IU has just one healthy quarterback. Its top receiver didn’t play. Its top running back didn’t play in 11-on-11.
Even without key pieces, even without the quarterback competition solved, Head Coach Tom Allen’s team showed flashes of what it can be come the fall.
In the 2019 Cream and Crimson game, both the offense and defense showed flashes of the changes the new coordinators plan to implement. Though with a 48-33 victory over the defense in the spring game, it will be the offense enjoying a steak dinner with Allen.
The passing game of new Offensive Coordinator Kalen DeBoer showcased how it will differ from the offense of the last two seasons led by Mike DeBord.
Quarterback Peyton Ramsey stretched the field more than he had at any point last season. DeBoer’s offense put wide receivers in space deep over the middle of the field as well as outside the numbers, creating simple throws for Ramsey. A 39-yard touchdown pass from Ramsey to wide receiver Ty Fryfogle showcased the new system.
“I think the bottom line is we definitely want to do a great job of creating more explosive plays.” Allen said. “I do see us throwing the ball down the field more, and that’s by design.”
Prime example of the air-raid offense the Hoosiers showed off in their spring game tonight.
— Griffin Gonzalez (@grifgonzo) April 13, 2019
Ramsey threw for over 200 yards in the spring game, a total that featured yards after the catch from a variety of different receivers.
“As spring practice has gone on, we’ve progressively gotten better and more comfortable in the offense,” Ramsey said. “Day one it was all new. Here we are on day 15 feeling a lot more comfortable.”
DeBoer utilized the team’s bigger receivers like Fryfogle and Donovan Hale, getting them in space. Ramsey was able to utilize all parts of the field in a way that DeBord’s offense didn’t allow him to.
Michael Penix did get into the game on seven-on-seven play. He didn’t run with the ball, but did throw downfield, not being limited to dump-offs, despite inconsistently.
Defensive Coordinator Kane Wommack is leading a unit headlined by its speed. That speed was evident during the spring game, especially in the secondary.
“I’m comfortable, I’m excited for it”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) April 13, 2019
“The energy level was amazing out there,” defensive back Bryant Fitzgerald said. “I thought we were flying around, creating takeaways.”
Despite allowing 48 points, the defense stayed true to the style Allen has always emphasized, creating takeaways. The defense forced three takeaways in the spring game with two fumble recoveries and an interception.
“That’s our goal for the game,” Allen said. “Our defense is a takeaway driven team. That’s what we emphasize and we attack that football and that’s what our guys did tonight.”
The speed of the secondary caused issues for the pass-happy IU offense. Defensive backs jumped on seemingly every pass over the middle of the field. It was that type of closing on the ball that caused quarterback Michael Penix to go just three-for-10 during his first set of seven-on-seven snaps.
The defense also completely shut down the running game. The running backs group didn’t see its top talent take the field during 11-on-11 as Stevie Scott, Sampson James and Ronnie Walker all didn’t play or only in the seven-on-seven segments in the case of Scott. Linebacker James Miller made the most impressive run stop of the night, flying off the edge on the first play of the second half to stuff Ahrod Lloyd in the backfield.
The Hoosiers still head into the summer with uncertainty. Ramsey didn’t hurt himself in the quarterback competition with his play in the spring game, but his starting job is still far from secure.
The defense looks closer to a finished product. It’s still a young group, but with its speed in the secondary as well as its depth, the spring game showed flashes of an improved unit.
The spring game may not have provided any definitive answer to the questions surrounding IU heading into the fall. Neither side of the ball was perfect. Neither side was supposed to be perfect. Though the flashes of the potential were clear.