Instead of a daily barrage of questions he received a year ago as to whether it would be himself or Tre Roberson in the starting lineup in any particular game, Sudfeld is in a completely different place as he prepares for his junior season of college football.
Roberson is gone, having transferred after spring ball to Illinois State. Cameron Coffman is gone, too, another player who chose to transfer. All of a sudden, Sudfeld’s backups are Nate Bourdreau, a redshirt sophomore from Naperville, Ill., and Zander Diamont, a freshman from Venice, Calif.
Sudfeld said he was surprised when Roberson told him the news.
“He just told me ‘Hey, good luck this year’’’, Sudfeld said. “It is kind of bittersweet. I’m excited to get this opportunity but in the same breath we were good friends and I’m really excited to see what he ends up doing. I think he’s going to absolutely kill it at Illinois State.
“It was bittersweet but I’m excited for him and we’ll see how it works out.’’
A year ago, Roberson started the first two games of the season against Indiana State and Navy and then later had starts against Minnesota and Purdue. Sudfeld started the other eight games. Sudfeld threw for 2,523 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Roberson threw for 1,128 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Sudfeld acknowledged that he has changed a few things about his approach with the team now that Roberson is no longer in the picture.
“It hasn’t been that different but I have been a little more vocal in my leadership since then,’’ Sudfeld said. “When you have two head leaders you kind of don’t want to step on the other guys’ toes, you want to be respectful, but at the same time be a leader in your own right. Now I’m taking over the reins as much as I can.’’
He said it’s a role he is comfortable with.
“My teammates know that I don’t know it all,’’ Sudfeld said. “I’m just trying to inspire them, get them excited, get them doing the right things and make them better. But at the same time we have other great leaders out there. As far as work ethic I don’t think anything has changed. I’ve tried to work just as hard. I’d like to feel that maybe I have another gear that is there since Tre left just to prove some things.’’
When IU coach Kevin Wilson spoke to the media early in the day one thing he said about Sudfeld is that he wants his quarterback to stay hungry moving forward even without a guy like Roberson pushing him all the time.
Sudfeld said that won’t be a problem.
“I’m definitely not allowing myself to be complacent right now because it’s my job,’’ Sudfeld said. “I’m still competing against myself to be the best player I can be.’’
In IU’s offensive scheme, there is a read-option that the quarterback can decide whether to run if it’s there or pass in certain situations. It really came into play with Roberson, who also ran for 423 yards a year ago for the Hoosiers. Sudfeld’s rushing total was negative 34 yards in 38 rushing attempts.
Sudfeld said that doesn’t change anything with the read option. He still has a green light there.
“Absolutely,’’ Sudfeld said. “I felt like I could have ran some of those myself last year. I’m not sure what coach would say about that. I could really care less how we do it. I’m just trying to score some points and win some games.’’
Sudfeld said he went back and watched film after last year to see what things he did well and what things he needed to improve upon.
“After every season I try to go back to the year before and look at what I did well and what I did poorly,’’ Sudfeld said. “I like the way I threw the ball for the most part. I’ve been really trying to focus on decision making especially when I’m tired. I spend time on footwork at the end of practice to try and make sure it is still clean even when I’m tired.’’
Sudfeld said the one thing he is certain of is that he can always get better.
“The thing about quarterback that I love is that it challenges all aspects of you,’’ Sudfeld said. “Emotionally, mentally, physically, it’s everything. And you never completely have it. That’s what my coach, Coach Johns always tells me is that Peyton Manning still works hard every day.
”I’m always trying to get better at every aspect of the game.’’
Sudfeld was asked what he thought was the ceiling for the Indiana offense. A year ago IU averaged 38.4 points per game and 508.5 yards of offense.
“I haven’t really thought about that,’’ Sudfeld said. “I feel like the sky is the limit for our offense. With the concepts and understanding of the plays and the knowledge that our coaches have, and with the talent we have the O-line, I really don’t see a limit. I see us picking up where we left off last year and hopefully exceeding that. We’re not going to settle for an average offense. We’re trying to be the best offense we can be.’’
The same reporter asked Sudfeld what he thought the offense was capable of scoring in terms of points per game this year.
Sudfeld just smiled and said he hadn’t really thought about it.
”I don’t even know what we averaged last year but more than last year, I’ll just say that,’’ he said.
Another reporter told him the number was 38.4 points per game.
“OK, let’s go for 40 then, I don’t know, we’ll see,’’ Sudfeld said. “As long as we’re winning games I don’t care if we put up seven or a hundred.’’
That’s a point that Indiana football fans will certainly agree with.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch