Penix's return has Hoosiers hoping to exceed 2020 successes
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - The Indiana Hoosiers expect quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to kick off the season opener in Iowa - even if he doesn't score until September 4th.
And the return of Penix makes the Hoosiers think big again.
On Monday, trainer Tom Allen told reporters that Penix's recovery is on track, a development that could help the Hoosiers outperform last year.
"We have defined our goals quite clearly, we did not shy away from them," said Allen on Thursday. "We finished second in the Big Ten East last year. Our goal is to play in the Big Ten championship and win the game." . There are a lot of things that have to happen before that happens. "
Replicating the 2020 breakout season won't be easy.
Indiana cracked the top 10 for the first time since 1967, setting its best conference record (6-1) in more than half a century, and barely making it to the third division crown in school history.
The Hoosiers also know the importance of having a healthy Penix in the field.
His nifty 2-point conversion run in overtime earned Indiana its second win against longtime powerhouse Penn State. Two weeks later, Penix tossed for 342 yards and three touchdowns while snapping a 24-game losing streak in the Michigan series. Two weeks later, he almost led the Hoosiers back from a 28-point third-quarter deficit in Ohio state, only to miss a touchdown. Yet his sensational game turned doubters into believers.
Then in November, Penix suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee - his third consecutive injury at the end of the season and the second time he had injured the ACL in his right knee. While Indiana continued to win, Penix became Health.
He is expected to take part in the first training session on Friday, albeit with a restriction.
"We won't attack him," said offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan. "Mike won't let himself be touched I think every time you survive an injury and go into training you have to be careful because the volume and intensity of the exercise are much higher."
Sheridan believes creative play can also help Penix limit the big shots he occasionally receives from larger defenders in the middle of the field. A revamped offensive line also appears to be able to keep Penix upright.
Penix doesn't seem to be concerned. The 6-foot-3,218-pound Redshirt junior stepped onto the podium Thursday without his crotch jerking or fear of suffering yet another injury.
"We want to prove that the last year was no accident, that we are a team that can keep up with anyone," said Penix. “We have a lot of guys who didn't see the field often last year and who will do big games for us this year? We know what we are capable of and we have to be great. "
One freshman who could end up in the mix is Donaven McCulley, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound freshman quarterback from Indianapolis.
With Penix out of contact, with replacement quarterback Jack Tuttle operating after shoulder surgery, and third quarterback Dexter Williams II out after a cruciate ligament tear in spring training, McCulley may have to take snapshots.
"Donaven must be ready to play yesterday," said Sheridan. “We have to get him ready to play and that goes for every player in this room. I feel good about the guidance and harshness in this room, we just have to make sure they are all ready to go. "
And with the opening date less than a month away, the Hoosiers know there's no time to waste.
"Lots of expectations," said Allen. "That was the challenge, by faith, and I think we have a team that thinks we can now expect a certain result on game day."
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