Quarterback Battle is Heating up at IU

Quarterback trio talks about how comfortable they are in the offense and the differences this year as compared to last season.

The quarterback battle is in full swing with the Indiana football team.

Three players. Three different ability sets. All three capable options.

But only one can start.

Late Friday morning, the QB trio of Tre Roberson, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld addressed the media for the first time this camp and said the kinds of things you'd expect.

They're all about doing what is best for the team. They're good friends on and off the field. They like the competitive situation.

So let's focus on some of the things you might not expect. Like the notion that Tre Roberson is the most agile and athletic member of the trio. While Sudfeld and Coffman were quick to point that out, Roberson said not so fast.

He said the 6-5, 232-pound Sudfeld in particular is pretty athletic.

"He's a lot faster than people think he is,'' Roberson said of Sudfeld. "He's got those long legs. Cam is pretty quick, too. Cam has a lot of wiggle. He can move a little bit.''

Sudfeld said with Roberson it's all about his quick burst. He said the three quarterbacks can make the same reads but that with Roberson, when he decides to take off and run, there will be a significant difference.

"Tre is the most athletic and he's going to extend plays a little bit longer,'' Sudfeld said. "But as far as like reads and read options, we all have the same reads but on a play where Cam and I could get seven or eight, Tre could get like 20 yards.

"The good thing is that we can all do the same plays. We don't have to change the offense (depending on the quarterback)."

Coffman and Sudfeld were asked what the distance in a race would have to be in order for one of them to beat Roberson in a foot race. Coffman didn't hesitate with his reply.

"I would grab Tre and let Nate win,'' Coffman said as the room broke into laughter. "He'd be standing right there beside me.''

One of the challenges, the quarterbacks all agreed, is resisting the urge to try and stand out. There's nothing wrong with shining in a drill. But when a player tries too hard it can have negative consequences, too.

"It's kind of human nature when you're trying to compete for a job, you kind of want to make the spectacular throw or the nice run,'' Sudfeld said. "But when it's not there, that's what coach is talking about — sometimes we're trying to make too many plays and then we're missing the check down. So we're now starting to settle in more and just play within the offense and within ourselves."

Coffman said it has led to a change in mindset from how the players worked out during the summer to how they're competing in camp.

"Also coming off the summer doing 7-on-7 without any coaches out there we're just trying some new things out, tyring to make some throws, trying to squeeze some things in there,'' Coffman said. "So we come back the first day and we're still in that mode a little bit. So now we're getting back in the swing of things kind of preparing for a game.

" We're taking our check downs, taking completions, things like that. Where we were kind of in the mode from summer of those first couple days but we're getting things back under control now."

The one thing IU has going for it at the quarterback position is that all three of the players have Big Ten game experience. Roberson started the final five games of his freshman year and was the opening season starter last season before breaking his game in game two against UMass. Coffman completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,734 yards last season. He averaged 248.5 yards per game. Sudfeld played in seven games, threw for 632 yards, and had seven TD passes and just one interception.

Only three quarterbacks in IU history have played as true freshmen. Tim Clifford was the first in 1977. The other two were Roberson and Sudfeld.

Experience is clearly a positive with this group. IU has basically 11 starters back on offense as even Collin Rahrig has 16 career starts. He's taking over for Will Matte at center this season but he started the final six games a year ago at left guard.

"We've been talking in the QB room that say last year, I don't know what chapter we were on but let's say last year we were on chapter two,'' Sudfeld said. "Now since everybody knows kind of the basics we're able to do more things. We're able to add more hots and add more protections. So we're not thinking as much and we're pushing ourselves to add more dimensions to our offense.

"I just think we're all playing a lot faster and not thinking as last year we were.''

NOTE: Look for more on the quarterbacks in the next few days and an IU Insider Blog later today about Kevin Wilson's thought process regarding the importance of naming one starter going into the season.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/foxsportshutch.

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