Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Spring practice is just a mere five days away and the biggest question that should be on the minds of Hoosier fans is, how is quarterback Nate Sudfeld going to look coming off of season-ending shoulder surgery in 2014. The 2015 season, and possibly Kevin Wilson’s job, hinges on whether or not Sudfeld can return to form and get IU to their first bowl game since 2007. Whenever a player is coming back from injury it is difficult, almost impossible, to predict what he is going to look like before actually seeing them practice, especially if they will be limited in contact like Sudfeld. However, this is not solely a Nate Sudfeld piece, the Hoosiers have other quarterbacks that need to show improvement in order for this team to reach its goals. IU also returns Chris Covington from injury and Zander Diamont, who started the final six games for the Hoosiers in 2014.
What To Look For
The biggest thing for fans and coaches to look for this spring is whether or not Nate Sudfeld is 100 percent. It is not the end of the world if he is not there yet, he still has the summer to rehab and get stronger before the season kicks off on September 5th, but can he make all of the throws? Can he build a rapport with his young receivers? All of these were issues at times last year for the Cream and Crimson that contributed to a disappointing 4-8 2014 season.
Head coach Kevin Wilson alluded to the fact that both Sudfeld and Covington will be limited in contact during spring practice, so it will be hard to tell how they will hold up durability wise in an actual game. Since Sudfeld and Covington will be limited in their work it is a perfect time to see what the Hoosiers have in Diamont, Danny Cameron, and Nate Boudreau. Wilson has been open to using two quarterbacks in his four full seasons in Bloomington. In 2014, he unsuccessfully, tried to use Covington in short yardage situations. Fans will have to watch the spring game closely to see how they may use a second quarterback in this offense.
|Danny Cameron||Did not play in 2014 - Redshirt Season|
What We Want To See
Fans, coaches, and anyone who follows Indiana football knows that in order for the Hoosiers to be successful in 2015 the passing game is going to have to take a major step forward, and that starts with the right arm of quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The Hoosiers need Sudfeld to improve upon his performances from 2014, which were up and down. Sudfeld was terrific against Missouri, Bowling Green, and North Texas (70% completions 829 yards 5 TDs and 0 INTs) and struggled against Indiana State, Maryland, and in the first half against Iowa (45.3% completions 322 yards 1 TD and 3 INTs), while the receivers dropped their fair share of balls Sudfeld just looked out of sync when he struggled. The big-armed California native has all the tools to be a great quarterback in 2015, but we need to see him put it all together.
There are a handful of issues that I would like to see during the spring from Sudfeld that should leave Hoosier Nation optimistic about the aerial attack in 2015. First, Sudfeld needs to stop starring down his receivers. He has a habit of picking one side of the field and becoming predictable. The Hoosiers have enough weapons and protection on the offensive line where he can work through his progressions and find the open man. When he rushes his throws he tends to try and fit it in tight spaces and turnovers ensue. Secondly, the soon to be senior needs to own the job. It was not too long ago that he was in a three-way battle for the starting job. Last season it was his job, but he did not seem comfortable being the man just yet. The 2015 edition of the Hoosiers needs leaders and Sudfeld is one of a few guys who need to step up in that role. Finally, Sudfeld needs to make his receivers better. During his career in Bloomington Sudfeld has played with some great receivers who have made their fair share of spectacular plays to help out the quarterback. Now, with a young, but talented receiving corps it is time for him to return the favor. Sudfeld needs to put the ball where receivers can make plays more consistently, so that this Hoosier offense can get back to the level they were at in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, Sudfeld is a good Big Ten quarterback and he can be better than he has been. If he can get to that next level the Hoosiers will skyrocket. All that starts on March 26th.
We talked about Diamont possibly redshirting and being the third string quarterback in 2015 in our backup quarterback battle, there are important improvements that have to be made. Diamont did an admirable job last year in an emergency role. However, if Diamont is on the field for IU this year something went terribly wrong, and that is not a knock on Zander.
Some one is going to have to replace Sudfeld in 2016 when he graduates, and right now Diamont is the only guy on campus with a shot at doing that. Diamont improved every week he played and took advantage of the rare meaningful game repetitions that freshman like him usually do not see. This will be his second spring practice and he should be getting some repetitions with the ones and twos because if for whatever reason Sudfeld cannot go or gets hurt, he is the starter.
One has to hope that Diamont was able to put on more weight in the offseason, and considering the reputation of Hoosiers’ strength coach Mark Hill he probably has. Diamont has plenty of skill, but needs to fill out into the body of a Big Ten quarterback. In a perfect world Diamont will spend the spring working on his mechanics and fine tuning the playbook while building up his strength to battle Austin King and potentially Brandon Peters for the starting spot in 2016.
The former linebacker was penciled in as the backup in 2014 and really looked out of sorts in the passing game, completing just three passes in five games before requiring season ending surgery on an injured knee suffered against Iowa. However, Covington could be a key cog for Kevin Johns if he can come back healthy. Covington will be limited in spring so it will be tough to say if he will be used in the spring game as the running option at quarterback. The big thing that has yet to be seen is how has Covington progressed as a passer. He has a rocket of an arm, but needs a finer touch on the ball.
Nate Boudreau and Danny Cameron
Boudreau is a redshirt junior while Cameron is a redshirt fresh, but both will be at or near the bottom of the depth chart when spring ball starts. That does not exclude them from our preview because the Hoosiers need them to improve their games in order to be successful. Usually the guys at the bottom of the depth chart are the ones who play QB on the scout team and are responsible for giving the first team defense a good look to get prepared for that week’s opponent.