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The No. 15 Indiana women’s basketball team snapped Penn State’s four-game winning streak thanks to yet another triple-double from Grace Berger. Berger’s 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists now mark her third triple-double of the season, which are the only three in program history.
.@grace_berger34 in transition! pic.twitter.com/kqSveS8VVc
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 10, 2021
With this win, Indiana becomes the first team in the Big Ten to win 10 conference games, although the Hoosiers still trail Maryland (9-1) for first place. Let’s get into the three biggest takeaways from Indiana’s 90-65 win versus Penn State on Wednesday.
Cardaño-Hillary’s importance skyrockets with loss of Penn
Jaelynn Penn decided to opt out of the rest of the 2020-2021 season on Feb. 7, leaving a hole to fill in the Indiana offense. Penn was averaging 9.5 points per game, five rebounds and started 10 of 11 games for the Hoosiers.
While Penn has taken a step down from beyond the arc this season, shooting just 27 percent from three, Indiana will miss her experience and constant threat to score. Luckily for Indiana, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary transferred in this season after spending the beginning of her career at George Mason.
Corner ? for Nikki! pic.twitter.com/EikgO96yVn
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 10, 2021
Cardaño-Hillary left George Mason as the program’s all-time leading scorer. And without Penn, Indiana will need to see improved play from her. Cardaño-Hillary struggled with her shot at times versus Penn State, shooting 3-for-12 from the field and 2-for-6 from beyond the arc. While she was the only Indiana starter in single-digit scoring, the Hoosiers will begin to rely on her more heavily as she enters the starting lineup.
Cardaño-Hillary’s skillset benefits Indiana because with Ali Patberg, Berger and Cardaño-Hillary, the Hoosiers have three capable guards that can bring the ball up and distribute.
Where has the depth gone?
Throughout Indiana’s 2019-2020 season, the Hoosiers benefitted from a variety of players being able to score off the bench. But after the transfers of Bendu Yeaney, Jorie Allen, the graduation of Brenna Wise, an injury sidelining Kiandra Brown on Wednesday and Penn opting out, all of a sudden Teri Moren plays a much smaller rotation.
Indiana defeated Iowa on Feb. 7 by playing just five players double-digit minutes. All five Indiana starters played at least 33 minutes in that game, and Chloe Moore-McNeil played the most minutes off the bench with eight.
The story was very similar Wednesday, too, as each starter played at least 24 of the first 30 minutes of the game. Indiana relied almost exclusively on its starters for offensive production.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead, Warthen’s three was the only contribution off the bench. She would hit another three in the fourth quarter, but Danielle Patterson’s two points was the only other bench contribution on Wednesday.
Moving forward, it will be crucial for a player such as Moore-McNeil, Patterson, Warthen or Kiandra Brown to step up as a consistent contributor off the bench. In Indiana’s win over Michigan State on Jan. 31, Patberg pulled Brown aside to tell her how much Indiana needs her energy off the bench, and improved play from her would greatly benefit Indiana with the loss of Penn.
Brown has been nursing a hip injury, but isn’t expected to miss a significant amount of time.
IU contains Cash
Going into this game, the No. 1 player on the scouting report had to be Penn State’s senior forward Johnasia Cash. Cash won Big Ten Player of the Week last week, and leads the team, averaging 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
But on Wednesday, the Hoosier forwards got the best of Cash. The defensive combination of Mackenzie Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe showed up in a big way, holding Cash to five points and nine rebounds on 2-for-11 shooting. The improved level of post defense has been the biggest sign of improvement from Holmes over two seasons at Indiana, and she kept Cash off balance for most of Wednesday’s game.
A key to Indiana’s defensive success throughout the past two seasons has simply been Gulbe’s ability to stay out of foul trouble. This puts less pressure on Holmes to carry the load inside, and keeps Indiana’s two most experienced forwards on the court for the majority of the game.
Gulbe picked up two fouls in the first half Wednesday, but avoided fouling the rest of the game. Gulbe scored seven points within the first five minutes of the third quarter, leading Indiana to a 26-11 third-quarter advantage. Holmes was her usual efficient self, scoring 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting and collecting seven rebounds.
Double-team? No problem.@kenzieholmes_ pic.twitter.com/Yok2fr1tn5
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 10, 2021
Next up for Indiana is a game at Illinois, who is currently second to last in the Big Ten with a 1-10 record. This game tips off at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 14 and can been viewed on BTN+. The Illini hold a 4-13 record overall, but won their most recent game versus Purdue 54-49.
Illinois enters the game as the second-lowest scoring team in the Big Ten behind Rutgers, who has played just five conference games. On paper this looks like an easy win for the Hoosiers, but steady improvement from Cardaño-Hillary and the Indiana bench are vital moving forward.
The Indiana women’s basketball team tightened the Big Ten race thanks to an efficient offensive performance to take Iowa down 85-72. With the win, the Hoosiers became the third team in the Big Ten to reach nine conference wins.
While the Hoosiers (9-2 in conference play) are still chasing Maryland (9-1) for first place, they have put pressure on second-place Michigan (5-1) as the Wolverines return from their COVID-19 hiatus. Indiana shot over 60 percent from the field in the fourth quarter versus Iowa, which was a welcomed sight after blowing a late lead to Ohio State on Jan 28.
On the second edition of “HN Film Room” we will break down a few of the offensive plays that led Indiana to another conference win on Sunday.
The Indiana defense struggled to contain Iowa in the first half and IU faces a 31-22 deficit midway through the second quarter. Jaelynn Penn had opted out of the rest of the season on Feb. 7, leaving a hole for the Hoosiers to fill.
Grace Berger starts with the ball on the wing. She receives a screen from Kiandra Brown and now has the choice to drive or kick the ball out. Berger first elects to drive, and all five Iowa defenders turn their attention to her.
Berger waits the perfect amount of time to deliver her pass to Aleksa Gulbe on the left wing. Because Iowa’s defense collapsed into the paint to stop Berger’s drive, the Hoosiers are in business. Gulbe has an open look but elects to make an extra pass.
Gulbe’s extra pass frees up Nicole Cardaño-Hillary for a wide-open look near the top of the key. Cardaño-Hillary will be a crucial player down the stretch for Indiana after Penn opted out of the rest of the season.
The second half starts with fast-paced play from both sides. Indiana has a two-point lead at this point, and is looking to improve on a so-so first half performance. The Hoosiers are at their best when they are beating teams on the fast break, scoring 16 points off turnovers and 10 fast-break points versus Iowa.
Indiana has the luxury of having three guards who can run the offense at any given time. Patberg, Cardaño-Hillary and Berger are all capable ball-handlers, which speeds up Indiana’s ability to ignite the fast break. This play starts with great spacing from Indiana: Cardaño-Hillary bringing the ball up the middle with Gulbe running to the rim and Patberg and Berger on the wings.
After Cardaño-Hillary’s drive and kick to Berger on the wing, Berger again pushes the ball to the paint. Because of her threat to drive and hit her patented pull-up jump shot, Berger has attracted four Iowa defenders to the paint. This allows her to find Patberg on the wing.
Iowa's commitment to slowing down Berger in the paint makes it difficult for any Hawkeye defenders to close out on Patberg in time. Indiana is shooting just 28 percent from beyond the arc this season, but when the Hoosiers can drive and kick like this, open shots will be available all game.
Indiana has gone on a 21-9 run between play No. 1 and play No. 2, and the offense is starting to find a rhythm.
The Hoosiers dominated most of the second half versus Iowa, and scoring down low was a big reason why. Indiana outscored Iowa 50-36 on points in the paint on Sunday.
It turns out to be a pretty simple play, but it starts with some deception. Patberg begins to drive towards the free-throw line as Cardaño-Hillary tries to fake her defender out with a backdoor cut.
Cardaño-Hillary has a step on her defender, and you can see that Patberg considered trying this pass, but the timing needed to be perfect. Instead, Patberg decides to keep it herself. Cardaño-Hillary runs through the lane and clears out, taking her defender with her.
Because of Cardaño-Hillary’s cut and Indiana’s spacing, Patberg now has a one-on-one matchup in the post. The Iowa defenders half-heartedly dig down to try to steal the ball from Patberg, but she is able to spin and complete the play, extending Indiana’s lead.
Indiana's next game versus Penn State on Wednesday will tip off at 3 p.m. at Assembly Hall, and will be televised on Big Ten Network. Penn State enters the game with an 8-7 record overall and 5-6 record in conference play.
Indiana's offense started to click when it was driving the ball hard in the lane and kicking it out to open shooters. While Indiana hasn't been a great 3-point shooting team all season, the Hoosiers will need plays like these in order to take down Penn State.
Deland McCullough always wanted to return to coaching college football. He said going to the NFL was to learn to become a better coach and earn respect.
So after seeing former Indiana running backs coach Mike Hart’s departure from Bloomington, McCullough sent a text to Tom Allen. McCullough wanted to return to Indiana, where he coached from 2011 to 2016.
"When I read it, I was like 'Seriously?'” Allen said. “But immediately, it was obvious to me he was everything we wanted in this position and more."
McCullough said he had a number of other offers to become a running backs coach in college, but a main reason he chose Indiana was the opportunity to be an associate head coach, too. McCullough said he has tracked Indiana from afar, and the opportunity to return to Bloomington was an opportunity he jumped at.
Jack and Tommy break down Indiana’s loss to Ohio State as well as the Hoosiers’ bounce-back victory over Michigan State. The guys discuss the importance of limiting turnovers and improved three-point shooting ahead of matchups with Rutgers and Iowa this weekend.
The No. 16 Indiana women’s basketball team squandered an 11-0 start versus Ohio State on Jan. 28 and lost its second conference game of the season. The Hoosiers’ 17 turnovers were seven more than their season average, and they made just one 3-pointer in 14 attempts.
While the offensive struggles and failure to execute in the fourth quarter are well documented, there were a number of defensive breakdowns in key moments that allowed Ohio State to win at Assembly Hall. With this loss, Indiana drops to fourth in the Big Ten while the Buckeyes surge to second place behind Maryland.
Here are three plays that cost the Hoosiers a victory on Thursday night.
Indiana held a 32-25 lead midway through the second quarter, but there was a feeling that Ohio State was starting to figure it out offensively. Madison Greene struggled to find her shot for the majority of this game, scoring all seven of her points from the free throw line, but the Buckeyes looked to get her involved here.
It starts off with Greene running off a double screen from Tanya Beachem and Rebeka Mikulasikova. At this point, Ohio State is trying to free her up for either a jump shot or a drive to the basket.
Greene catches the ball just inside the free-throw line and is met by two defenders: Indiana’s Jaelynn Penn and Kiandra Brown. Green realizes she is not open for a shot, and the two Hoosiers have closed off any chance for her to drive to the basket.
But what Indiana forgot about was Dorka Juhasz standing wide open in the corner. Brown had to come over to help stop Greene’s drive, but she was not quick enough in her effort to recover to Juhasz, who scored 19 points and hit two 3-pointers on Thursday. Because of this, Greene finds Juhasz open in the corner for a 3 to keep Ohio State close in the second quarter.
At this point, Ohio State has taken control of the game and is picking Indiana apart offensively. Ohio State leads by four points with just over seven minutes left in the game and has Indiana on its heels. This play features Aaliyah Patty, who scored 13 points and kept Aleksa Gulbe in foul trouble for most of Thursday’s game.
This possession starts with a ball screen from Patty on Penn. Penn chooses to go under the screen, which allows Greene to stay comfortable and make a decision.
Because of Indiana’s lack of on-ball pressure, Greene is able to comfortably make a pass to Juhasz near the top of the key. At this point, the Hoosiers are confused, defensively. Penn stays with Greene at the top, but so does Gulbe. This leaves Patty an open lane to roll to the basket as Gulbe sprints to recover.
Greene makes the pass to Juhasz because she has a better angle to make a pass to the rolling Patty. Gulbe is left behind and Indiana’s only defender in the paint is Grace Berger, which is a mismatch for Patty down low. Patty gets an open look in the lane as all the Hoosiers can do is watch.
With two minutes left in the game and trailing by eight points, the Hoosiers absolutely cannot afford to give up a basket. Indiana was outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter on Jan. 28, and this play was essentially the dagger.
Similar to the second play highlighted in this article, Ohio State starts off the possession with an effort to confuse Indiana with ball screen coverage. Greene runs to the corner and executes a dribble handoff with Braxtin Miller.
Again, Patberg decides to go under the screen on this play, which allows Miller to feel comfortable and maintain her dribble as she awaits the screen from Patty. Indiana has three defenders in the area, but MIller is controlling the play.
Patberg goes under the screen yet again, but hits a roadblock as she has to fight through Patty to get back to Miller. Mackenzie Holmes does a good job of hedging this screen initially, but doesn’t realize Patberg is caught in the jumble. Holmes also has responsibilities to recover to Patty who is rolling to the basket, which cuts her hedge off a few seconds too soon.
Because of this, Miller is left wide open near the top of the key. On this play, Patberg chose to go under two screens instead of fighting over the top to contain Miller, who was able to control this play because of Indiana’s ball screen defense. Miller led the Buckeyes with 25 points and made three of five attempts from beyond the arc. Miller drains the 3 to put Ohio State up by 11 points with two minutes left. Dagger.
Indiana's next game is a quick turnaround versus Michigan State on Sunday at Assembly Hall. The Spartans come in ranked seventh in the Big Ten, but hold a 9-3 record overall. Indiana will need to keep an eye on Nia Clouden, who is fifth in the Big Ten in points per game at 19.1.
In order for Indiana to emerge victorious, a focus on ball-screen coverage and execution down the stretch will be crucial.
Indiana was outscored by 19 points over the final 36:33 of the game versus No. 14 Ohio State, making its quick start irrelevant. The No. 16 Hoosiers came to play from the opening tip, scoring the first 11 points of the game, but turnovers and poor 3-point shooting plagued Indiana in its 78-70 loss on its home court on Thursday.
Indiana entered the game protecting the ball at one of the highest rates of any team in the NCAA, but turned the ball over 17 times versus Ohio State. Indiana’s 10.2 turnovers per game is second fewest in the NCAA, though Teri Moren’s group struggled to take care of the ball on Jan. 28.
"A lot of energy over there on the sideline which was great to see because we knew we had to start the game fast and well," Moren said. "It got to half time, and we still couldn’t knock down shots behind the arc."
Grace Berger did her best to keep the Hoosiers in this one, pouring in 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, but she couldn't do it on her own. Ali Patberg, Aleksa Gulbe and Jaelynn Penn — who returned to the starting lineup Thursday after missing three games with an ankle injury — were each held to single-digit points.
When Charlton Warren was the defensive backs coach at the University of Georgia, the Bulldogs watched videos portraying Tom Allen and Indiana’s LEO mentality.
Because of the contagious quality of LEO, Warren said he used these videos as motivation to inspire this group of players. At the end of the day, Warren said talent can only get a team so far, and the love, brotherhood and bond that is formed is what will put a team over the top.
Now Warren has a chance to be directly part of that LEO culture, as he was formally introduced as Indiana’s new defensive coordinator at a press conference on Jan. 27. Warren will also coach the Hoosier linebackers, and was attracted to Indiana for a variety of reasons.
“I really was drawn to Indiana, probably like everybody else in the country, by the great spirit, the culture, the bond that these guys play with,” Warren said. “The things they have been able to do have been amazing.”
Indiana is coming off a 6-2 season in which it defeated Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin in the same season for the first time in program history. While Indiana’s season ended on a low note with a 26-20 loss to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl, Warren is excited to join what Allen has built at Indiana.
Warren said multiple times on Wednesday that the culture of Indiana football was attractive to him. The ability for Indiana to recognize that it is not about one person having talent, but rather a buy-in throughout the entire organization, resonates with him.
“It’s a lot easier to overcome adversity when I got 100 brothers than when it’s just me by myself,” Warren said. “...A lot of places don’t have that. So for me, that was a big draw and it gets me sort of back to my roots of what I’m used to.”
Warren played college football at Air Force before spending a decade on active duty with the United States Air Force. He returned to Air Force in 2005 and held a number of coaching roles including defensive backs coach, recruiting coordinator, associate head coach and defensive coordinator.
Over the past seven seasons, Warren coached defensive backs at Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia. This wealth of experience coaching in different parts of the country has helped Warren form relationships with coaches and communities throughout the United States.
Warren said his biggest focus when recruiting is forming genuine relationships with the player and his family, which is in line with the beliefs of Allen, too. When recruiting, Warren said his job is not to sell a kid on anything, but to present him with the opportunity to get a great education, be developed as a man, developed as a football player and be prepared for what’s next in life.
“That could be a husband, that could be a doctor, a lawyer, an NFL football player, we are going to have all those guys,” Warren said. “It’s about that family saying, ‘I trust my son to come play for you and your organization, and you are going to do right by him.’ I think kids and parents can weed out if you are not genuine, and so for me it’s about being who I am.”
Warren has established relationships throughout states such as Florida and Georgia, which are known to be some of the best states for high school football. Most recently, Warren coached cornerback CJ Henderson at Florida, who was the ninth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Warren was also considered the primary recruiter who helped Georgia lock up the talents of five-star cornerback Kelee Ringo from Arizona, who was the No. 4 overall recruit in his class. Warren said it is important to recognize that you are not going to land every recruit, but if you don’t try, you’re not going to get any of them.
“We’re going to try, we’re going to get in the ring, we’re going to throw punches and we are going to recruit the best men for Indiana University that can help our team develop as a culture and help us win games in the future,” Warren said.
Because of his experience coaching and recruiting all across America, Warren said he is not going to be afraid to cast a wide net when recruiting for Indiana. While Warren has ties to a variety of states, he said it all boil down to being genuine when recruiting.
“I sort of recruit nationally when it comes to skill positions and defensive backs,” Warren said. “So for me, I can go recruit in Alaska if you need me to. If the player is good enough I’ll go there.”
Warren describes himself as a very competitive person, which shows in his recruiting, but also in his coaching style. In college, Warren was nicknamed Mr. Intensity because of his work in the weight room, but this will also be seen on the sidelines for Indiana.
“I’m probably not going to be quiet,” Warren said. “You will probably hear me from a lot of fields over and not in a bad way, just I’m very passionate about the game and I’m very passionate about seeing kids make plays and grow. As a coach, when it clicks for a player and the light comes on and you see them playing full tilt, not thinking and just playing the game they love is very exciting.”
Warren will now take over Kane Wommack’s 4-2-5 defense that led the nation with 17 interceptions and totaled 25 sacks in 2020. While Warren has not held a defensive coordinator position since his time at Air Force, he said at some point he always wanted to get back to this role.
Warren said Indiana’s 4-2-5 defense will be easy to adjust to because of his experience at other schools. Every school Warren has coached has has been based on a five-defensive back personnel group, which is similar to Indiana’s defense, conceptually.
“A lot of the same families of pressures, a lot of that stuff starts to be the same as,” Warren said. “It’s just a tweak here, a technique here, a fundamental here.”
Indiana loses just two starters on the defensive side of the ball, defensive lineman Jerome Johnson and safety Jamar Johnson. Because of this, Warren said he is not going to come in and disrupt what Indiana has built.
One of Warren’s first tasks as defensive coordinator has been to take a look at ways offenses hurt Indiana in 2020. He said a lot of teams like to copycat what works against a certain defense, but he will work to make sure Indiana’s defense continues to develop.
“What I’m excited to do is take the pieces that have been great and look at ways that we can improve,” Warren said. “Because no matter if you’re the best defense in America or the worst defense in America, you are always trying to find a way to improve.”
Most of Warren’s experiences coaching defensive football have come with a focus on defensive backs. Brandon Shelby will remain as Indiana’s cornerbacks coach with Jason Jones coaching safeties, which leads Warren to take on the role of linebackers coach, too.
Because of his experience coaching defensive backs, Warren said he hopes he can provide the Indiana linebackers with a perspective of the entire defensive gameplan.
“I think a lot of times [linebackers] get this tunnel vision of, ‘Hey I can see from tackle to tackle,’” Warren said. “Well, I’m hoping with these guys and their development and growth that I can get big-picture view...Make sure we understand (what's) happening behind and around me and then obviously understanding my job in front of me.”
But above all else, Warren has joined Allen’s coaching staff to win games. Indiana’s nonconference schedule features a matchup with Cincinnati, who was No. 8 in the final 2020 AP poll. In addition to playing a full Big Ten East schedule, the Hoosiers have an intriguing crossover matchup at Iowa in week one, and you can bet the competitive Warren will get up for each and every game.
“I think the more energy you bring the better it is for everybody,” Warren said. “For me, I’m super competitive. Don’t play me in checkers. I want to win.”
Indiana found its replacement for defensive coordinator Kane Wommack on Sunday. The new leader of the defense will be Charlton Warren, who most recently served as the defensive backs coach at Georgia, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Rittenberg.
Indiana’s previous two coordinator hires, Wommack and current offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, were in-house hires, but a new face will join the coaching staff for the 2021 season.
A sense of belief was created around Indiana football in 2020, and it will return 18 of its 22 starters in 2021.
Each player was granted another year of eligibility from the NCAA in an effort to not deter players from sitting due to COVID-19 concerns. However, seniors Whop Philyor, Harry Crider, Jerome Johnson and Jovan Swann chose not to exercise their extra year at Indiana and enter the NFL Draft. Juniors Stevie Scott and Jamar Johnson also elected to enter the NFL Draft.
While the Hoosiers will be without a few household names in 2021, the vast majority of the team that beat Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin in the same season for the first time in program history will be back in Bloomington next season. Wide receiver Ty Fryfogle, safety Marcelino McCray-Ball, defensive back Raheem Layne, defensive end Mike Ziemba and offensive lineman Mackenzie Nworah recently announced their return to Indiana for the 2021 season.
Let’s break down the impact of these decisions from the past week.
A year of program-firsts had a sour ending. The Hoosiers defeated Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin all in the same year for the first time in Indiana football history, but were unable to cap off the 2020 season in a positive way.
After a 26-20 defeat at the hands of the Ole Miss Rebels, the Indiana football team approaches an offseason different from years in the past. Every senior has the option of returning for an additional year, which creates serious anticipation in the coming weeks awaiting the decisions of Ty Fryfogle, Whop Philyor, Jerome Johnson and Harry Crider, among others.
But before diving into what the upcoming offseason means for Indiana and what to expect out of the 2021 Hoosiers, let’s look back at the moments that made 2020 such a memorable year for Indiana football.
TAMPA — The Jack Tuttle-led offense marched into Ole Miss territory with a chance to win the game with a touchdown on the final possession. Tuttle was sacked for a 6-yard loss, forcing Indiana into a daunting third-and-18 situation.
“That really put us in a tough spot,” Tom Allen said. “It’s tough to overcome that.”
In each of the next two plays, the Indiana faithful – which occupied the vast majority of available seats in Raymond James Stadium – watched as Tuttle’s passes hit the ground before reaching his receivers.
Tuttle finished the game completing 26 of his 45 pass attempts for 201 yards and one interception. While Tuttle took a step down from his performance against Wisconsin, where he led Indiana to victory in his first collegiate start, he had to battle through injury Saturday.
Allen said after the game that Tuttle was playing with a separated shoulder. It was clear on some of Tuttle’s throws that he was unable to generate enough power to execute certain passes.
“I thought he was a warrior today,” Allen said. “He played through some serious pain.”
Tuttle said the pain in his shoulder was consistent throughout the game. He was visibly distraught after the game, but said this loss will provide additional motivation to keep improving.
"There's no excuse,” Tuttle said. “I've got to find a way to get the job done. We'll come back stronger."
Whop Philyor was Tuttle’s favorite target Saturday, setting an Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions. However, Philyor struggled to be effective after most of his receptions. The Tampa native finished with 81 receiving yards, which is good for 4.5 yards per reception.
“Whop’s a special player,” Tuttle said. “Getting him the ball is super important.”
TAMPA — The Plant High School football team was lined two-by-two in a dark hallway.
The Tampa-based high school team had not lost a game the entire 2016 season, but was seconds away from its biggest test yet. Awaiting the Plant Panthers was Saint Thomas Aquinas, a team with eight defensive linemen who would go on to play Power Five college football.
Former Plant head coach Robert Weiner, now the quarterbacks coach at the University of Toledo, had been in this situation before. His four state championship titles and efficacy of preparing young men for college football made him the perfect leader for another FHSAA Class 7A state championship game.
But for a brief moment, Whop Philyor took over these duties. Weiner described Philyor as a happy-go-lucky guy, but a more heartfelt side of Philyor shone through while standing in this hallway with his teammates at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
“Whop is screaming from the depths of his soul how much he loves his teammates and he’ll do anything for anybody who is on his team,” Weiner said. “That’s a moment that I really can’t even describe fully in words, but it’s a moment I’ll never ever forget.”
But Philyor’s undying energy was not enough to overcome the X’s and O’s. In the end, Saint Thomas Aquinas and its loaded roster of Power Five talent was too much for Plant to handle, defeating the Panthers 45-6.
“Despite the fact that they don’t have rings to prove the fact that they had a state championship season, I don’t think...any of those people think there is anything they have to avenge or get back,” Weiner said.
Weiner said there’s an often misconception around Plant football that it’s state championship-or-nothing, but he and his team worked to keep things in perspective. Now returning to Tampa to play Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl, there is a chance to relive that memorable season.
“All of them coming back to Tampa will recall special memories of a football season they had and the camaraderie together that can never be replaced,” Weiner said.
But in a way, Indiana and its four players from Plant High School — Philyor, Micah McFadden, Thomas Allen and Juwan Burgess — have a chance to come full circle and finish what they couldn’t in 2016.
“I think there will be a moment of sweet anticipation at the end if they were able to win the game over Ole Miss that allows them to say that maybe that does put a little completion to the season in a way that they didn’t complete in 2016,” Weiner said.
Weiner said in his time coaching at Plant, he never sent four players — and three in the same class — to the same Division I school. He said there was no master plan to send them all to Indiana, but clearly it has worked out for all parties involved.
“Our guys rely upon each other quite a bit,” Weiner said. “I think that just kind of had a natural evolution of its own that came about.”
McFadden is a year younger than Philyor, Allen and Burgess, but still played a major role in Plant’s success. And to fully understand what it means for these players to play in the Outback Bowl, it starts with a closer look at who they are and where they come from.
Before he could watch Ty Fryfogle play a snap on the gridiron, Matt Caldwell knew he had a special player on his roster.
Caldwell was named head coach of the George County High School football team during the spring of Fryfogle’s junior year, and decided to attend a basketball game to see one of his future players. Fryfogle drove under the basket and finished with a two-handed reverse dunk.
At this moment, Caldwell saw the potential of a player who would make history on the football field the following fall.
“It looked like he jumped about four feet off the floor,” Caldwell said. “...You could just tell that his athleticism and the way he carried himself that he had the potential to be a really special player.”
Once Caldwell was able to see Fryfogle in shoulder pads, he was even more impressed. Caldwell only coached Fryfogle during his senior year, but saw this potential realized early in the season.
During one of the team’s first games of the season, Fryfogle scored a touchdown on a post route that he made look easy. Caldwell said he knew Fryfogle was talented, but didn’t realize he had the speed to take the top off a defense like that.
“He out ran everybody and I thought, ‘Wow, not only is he big, he can jump, he can catch, but he can run,’” Caldwell said. “He ran past the safety and just ran by everybody.”
Flash forward nearly five years and that potential has turned into one of the best wide receivers in college football. On Dec. 28, Fryfogle was named to the All-American third-team roster along with teammate Micah McFadden.
“It’s a really big honor,” Fryfogle said. “I’m really thankful to receive this honor, it’s a blessing. I just want to finish off the season the right way with this football team and get the win.”
Earlier this year, Fryfogle was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year, and also earned first-team All-Conference honors from the league's media and second-team recognition from the coaches. Fryfogle first sparked attention this year against Michigan where he caught seven passes for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Fryfogle followed this up with an other-worldly streak, combining for 18 receptions 418 yards and five touchdowns against Michigan State and Ohio State. With these breakout performances, Fryfogle became the first receiver in Big Ten history to total over 200 yards in two consecutive games.
“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked,” Fryfogle said. “I feel like over these past four years I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at getting better each year. I feel like I’ve elevated my game, but I still have a long way to go.”
Caldwell said he has seen Fryfogle develop in a variety of ways since his time at George County. Fryfogle now runs very precise routes, has become a physical runner after the catch and has gotten bigger. Caldwell said Fryfogle was between 180 and 190 pounds in high school, but is now listed at 214 pounds.
Putting all of these traits together has gotten Fryfogle to the point where he is today, according to Caldwell, but his improved understanding of the game mentally is a big reason why. Throughout high school, Caldwell’s team didn’t overthink it when running plays for Fryfogle.
“We would tell Ty to run down there about 25 yards and just kind of box out and rebound, just throw it up and let him go get it,” Caldwell said. “He made a lot of plays doing that.”
This simplistic approach has led to a nickname for Fryfogle that is common in the locker room and amongst the coaching staff. Indiana wide receivers coach Grant Heard said Fryfogle’s nickname is "jump ball."
Fryfogle and Heard were talking one day during practice when Fryfogle suggested a play. He told Heard, "Coach, I want to run a jump ball."
“What’s a jump ball?” Heard said.
"Man, just throw it up and I’ll go get it," Fryfogle said.
Fryfogle didn’t know the play was called a fade route.
"[Fryfogle being from] a small town in Mississippi, I knew what he was talking about and I love him to death,” Heard said.
Fryfogle learned the official name of the play that day, and the nickname stuck.
“I didn’t know that’s the college term, ‘fade,’” Fryfogle said. “We didn’t really know that 'til we got to college, so it’s real funny.”
Early National Signing Day saw 14 new Hoosiers signed with Indiana on Dec. 16. This group includes players from six different states and one New Zealand native, punter James Evans.
There were no surprises for Tom Allen and his staff on Wednesday, as all 14 players stayed true to their commitment from earlier in the year. Because of the low number of seniors on Indiana’s roster, Allen said he expected a small recruiting class this year and is excited to welcome these players to Bloomington.
"Really excited about the quality of the players,” Allen said. “They fit with us off the field...and the way they play the game, with effort, skill, and talent."
Here are three takeaways from the 2021 recruiting class on Early National Signing Day.
Hoosiers add impressive quarterback
Indiana signed dual-threat quarterback Donaven McCulley on Wednesday. McCulley currently attends Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis and is the No. 1 quarterback in his class from Indiana according to 247Sports.
"The thing that really stuck out with him,” Allen said. “...This is a guy you want leading your program."
McCulley is rated as a four-star recruit and the 243rd ranked player in the nation. Allen said McCulley’s quick release has caught his eye. Allen also likes how McCulley is a three-sport athlete at Lawrence North, playing football, basketball and track.
“In basketball he’s making game-winning shots. I like those kind of things,” Allen said. “You want that competitive toughness and greatness.”
Indiana was the first program to offer McCulley, and he stuck with the Hoosiers ever since. McCulley adds great depth to the Indiana’s quarterback group, consisting of Michael Penix Jr., Jack Tuttle, Dexter Williams II and McCulley.
Potential replacements for Philyor, Fryfogle
The NCAA is granting every college football player another year of eligibility due to COVID-19. This rule allows players to opt out of the season without losing a year of play. Because of this, senior wide receivers Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle could come back to Bloomington for a fifth season, but with NFL aspirations, that is no guarantee.
Fryfogle’s NFL Draft stock grew significantly this season after accumulating a long list of accomplishments. He became the first player in Big Ten history to record two 200-yard receiving games in a row, was named the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year in the Big Ten and earned first-team all-Big Ten honors from the media and second-team from the coaches.
Philyor led the Hoosiers in receptions with 36 and totaled 414 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Both Indiana receivers have a chance to hear their name called at the 2021 NFL Draft, which leaves a big hole at receiver for the Hoosiers.
But Allen reloaded on Wednesday, signing a couple of big-time receivers. DJ Matthews announced he will transfer from Florida State and join the Hoosiers at the start of the spring 2021 semester.
Matthews has played three seasons for the Seminoles and was a consistent option in 2018 and 2019. Matthews sat out this season, but totaled 84 receptions 809 yards and five touchdowns in his first three season. Coming out of high school, Matthews was a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 51 player in the country.
Allen said Wednesday that he is also excited about what Matthews brings to the return game. At Florida State, Matthews returned 56 punts and kicks for 582 yards and a touchdown. His elite speed and experience will help Indiana transition should it lose Philyor and Fryfogle.
Rashawn Williams, Indiana’s top-rated player in the 2020 recruiting class, announced earlier this week that he put his name in the transfer portal, leaving another hole at wide receiver. But Indiana will try to replace Williams with another Williams.
Jordyn Williams signed with Indiana on Wednesday, picking the Hoosiers over Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia, among others. Williams is a three-star recruit out of Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas and was rated as the 103rd best receiver in the country.
"He's a gifted athlete, for sure, and another weapon to bring to our offense,” Allen said.
Allen said he is impressed with the national schedule that Trinity Christian played and thinks seeing top competition from around the country helps Williams transition to college. Williams is another player who will join the Hoosiers this upcoming spring semester.
“I think any time you come early gives them a jumpstart on learning the playbook and puts them in stronger position to play in fall,” Allen said. “(Williams) played in Georgia and Texas. Brings a confidence and playmaking ability in space.”
Allen recruits well in-state
Allen has brought his Florida relationship to Bloomington, which has helped the Hoosiers’ turnaround. First-team All-Big Ten players Micah McFadden and Tiawan Mullen went to high school in Florida, along with 22 Hoosiers on the 2020 roster.
But Allen still knows how important it is to recruit the state of Indiana. Allen signed five of the top 11 players from Indiana in this recruiting class. This group includes McCulley, along with three-star recruits DE Cooper Jones, TE Aaron Steinfeldt, OT Joshua Sales and OG Vinny Fiacable.
Steinfeldt went to Bloomington North High School and is another guy who impressed Allen as a three-sport athlete. Allen said he prefers to recruit players who are three-sport athletes because it shows him that they can execute in a variety of situations.
"You can't create that competitive spirit in a kid laying on his back doing bench press in the springtime,” Allen said.
Among this group of in-state signees, Sales and Fiacable will join the Hoosiers in the spring. Something that has impressed Allen about this class is how connected they are before officially joining the team. Allen said Sales was the No. 1 guy he went after at offensive tackle.
“We had the core of those guys in this room and I poured my heart out about what we were building here. I knew how close we were and had a bunch of Indiana kids here,” Allen said.
Kane Wommack walked to the middle of the intramural fields at the University of South Alabama, closed his eyes and took a moment to dream. At the time, Wommack was South Alabama's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, and was headed to Bloomington to become Indiana’s linebackers coach.
But as his three boys threw around the football behind him, Wommack wanted to savor the atmosphere of Mobile, Alabama before he left. Wommack imagined gameday at Hancock Whitney Stadium, which would be built on those same intramural fields and host Jaguar home games starting in 2020.
Wommack dreamt of what the place was capable of becoming, the potential of South Alabama football and the possibility of his return one day. While making trips through Alabama to recruit for Indiana or see his family, Wommack would return to South Alabama for another chance to dream.
“I would see the stadium build and grow,” Wommack said, “I would go out there and do the same thing, and walk out into the stadium even though I probably wasn't supposed to do that. I hope I don't get in trouble for it, but I would go out there and just dream.”
On Dec. 14, Wommack was officially introduced as the head football coach of South Alabama, fulfilling his dream.
Welcome ? @KaneWommack!
Full release ▶️ https://t.co/GAvFBg4X8K#Something2Prove pic.twitter.com/NaorcalwWz
— South Alabama Jaguar Athletics (@WeAreSouth_JAGS) December 12, 2020
When Wommack leads the Jaguars onto the field on Sept. 4, 2021, this time his aspirations to be the head coach of South Alabama won’t just be in his imagination.
“I won't have to dream anymore because that reality is there,” Wommack said. “When we are on that field and able to hear the excitement of our fan base, and see the confidence in our players' and coaches' eyes with the chance to go and do something really special at South Alabama. That to me is the dream.”
Wommack is now the youngest head coach of an FBS program at 33 years old, but that is not holding back his expectations for the program. In his introductory press conference, Wommack used the word "elite" a number of times to describe what South Alabama football will look like with him leading the way.
He said playing situationally and fundamentally elite football and elite execution in critical moments will help put South Alabama in an elite position in the landscape of college football. Wommack will also implement his patented "Swarm D" that has helped build one of the best defenses in the Big Ten this year.
“Come hell or high water, we're going to pack that stadium full of fans that will witness our best moments as a program and know that our best days are ahead of us is truly exciting,” Wommack said.
Wommack interviewed for the head coaching position at South Alabama three years ago, but was turned down. However, this rejection might have turned out to be for the best. While at Indiana, Wommack said Tom Allen has not only been one of his best friends, but a coaching mentor, too.
“To be able to sit down [with Allen] and have real talks and conversations about how do we improve the lives of the people in our program is a resource that I can't wait to utilize,” Wommack said.
Wommack is also grateful for the daily, in-depth look into how to lead and run a program that Allen provided him. Wommack said he learned how to build a roster, create relationships and lead a team.
“Tom could have easily just kept me as a defensive coordinator and kept me on the outskirts of all the interior decisions that have to be made in order for a program to work,” Wommack said. “He chose to invest in me and allow me to see the way that you build this thing. Those types of experiences can't be substituted.”
It is bittersweet for Wommack to leave Indiana, a program he has helped build into one of the Big Ten’s best in 2020. Wommack’s defense leads the nation with 17 interceptions and is first in the Big Ten in sacks with 23.
This is why I love this group! Gut wrenching loss and all they can talk about is the relentless pursuit of perfection in next week’s practice! #NeverDaunted #LEO #SwarmD pic.twitter.com/2gmGfkLmIb
— Kane Wommack (@KaneWommack) November 23, 2020
He said outside of his family and the Indiana football program, there’s not much he does, and he is grateful for everything Indiana has given him.
“To know that you're supported with people who care about myself, Melissa and our family and the opportunity this presents for our family was really endearing when we were able to address the team the other day,” Wommack said.
But his job with Indiana is done just yet. Wommack said he will remain as the defensive coordinator the remainder of the 2020 season. Indiana's Dec. 18 matchup with Purdue was cancelled, which leaves only a bowl game appearance left for the Hoosiers.
The Indiana football program has currently paused all team-related activities due to COVID-19, but still has a chance to compete in a New Years Six bowl game. Indiana is currently ranked No. 7 according to the AP top 25 poll and No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings as of Dec. 14.
“I'm excited to carry our team in and finish well as we have our bowl game preparation,” Wommack said. I'm excited for the opportunities that we've created for ourselves as a program and I look forward to finishing those things.”
Tom Allen couldn’t finish a sentence without his players interrupting him, saying “We love you coach,” “Best coach in the nation,” or “Recruits, come play for this man.”
After Indiana’s 14-6 win in Madison, Wisconsin on Dec. 5, Allen tried to explain his postgame thoughts to ESPN’s Holly Rowe, but his players wouldn’t let him. Tiawan Mullen even tried to jump on Allen’s shoulders as the players ran to the locker room to celebrate their statement win to move to 6-1.
“[Allen] is just an exciting guy,” Mullen said. “He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but from the players he gets the credit he deserves. ...As we continue to win games this year, they see who the Hoosiers are and who the leader is of the Indiana program. That’s why everybody did that joyfully.”
Love Each Other, or LEO, has been Allen’s mantra since suddenly becoming the head coach at Indiana before the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl after Kevin Wilson’s resignation. And before the 2017 season, Allen said he had plans to win a Big Ten Championship at Indiana.
Some might have laughed at that statement, due to Indiana being the losingest team in FBS history, but not Mullen. Like Allen says nearly every week, it is not about one player, it is about the team.
But perhaps no player has been more vocal in support of Allen than Mullen, a sophomore cornerback and one of the leaders of the defense. Mullen’s career in Bloomington started in the 2019 season, where Indiana went 8-4 en route to a Gator Bowl appearance.
Mullen has made a name for himself and become a fan-favorite in Bloomington in his two short years with the program, but his belief in Allen started far before then.
MADISON, Wis. — Indiana and Wisconsin punted more times than they scored Saturday. But that doesn’t matter to Tom Allen and the Hoosiers. Allen has preached a 1-0 mindset before each game this season, and that is all that mattered Saturday.
"Indiana is tough,” Jack Tuttle said. “Plain in simple we're just tough...Every single guy on this team fights, and will never stop fighting. That's the message we sent today."
Saturday's 14-6 Indiana win was an old-fashioned, grind-it-out Big Ten football game. Through one quarter, both teams punted on each possession. And then, with 51 seconds left in the first quarter, Kane Wommack decided to dial up Tiawan Mullen’s number.
We’ve seen Mullen succeed at the corner blitz other times this year, but this bone-rattling sack on Graham Mertz might have been his best one yet.
“It sounded like a gunshot on the field for sure,” Micah McFadden said.
Indiana lost starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to a torn ACL last week, and will need to rally together as a tough opponent awaits. The Hoosiers travel to Madison, Wisconsin for a 3:30 p.m. ET matchup with the No. 16 Badgers on Dec. 5.
Likely because of Indiana’s new face at quarterback in Jack Tuttle, Indiana enters this game as 14-point underdogs. Wisconsin is 2-1 after a number of cancellations due to COVID-19, but dominated Illinois 45-7 and Michigan 49-11. Most recently, the Badgers fell to Northwestern 17-7 in a pivotal Big Ten West matchup.
Wisconsin should be fresh after not playing since Nov. 21, but have little tape on Tuttle going into this game. Indiana can clinch at least a second-place finish in the Big Ten East with a win over Wisconsin. Let’s get into the major storylines heading into another top-25 matchup for the Hoosiers.
He wasn’t Indiana’s starting quarterback, but this was not an excuse for Jack Tuttle.
Before Indiana’s game versus Maryland on Nov. 28, head coach Tom Allen said Tuttle was the first Hoosier to arrive at the team’s walkthrough. There was no promise he would take a single snap in the game, but Tuttle prepared like he was going to lead Indiana out of the tunnel that day. That’s just how he’s built.
“He has prepared really hard,” Indiana offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said. “He has each and every week, and I think that gave him confidence to go in the game. He did his job.”
Michael Penix Jr. tore his ACL after planting awkwardly at the end of a 21-yard run, and in the snap of a finger, it was time for Tuttle. While some backup quarterbacks might have been intimidated or unprepared to enter the game in this pressing situation, Tuttle was quite the opposite. For Tuttle, things were business as usual.
“It was really very normal," Sheridan said. "The conversations that he and I had were normal, just like you normally would with Mike when Mike is in the game. He really did a nice job and didn’t flinch and didn’t blink.”
The first few plays with Tuttle under center were runs, and Stevie Scott punched in a touchdown before Tuttle had to drop back to pass. But eventually he, Sheridan and the Indiana fans at home knew he would Tuttle would have to make a throw.
Indiana took a 15-3 lead following the Scott score, and with a 12-point lead, the card said to go for two. Tuttle sent tight end Peyton Hendershot in motion, took the snap out of the shotgun and didn’t think twice. Tuttle delivered a strike to Hendershot to convert the two-point play on what Allen said was not an easy throw.
“That’s a tough angle,” Allen said. “We work on that a lot, and he made that throw in practice many, many times. That’s why you just can’t emphasize enough the critical component of next man up.”
This throw put Indiana up 17-3, and the Hoosiers did not look back. Tuttle led the Hoosiers for a quarter and change to claim a 27-11 victory over Maryland. Tuttle was perfect from the pocket, completing all five of his pass attempts for 31 yards. For Allen, this performance not only revealed something about Tuttle, but also the mentality of the entire team.
“This is a tight group of guys,” Allen said. This is a close-knit family that trusts in each other, loves each other and cares about each other. Part of that is being ready when called upon.”
Tuttle wasn’t asked to do too much in this appearance, but his poise shined through.
Tuttle will make his first collegiate start on Dec. 5 on the road versus the No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers. While Tuttle won’t experience the raucous atmosphere opponents face as Badger fans “Jump Around” in Madison, it will take the same preparation and poise to come out with a victory. Allen said it will be important for Tuttle to recognize the talent surrounding him, and for each area of the team to improve by one percent.
“That is a big part of how you gain the respect of your teammates," Allen said. "You have to go out there and prove it on game day. It’s a team game. The greatest team game out there, and that’s why it’s a special sport that really teaches a lot about life.”
Tuttle hasn’t had many opportunities to prove himself as a quarterback, making five appearances after the game was decided in 2019. Counting his play versus Maryland, Tuttle has attempted just 16 passes as a college quarterback. Allen said it will be important for Tuttle to trust the talent of his teammates around him on Saturday.
“I think our offense is phenomenal,” Tuttle said. “We have some guys that can just really go and I believe in that. They believe in themselves and we believe in each other.”
And there is reason to be optimistic, even if Tuttle hasn’t proved it at the Division I level.
He impressed Allen in his limited appearance versus Maryland, but this wasn’t the first eye-opening experience for Allen. Indiana wasn’t able to practice much this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant fall camp was the first look Allen got of Tuttle after the 2019 season.
“I think it was consistent across the board, our staff was like, ‘He’s playing to the level that we thought he would when he came here,’” Allen said.
Tuttle transferred to Indiana before the 2019 season after spending one season at the University of Utah where he didn’t see the field. Coming out of high school, Tuttle was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country. He was ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback nationally by 247Sports and the No. 13 player in the state of California.
Tuttle chose Utah over schools such as Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State and Boston College. He gained national recognition as a high schooler when he competed in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback competition.
In 2017, Tuttle earned a place in the Elite 11 Finals. While current Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields won MVP of the competition, Tuttle had the chance to put his skills up against Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and learn from counselors Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Will Grier.
Coming out of Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, California, Tuttle’s high school coach Chris Hauser said Tuttle could make all the throws. In an interview with the Bloomington Herald-Times from 2018, Hauser listed seven kinds of throws, varying from deep routes to running back screens, at which he believes Tuttle can succeed.
“He’s a big-arm quarterback,” Hauser said. “...So from an arm standpoint, I believe he can make the throws necessary to play in the Big Ten.”
Tuttle will have the opportunity on Saturday to prove that he is still the guy whose name was associated with quarterbacks who will be first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But Tuttle isn’t necessarily that same guy. He said Wednesday that he has improved in his time at Indiana learning from Penix, as well as former Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey. Sheridan agrees and said he has seen a lot of development from Tuttle since he arrived in Bloomington.
“He’s gotten bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, but he has always had ability,” Sheridan said. “When he came in here he threw the ball well. He’s got good fundamentals, he’s accurate, he’s got good arm strength.”
Sheridan said something that has helped Tuttle's development is stability within the program. When Tuttle came to Indiana before the 2019 season, Kalen DeBoer was the offensive coordinator, but Sheridan was still on the staff as the tight ends coach. As Indiana transitioned from DeBoer to Sheridan, not much changed with Indiana's offensive schemes.
When looking at the development of young players, Sheridan said consistency and stability are important. In his two years as a Hoosier, Tuttle has heard the same messages from Sheridan and the rest of the Indiana staff. Sheridan said this constant reinforcement has helped Tuttle understand how to read coverages and execute.
"Over time if you work hard and you’re smart like Jack is, you get better," Sheridan said. "I think he’s done that since he’s been here.”
Tuttle said the main things he took away from his time with Ramsey last year and now with Penix is the way they watch film. This has helped Tuttle earn praise for his preparation from his coaches and teammates. Running back Tim Baldwin had a breakout performance versus Maryland rushing 16 times for 106, and said Tuttle is one of, if not the, hardest workers on the team.
“I think both of them are phenomenal quarterbacks and I learned a lot underneath them,” Tuttle said. “...Some of the things they do on the field, whether it be how they take their pre snap routine, things like that, I really took from them and implemented into my own routine.”
Like Tuttle, Sheridan feels comfortable because of another area of preparation. Last season when Penix when down for the season with a shoulder injury, Indiana had to adjust its offense with Ramsey under center.
Sheridan said he learned from this situation that it is important to cater to what the quarterback likes the best. He said there will be subtle changes to the Indiana offense this week, whether or not that is noticeable to fans. Luckily, Sheridan thinks Tuttle and Penix share similarities in their arm talent.
“I think there is a lot of carry over between the things that Mike liked the most and the things that Jack likes the most,” Sheridan said. You try to put together a system of offense that has flexibility based on your personnel week to week, game to game. You better have some flexibility to adjust, to adapt.”
An underrated part of Tuttle’s game, in Sheridan's opinion, is his ability to make plays on the run and out of the pocket. While it will be his first collegiate start and teams have very little film on him, Tuttle said he’ll keep this area of his game a secret for now.
But once Tuttle steps on the field in Madison, his true game will be revealed to the thousands of fans watching at home, and more importantly, a stellar Wisconsin defense. Though the Badgers have only played in three games this year due to COVID-19, Wisconsin has allowed by far the fewest yards per game through the air and on the ground. The Badgers also rank second in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency.
While a tough test lies ahead for Tuttle in his first start, he feels the support of his fellow Hoosiers behind him.
“For me, I just want to do every single thing I can for my team,” Tuttle said. “I care about them so much, and I want to give everything I have for them...The love I have for them, it’s LEO.”
Indiana head coach Tom Allen announced at Monday’s press conference that starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will miss the remainder of the 2020 season with a torn ACL.
"It’s a really tough situation for all of us, my heart breaks for Michael," Allen said. "...The bottom line is setbacks and adversity is part of this life. As we told our team last week, how you respond to these challenges define who you are."
Penix was injured late in the third quarter of Indiana’s 27-11 win over Maryland on Nov. 28. The redshirt sophomore scampered down the sideline for a 21-yard gain before he was pushed out of bounds. As Penix slowed down, his leg planted awkwardly, and seconds later he pounded on the turf in pain.
Penix is no stranger to injury. Last season during Indiana’s 34-3 win over Northwestern, Penix suffered a right sternoclavicular joint injury, which forced him to have season-ending shoulder surgery. During Indiana’s 2018 loss to Penn State, Penix’s season ended due to a torn ACL.
"His family was here with him and I’m thankful for that," Allen said. "It’s just tough, it’s hard. I really feel for him and all of his work to get back and the way he was playing."
In the first week of the 2020 Big Ten season, Penix caught the eyes of the college football world with his dive for the pylon to defeat then-No. 8 Penn State. Even in a loss, Penix’s 491-yard and five-touchdown performance versus Ohio State helped Indiana gain national respect.
After the win over Maryland, Indiana moved up to the No. 10 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll. The Hoosiers face a tough test next week without their star quarterback, as they go on the road to face the No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers.
“You just watch them play and it’s a model of consistency and culture they have created," Allen said. "How they play the game on both sides of the football and special teams, just so much discipline and so much size...I know we have got a fight on our hands up there.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle will replace Penix as Indiana’s starter in this game. Against Maryland, Tuttle completed all five pass attempts for 31 yards.
"Once Mike went down and Tuttle came in, he was poised and confident,” Indiana running back Stevie Scott said after the Maryland game. “He can make a play at any given moment. It's him believing in himself and us believing in him."
Tuttle spent his freshman year at the University of Utah where he did not make an appearance in any games.
He transferred to Indiana before the 2019 season, and appeared in five games for the Hoosiers. Tuttle’s 2019 action came when the game was already decided, and he completed six of 11 passes for 34 yards. Tuttle also showed some ability to make plays with his feet, rushing nine times for 20 yards.
Coming out of high school, Tuttle was rated as a four-star quarterback out of Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, California. According to 247Sports, Tuttle was ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback nationally and the No. 13 player in the state of California. Tuttle also competed in the prestigious Elite 11 high school quarterback camp, where he earned a spot in the 2017 finals.
"That’s why you recruit, that’s why you develop," Allen said. "That’s why [Tuttle] came to Indiana, for opportunities like this."
Allen said he was impressed by Tuttle's first throw of the game to convert a two-point conversion. Poise, work ethic and intelligence are some of Tuttle's best qualities, according to Allen.
Tuttle will have big shoes to fill, though, as Penix was experiencing a breakout season. Through four games plus nearly three quarters of play versus Maryland, Penix threw for 1,645 yards, which is tops in the Big Ten.
Penix’s 14 touchdown passes also rank first in the Big Ten, and his average of 274.2 passing yards per game is second behind Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who has played in just four games this season.
While Penix was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, his biggest flaws this season were inaccuracy and slow starts. Penix completed 56.4 percent of passes, which ranks 11th in the Big Ten. However, his big play ability made up for these inaccuracies, as his connection with Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor was always a threat to exploit opposing defenses.
There is no easy solution to replace the productivity of Penix, but Indiana has a defense that can keep the Hoosiers competitive. Indiana currently leads the nation with 16 interceptions. Moving forward, this strength will be relied upon even more because Indiana will be without its electrifying quarterback.
"I am excited for the opportunity this presents to our football team to come together and rely on our defense and our run game and Jack Tuttle to come in and as you saw him perform on Saturday," Allen said.
Allen said in tough times, it is important to fall back on the people that care the most about you. Allen loves to use the word "grit" to describe his program, and that is exactly what it will take moving forward without Penix.
"It’s discouraging," Allen said. "It’s disheartening when it first happens, and once you get through that part of it, you know what, now it’s time to bull up and fight. That is why grit is such a great word. It describes this program. It’s perseverance and passion towards a long-term goal and Michael’s got some big-time, long-term goals."