornerback to quarterback. Taylor practiced with the quarterbacks for the first time Monday, and is taking it slow early. There’s much to learn for Taylor, Indiana’s reigning Mr. Football and QB sensation at Ben Davis High School.
But there is no doubting Taylor’s sheer talent and potential at quarterback, despite his 5-foot-11, 184 pound size. There’s a reason why he was figured to contribute on IU’s offense even as a cornerback — Taylor broke endless records at Ben Davis, leading his school to the state title. The new redshirt rule complicates both the immediate and long-term futures of Taylor and fellow true freshman Michael Penix Jr. Both can play four games or less and remain as a freshman next season, but the Hoosiers, ideally, would like to deploy Taylor and Penix this season. It remains to be seen how much Allen will use the redshirt rule as a strategy, but Saturday’s road test at Florida International could be a sign.
“I see him definitely playing, yes,” Allen said Monday. “Obviously we go through and re-evaluate some things as far as how that’s going to look. But he’s a guy that I view as a playmaker. You want to get him touching the football. In some ways this kind of gives you a chance to be more creative with that, to be honest with you.”
The departure of Dawkins raises questions if Indiana will be able to retain Penix’s freshman season in 2019. Penix will be, after all, the de-facto backup. If Ramsey even suffers a minor knock, Penix becomes the guy. If Indiana is blowing out its opposition, Penix could relieve Ramsey as well. That is what backups normally do, but it depends on how Allen interprets the new redshirt rule. In other words, time will tell. Penix could make an appearance this week at Florida International, according to Allen Monday.
News & Notes: Depth Chart Reveal
Indiana’s Week 1 depth chart was also released on Monday morning. Depth charts, especially before the season starts, always contain questionable levels of stock. Former IU coach Kevin Wilson was notorious for inaccurate depth charts, although it seems that Allen’s have been fairly consistent thus far.
That being said, it appears a few preseason position battles have been wrapped up for now. At running back, redshirt sophomore Cole Gest is listed as the starter amidst Ellison’s suspension. Mike Majette will back him up, although DeBord indicated Monday that the Hoosiers will likely start with a committee.
At tight end, redshirt freshman Peyton Hendershot will be the starter while senior Ryan Watercutter recovers from injury. Junior Austin Dorris will serve as IU’s backup against FIU. IU’s offensive line is essentially set, but the center position still remains undecided. Miami grad transfer Nick Linder and junior Hunter Littlejohn are both listed as starters. Linder has the ability to move around the line, as well. Sophomore Ty Fryfogle has emerged as the starting wideout opposite of Nick Westbrook, with Donovan Hale backing up Westbrook on the other side. All will play, of course, but it’s notable to see Fryfogle’s emergence on paper. The 6-foot-2 receiver only caught one pass as a freshman — but with Simmie Cobbs in the NFL and Taysir Mack transferring to Pitt, Fryfogle has the potential for a strong sophomore campaign.
Lastly, Indiana has found its kicker in junior Logan Justus. The Hoosiers really haven’t had any questions at kicker for the last four years of Griffin Oakes’ career. Oakes, the two-time Big Ten Kicker of the Year, struggled as a junior but provided real stability for IU. U.S. Army All-American invitee Charles Campbell will backup Justus as a true freshman, but both could play. Justus is left-footed, and Campbell kicks with his right. Depending on which hash Indiana kicks from, Allen said Monday that both would be available. Redshirt sophomore Jared Smolar will handle kickoffs, with a new touchback rule to boot.
“That was a tight one, too,” Allen said of the kicking competition. “Went with the older, mature guy. Just the way we charted everything, I feel like he’s earned the right to be the starting field goal kicker going into Week 1. Charles Campbell is right there on his heels. We’ll get a chance to see what he can do too.”