Tom Allen is a defensive coach by nature after all these years. And he knows how it works early in fall camp. Almost every year, repeatedly, the defense is ahead of the offense during the first few weeks.
That's why it came as a bit of a surprise to Allen that the offense ''got the upper hand'' of the defense during the Hoosiers' first scrimmage on Saturday. He raved about the play of his quarterbacks – MIchael Penix Jr,, Jack Tuttle and freshman Donaven McCulley – and was impressed with that unit's efficiency.
"They outperformed (the defense), and that is probably the first time that happened during fall camp for an extended amount of plays, which was good to see. I did think our offensive line blocked well, I thought we threw the ball well and ran the ball well [early in the scrimmage].''
It's a good sign in mid-August, because there's been a lot of eyeballs on the quarterback situation. Penix, who's coming off a second ACL injury, has been targeting the Sept. 4 season opener at Iowa for being 100 percent. He's been full-go in practice, and did a lot of good things on Saturday.
But he's still being watched closely, and no one lays a hand on him.
"I feel good, and we have a lot of guys making plays, myself included,'' Penix said. "Personally, as far as the knee, I feel good. I feel like I’m ready to play. I know come Sept. 4, I will be 100 percent ready with no concerns.
Allen wants to keep it that way, too, Penix said with a smile.
"When I tried to use my legs, coach Allen was quick to blow the whistle, but I understand,'' the left-hander from Tampa said. "He is just looking out for me and looking out for this team as far as keeping an eye on me during the scrimmage.''
Senior Jack Tuttle, who played two-plus games last year after Penix was injured in the Maryland game, played well on Saturday as well, and McCulley made several nice throws as well.
"The offensive side of the ball executed. We executed the simple things and made sure we did our assignments and trusted each other,'' Penix said. "The guys on our side were making plays. We had the running backs making plays and I was doing my best to make sure I was getting them the ball.
"I was making sure we were in the right protections, in the right place so that everything went smooth and that's how it went on Saturday. It wasn't just me. The other two quarterbacks were getting a lot of reps, too, Jack [Tuttle] and Donaven [McCulley]. We were just executing the small things and I feel once we do that, we are a great team.''
Tuttle and Penix have grown close during the past two years and he's watched his teammate work hard through his rehab. Whether Penix is ready for the opener or not, Tuttle takes the same approach. He prepares to be the starter every week, he said, whether he plays or not.
"I think we both learn a ton from each other,'' Tuttle said. "Mike’s a great player, and on the field it’s huge taking those mental reps when he's out there. Just picking up those little parts of the game that maybe he’s better at than I am, or I’m better at than he is, it’s super important.