Both of Indiana’s Big Ten football teams have a question at quarterback. And both IU and Purdue have three prospective answers at the position.
For the Hoosiers, coming off a 1-11 season in Kevin Wilson’s first year as head coach, the starter would seem to be sophomore Tre Roberson. The 2011 Indiana Mr. Football started five games for IU last fall, completing 57 percent of his passes for 937 yards, three TDs and six interceptions.
But as Wilson noted on Thursday at Big Ten Media Days, no position is safe after last year’s disappointment.
“You’ve got to earn it every day,” Wilson said. “The conversation to Tre Roberson and the conversation to every quarterback, we’re not going to be a good team in the Big Ten with average quarterback play. That’s a fact.
“So Tre’s been challenged. We’re excited about Cam (Coffman). We’ll see what Nate Sudfeld does as well.”
Coffman, a junior college transfer from Arizona Western, looked sharp in the spring.
“You go through spring, and Cam Coffman’s team got in the end zone more than Tre’s,” Wilson noted on Friday. “Now that’s always a fair thing to say, because Cam, sometimes it’s two-on-two, so what’s the matchup? … But, if you were looking and judging just on efficiency, Cam Coffman was more efficient in spring than Tre. And that’s not a slight to Tre. But when you’re 1-11, and you’re double interception-to-touchdown ratio, yeah, you’re a good young talented quarterback, and I believe in Tre. But I also believe he better be a lot better. Because for us to start doing some things we need to do, we need to play very good at quarterback.”
And Wilson expects Sudfeld, a true freshman, to be in the mix as well.
“The other kid coming in, Nate, intrigued by him. Not that I want to go with a freshman again. But I do think we walk in Day 1 better than we were,” Wilson said. “But we’re going to walk in way better with a lot more stress, because that position needs to really take off. We can talk about better defense and all those things … the play at that position will impact our team more than anything.”
One of the Hoosiers’ offensive stalwarts, senior center Will Matte, said the quarterback competition still feels open.
“They’ve all worked really hard over the summer and had a great offseason,” Matte said. “It’s definitely going to be a great competition in camp.”
There’s a little less concern with Purdue’s quarterback competition. Coach Danny Hope said Caleb TerBush enters fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback after he started all 13 games last season. TerBush completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,905 yards, 13 TDs and six INTs as the Boilermakers finished 7-6.
But Hope wants to get playing time and significant reps for backups Robert Marve — like TerBush, a fifth-year senior — and junior Rob Henry, who missed last season with a knee injury.
“We’ve had a plan the past two or three years to try and use a multi-quarterback system as part of our offensive plan,” Hope said. “That has been negated as a result of the inordinate amount of injuries at the quarterback spot.
“We’re going to play two quarterbacks to some extent always, so we can have the No. 2 quarterback ready to go in case something was to happen to No. 1. I’d hate to be in the situation where we’re in position to get a signature win, or win a championship, and the No. 1 guy goes down, and the No. 2 guy has no chance to get it in done. That’s not fair to your football team.”
TerBush said he’s not approaching the season with the idea that he might lose his spot at No. 1.
“It’s just like going into a game and thinking, ‘what do we have to do not to lose?’ A lot of times you’re going to come out on the losing end if you’ve got that mindset,” TerBush said. “So you’ve got to go in it to win it.”