Rutgers has to prepare for two vastly different Indiana quarterbacks this week

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Rutgers heads into Saturday’s game with a bit of uncertainty at quarterback. On the other sideline, Indiana and head coach Tom Allen are in a similar spot.

Michael Penix or Donovan McCulley could the Hoosiers starting quarterback on Saturday for Indiana (2-7; 0-6 Big Ten). It provides significant uncertainty for Rutgers (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten), who have their own starting quarterback conundrum with starter Noah Vedral knocked out of Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin.

It means that Schiano and the Rutgers defense must prepare for two quarterbacks with different styles and strengths who run two completely different offenses.

“They are uniquely different depending who’s playing. Now there’s no doubt about it. They literally when you watch them last week, they’re different,” head coach Greg Schiano told reporters on Monday.

“So you just try to do your best you make some assumptions, but you’ve got to be ready for everything, right? That’s really, you know, we’ve been here before – over the years that’s happened many times and you try to find out as much as you can, but, you know, coach has been around a while he’s not going to be volunteer and information. Coach Allen’s coach this game a long time and he knows how to play close to the vest. So we’ll, we’ll do our best to be ready for whatever they come out and do and the good thing for us is the mix we get from our own offense, from our season in the Big Ten. And then the last two weeks, we’ve basically seen it all except, you know, true wishbone football.

The two options are very different for Indiana and it makes game prep difficult for Rutgers given the vastly different skillset of Penix and McCulley. Depending on which quarterback is in, the offense changes drastically for Indiana.

Penix was one of the breakout stars of college football in 2020 (1,645 passing yards; 14 touchdowns against four interceptions) until a knee injury cut his season short, is in the mix after suffering a left shoulder sprain in a 24-0 loss in early October. He has a big arm and is an accurate passer who has some mobility. But he is a throwing quarterback who can stretch the field with his legs if the pocket breaks down.

Last season, he had an ACL tear in December against Maryland on a running play.

On Saturday, freshman Donovan McCulley was 10-of-24 for 88 yards with another 37 yards on 14 carries in a 29-7 loss at Michigan. On the season, he is 25-of-55 for 360 yards with two passing touchdowns and has another 58 rushing yards across four games.

The Hoosiers use both quarterbacks very differently.

“But when you look at what their current quarterback does, it’s a lot of quarterback running game. It’s quarterback gap schemes, which really are different, right? That changes the math in a big way. And gap schemes are when you pull people, it’s down, down, down, pull people around, and then the quarterback follows,” Schiano said.

“There’s usually fakes off it to make you, you know, go defend other things. And then here comes this big six-foot-5, quarterback running downhill who runs like a running back, he gets down behind his pads. He’s a physical runner. So yeah, it’ll be a challenge.”