There are some great storylines at Indiana University football training camp this season.
An interesting battle at quarterback is on everyone’s mind. That’s the no-brainer. You have to figure the grad transfer from Arizona, Brandon Dawkins, will emerge as the starter but keep an eye on Michael Penix Jr., too. Of the three, he might be the one that gives IU the best chance to win.
Another one is how a guy like wide receiver Nick Westbrook will bounce back from tearing his ACL on the first play in the season opener against Ohio State last year. Most believe he’ll do just fine. He’s a playmaker, and he gets to practice against a guy like Andre Brown Jr. every day. That’s only making both of those guys a lot better.
Perhaps the most remarkable story is that of wide receiver J-Shun Harris out of Fishers High School. Here’s a kid who has not had one or two ACL tears in his college career but three.
How badly does a kid want to play football if he keeps coming back after three major knee injuries?
And he’s having a great camp the first week. You have to really be impressed when you see a kid like that continue to bounce back. He’s a tremendous inspiration to so many both on and off the field.
Everyone wants to know what T.D. Roof is going to be able to do at linebacker. He’s the kid from Georgia Tech who transferred at the semester and after an appeal was granted immediate eligibility in the fall.
I was talking to someone close to the program this week who said that they liked his swagger and the way he’s always around the football.
There are lots of other good stories, too.
I think the one position that I continue to find the most intriguing though is running back.
Indiana simply has a wealth of good runners there, and they all do different things well.
The challenge with that group and that running back room though is finding a way to keep them healthy.
If healthy, you have to think the starting job starts with Morgan Ellison. He rushed for more than 700 yards last year but as the season wore on you just felt like Ellison wore out. Finding a way to keep him healthy will be a big part of IU’s best chance to be successful.
Cole Gest is another one that can do good things, not just running the ball but catching it, too. Gest has good speed and will very likely find a way to be on the field.
The veteran guys are Mike Majette and Ricky Brookins. Majette hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to play the last few seasons, though, and that will continue to be what everyone keeps an eye on. But if healthy, Majette may be one of the most athletic guys in the room. He can do things both running the ball and catching it and that versatility could keep him on the field.
Brookins is a guy that IU coach Tom Allen calls Mr. Dependable. Again, Brookins is a guy that may only get a few touches a game but he tends to make the most of them. Once again, if he can stay healthy you would think he would be involved somehow.
There are also two really good freshmen at that position. Stevie Scott is the bruising runner who has been getting a lot of attention lately. Allen says he runs like a bull and his teammates don’t think anyone would be able to stop him in goal line situations.
The other one is Ronnie Walker Jr., the true freshman who enrolled at the semester and was able to participate in spring football. They really like his speed and how he hits the hole.
So there you have six guys. Plus you have three quarterbacks who can all run the football and an offensive line that returns all five starters plus adds a fifth-year grad transfer, too.
Add all of that up and I think that ultimately will tell us if Indiana football has a season where it returns to bowl competition or if it underachieves and is on the outside looking in come early December.
So there are lots of good storylines with this Indiana football team but just know that the running back position, and how successful they will be, could be the biggest storyline of all.