The Last Word: The 'Z' Factor

Zander Diamont is the 'Z' Factor Saturday for Indiana against Michigan State. How will the true freshman fair in his first collegiate start? Stay tuned.

Call it the ‘Z’ Factor for Indiana Saturday against Michigan State.

As in Zander Diamont who will is expected to get the start for the Hoosiers at quarterback against the No. 8 Spartans.

Think for a moment at the different quarterbacks that have played for IU in the last seven games.

Nate Sudfeld started the first six games this season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last Saturday at Iowa.

Chris Covington played in Sudfeld’s place Saturday and struggled for the most part but was expected to be the starter against Michigan State. The reality, however, is that Covington’s mother confirmed that her son is not playing this week against the Spartans. With Diamont listed as No. 2 on the depth chart this week, it’s expected that he will earn the start against Michigan State.

Tre Roberson started the final game of the season last year against Purdue and threw for 273 yards and six touchdowns. He also gained 154 yards on 21 carries. In the offseason, however, figuring that he wouldn’t be the starter, Roberson transferred to Illinois State.

Cameron Coffman threw two passes against Purdue in the final game a year ago. He transferred to Wyoming in the offseason and is sitting out this year.

Four quarterbacks in seven games.

And now Saturday against Michigan State, we will see the fifth IU quarterback in eight games. It simply makes you wonder what could have been had a player like Roberson opted not to transfer? IU fans would feel much more optimistic today than they do.

But back to the reality of IU-Michigan State. The biggest question is a simple one: How much can Zander Diamont or Nate Boudreau be expected to do against the Spartans?

At least with Boudreau he had already burned his redshirt year so he could have at least been mentally prepared for the chance to play.

Diamont’s mental approach had to have been on a beach somewhere in Southern California. It was all but a done deal that Diamont would redshirt this season. He was listed as No. 3 or No. 4 on the depth chart and those guys just don’t play. And so even though he was at practice every day, you can’t imagine that he was particularly engaged. I could be wrong but I would be surprised if he realistically thought that he might take snaps in Big Ten play this season.

Now he could end up starting the final six games if he’s effective beginning Saturday against the Spartans.

Here is some advice from an armchair quarterback who never played the game beyond youth football. Still, I think it is advice that could apply to a lot of players at different positions.

1. DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO GET OVER-HYPED: Likely easier said than done but this is really important. If you’re too hyped it can lead to overthrowing receivers early and getting picked. Instead, just relax, stay poised, make a few safe throws and get yourself into the flow of the game. Move the chains a few times early. Earn the offense’s confidence. All of those things could lead to a positive result.

2. FORGET HOW MANY EYEBALLS ARE WATCHING YOU: The reality is that there will be in the mid-30,000 to low 40,000 fans on hand at Memorial Stadium for Homecoming and the game is televised on ESPN. Not to mention is dad is a soap opera star and his mom is an actress. He’s going to be an interesting story if he does well and there will no doubt be a lot of eyeballs on him. But that has to be the last thing on his mind – or bad things could happen.

3. HAVE EARLY SUCCESS: You don’t want to find yourself pressing and getting into the second or third offensive series before your first complete pass or first down. Every positive moment is going to be huge for a true freshman playing his first collegiate game. Diamont needs to have early success and then build on each positive thing. And when he has a negative one – which is surely will – he has to have a short memory and move on to the next play. These are all easy things to talk about and likely much more difficult to achieve.

The final result could be the best story in college football this year or it could be a tremendous bust. I think I can say with confidence though that fans everywhere are looking to seeing how it plays out.

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