Coach Tom Allen hinted at upside when he announced Michael Penix Jr. as Indiana’s starting quarterback after preseason camp.
Penix, a redshirt freshman, won the starting job over Peyton Ramsey, the incumbent starter who is a fourth-year junior.
“It wasn't what Peyton didn't do, it was more of what I believe Mike can be,” Allen said.
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The move had an immediate payoff. In the first two games, Penix completed 38 of 60 passes for 523 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was named the Big Ten’s freshman player of the week after the season-opening win over Ball State.
But his status is uncertain for the third game Saturday when Ohio State visits.
Allen said Penix would be a game-time decision because of an undisclosed injury. If unable to play, Ramsey, known as an accurate passer, will start.
Earlier in the week, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day praised Penix for his fast start.
“I think he's going to have a really good career,” Day said. “He's very talented and very versatile.”
Day, a former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Buckeyes, has a connection with Penix. He recruited him when he was a three-star prospect from Tampa, Florida, though no scholarship was offered.
Penix, who fielded offers from major schools such as Florida State and Tennessee, settled on the Hoosiers. A left-handed passer, he is also a capable runner, with 79 yards rushing on nine carries this season.
“He's mobile,” Day said. “He can run. He's accurate throwing the ball. He's pretty decisive throwing the ball. He's smart. It's still early in his career, but he's talented.”
When Day scouted Penix in high school, he said it was his “football IQ” that stood out during one conversation.
“I'm not surprised that he's playing right away there,” Day said. “He's a really smart kid.”
Penix became the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener for the Hoosiers since Antwaan Randle El in 1998.