The Last Word: It's time for Diamont Part 3

What will our third glimpse of Zander Diamont at quarterback look like? That's the big question on the minds of Indiana football fans heading into today's Big Ten game at home against Penn State. The answer will be a big part of how the Hoosiers can fare today against the Nittany Lions.

Like it or not, it once again will come down to the effectiveness of Zander Diamont today for the Indiana University football team.

If Diamont can shake off two less than stellar starts against Michigan State and Michigan and find a way to lead the IU offense on time-consuming, move-the-chains kind of drives, Indiana can hang around today against Penn State.

If he has his third game where he fails to exceed 24 yards passing, however, it could be another long day for the Hoosiers.

Am I being too hard on Diamont? I don’t think so.

He has now had four weeks to get used to the idea of being a starting quarterback in the Big Ten as a true freshman. Sure, it was a shock to his system right away after both Nate Sudfeld and Chris Covington were lost for the season.

But then he was thrown to the wolves against the No. 8 team in the nation in Michigan State on Homecoming at IU and struggled.

He then had an off week in the schedule and basically two weeks to prepare for Michigan in the Big House last week.

And he struggled again.

Now he’s had another full week to prepare for Penn State. The question is simple: What have the first two games taught him and is he capable of making up a lot of ground that quickly?

It’s difficult to know. It’s clearly a tough situation for Diamont to be in. He hasn’t looked sharp in his first two games and hasn’t been on “on the same page” (one of my favorite sports clichés) with his receivers. The timing just isn’t there and it just seems like Diamont doesn’t go all way through his progressions when he drops back to pass. Things just seem to still be happening too fast for him.

That brings me to the next question. How long does it take for the game to slow down enough for a young quarterback? The answer may have something to do with the fact that Diamont has now faced Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in consecutive weeks. The reality is that if it was Indiana State, Bowling Green and North Texas, for example, Diamont might have had a more realistic chance to feel comfortable.

But it is what it is. Here we are in the ninth game of the season and Diamont is still looking to have his first real successes on the football field.

Yes, he had a touchdown run against Michigan State and had a moment in time where Indiana led late in the second quarter before the flood gates opened for the Spartans. And he did have a 35 yard run that surprised everyone – admittedly himself included – late in the game against Michigan.

But he hasn’t experienced the feel of completing a string of passes, moving the chains with his arm, feeling in complete control in the offense, all of the things that you would expect a starting quarterback in the Big Ten to experience.

It just hasn’t happened yet.

If we are still saying these same words next week at this time, Indiana will be 0-5 in Big Ten play and coming off another lopsided defeat.

But if next week, we’re saying that we now want to see the next step in the progression of Diamont and see how he builds on the Penn State game that will be another story.

The most difficult thing right now is that I truly don’t know which of those scenarios we’ll be seeing next week. The one thing I do know is that we’ll know very soon.

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