Written By: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
The Nate Sudfeld Era is over. One of the best quarterbacks to ever sling the ball around at Memorial Stadium has graduated and the Hoosiers must find a quarterback capable of leading their offense in the season to come. There are viable candidates with varying levels of experience but quarterback play will be a central question surrounding this program heading into a season with a lot of potential. Does IU have a signal-caller capable of guiding their offense back to the top of the B1G’s offensive rankings?
The Favorite – Richard Lagow – 6’6”, 240 pounds
One of the more intriguing players to watch during the upcoming Spring practices will be Richard Lagow. The 6’6”, 240-pound quarterback threw for 2,285 yards and 21 touchdowns last season at Cisco Junior College and he arrives in Bloomington with some high expectations about what he can accomplish in this offense.
National recruiting expert Steve Wiltfong wrote that Lagow “is a big, strong kid, elusive in the pocket with a live arm. He has some play-making ability to him, is very comfortable throwing on the move and loves chucking it downfield.”
Lagow has previously been enrolled at both Connecticut and Oklahoma State but he never felt comfortable at either place and didn’t see any game action. He helped lead Cisco to success during the 2015 season and he was ranked by 247Sports as the number four pro-style passer in the 2016 class. His highlight tape is incredibly impressive and it’s clear that Lagow is capable of “making all the throws” that will be required of him at IU. However, very few (if any) Hoosier fans have seen him in-game action and there’s no telling how he’ll translate to the B1G and to the IU system. This Spring is crucial for Lagow to prove he’s ready to lead this squad on offense and for the receivers and coaches to develop a trusting relationship with their new QB.
The Returning Back-Up – Zander Diamont – 6’1”, 180 pounds
The junior-to-be from Los Angeles, California, appeared in two games during the 2015 season and started one game (at Penn State) in relief of the injured Nate Sudfeld. Diamont completed 15 of 31 passes for 166 yards and rushed for 136 yards on 18 carries. The highlight of his season is undoubtedly his 79-yard touchdown run against then-number 1 Ohio State. He was named the IU offensive player of the week for his substitute appearance against the Buckeyes but struggled before leaving the Penn State contest with a shoulder injury. Entering his junior season, Diamont has shown to be a dangerous runner but an inconsistent passer during his limited action. I don’t believe the coaching staff envisions him as the answer at quarterback but he is useful as a backup that prevents the offense from completely falling apart.
Diamont is a very good athlete but his frame is still pretty small (for a football player) and Kevin Wilson mentioned at postseason press conferences that Diamont may be looked at as a contributor as a slot receiver. Spring practice will show us where the coaching staff thinks the future is for Diamont within this program. If he sticks at quarterback, he’ll need to add weight and strength and show more consistency as a passer during spring practices if he wants to have a chance to be anything more than a backup.
The Rising Redshirt – Austin King – 6’2”, 198 pounds
The Hoosiers were able to redshirt Austin King in 2015 so this coming season will be his redshirt freshman campaign and I expect him to battle for the backup position. King will probably be around 215 pounds by the time Spring practice begins and he’s 6’2”. That’s not the ideal size for Kevin Wilson’s offense but it’s adequate and shouldn’t be a deterrent to playing time. King hails from Alpharetta, Georgia and he was rated as the number 29 quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class (according to 247Sports). We haven’t seen him play in a competitive since the 2014 high school season so no one can be sure what to expect but our recruiting analyst Nick Holmes offered his thoughts on King back on Signing Day of 2015, “King has a quick release and shows good arm strength, mechanics, and footwork. He also gets the ball to his playmakers in stride and can make throws on the move. Although not much of a running threat, King has shown the ability to extend plays with his legs.”
I don’t think King is a true candidate to challenge for the starting position but it would be nice to see him have a strong Spring and show that he could handle some snaps, if needed, in 2016.
The Freshman – Peyton Ramsey – 6’3”, 190 pounds
Way back in April of 2015, Peyton Ramsey became the first commit for IU’s 2016 recruiting class. The Ohio native is rated as the 29th best pro-style quarterback in the country and chose IU over offers from several other high-major schools. He has the build and arm strength to be successful in Kevin Wilson’s offense and his highlight film showed off his ability to make all the throws you would want from a B1G quarterback.
Nate Boudreau – 6’6”, 240 pounds – Boudreau, a walk-on from Naperville, Illinois, will be the only senior in the corps of quarterbacks in 2016. He last saw action in 2014 when he appeared in two games and he is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Danny Cameron – 6’1”, 208 pounds – Cameron, the son of former IU head coach Cam Cameron and a walk-on from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, made his collegiate debut against the Penn State Nittany Lions (in relief for the injured Zander Diamont who was starting in relief for the injured Nate Sudfeld…yeah, that game was rough). Cameron completed 6 of 16 passes for 65 yards.
When the Smoke Clears…
For the first time in a while, the Indiana Hoosiers enter Spring football without a clear-cut answer at quarterback. In a way, that is rather scary for a program that needs the offense to be operating at a high-level in pretty much every contest to have a chance. While I’m not expecting for any of these guys to immediately replicate the play of Nate Sudfeld, I am cautiously optimistic that Richard Lagow will have a very good couple of seasons wearing the Cream and Crimson and I think the Spring practices will offer us the first glimpses of his talent and what he can do in this system.
My prediction is that Richard Lagow emerges from the pack and comes out of the Spring Game as the projected starter. He is a highly-touted JUCO quarterback that appears to be a glove-like fit for Kevin Wilson’s offense. JUCO players are typically not brought in to be backups and I think Lagow has the tools to win the job. The #2 spot on the depth chart is more difficult to project because it will largely depend on how the coaching staff feels about Zander Diamont’s future at the position. If they decide that Diamont has done enough to stick at quarterback (or is of little use at another position), I think it’s reasonable to think he could win the backup job once again. I’ll creep out on to a limb though and project that redshirt freshman Austin King will show enough to win the second spot on the depth chart while Diamont will be used as the third quarterback while deputizing as a slot receiver in certain packages.
I imagine that Danny Cameron will reprise his role as the emergency quarterback and I expect Peyton Ramsey to follow the path recently blazed by Austin King and take a redshirt season to gain weight and develop during his first year on campus.
Hoosier Huddle will follow this upcoming position battle along with the most extensive Spring football coverage you’ll find. Stay tuned and make sure to check back often as Signing Day nears!