BLOOMINGTON — Peyton Ramsey learned one key lesson from the two previous quarterback competitions at Indiana: Forget the comparisons.
Now the Hoosiers incumbent starter plans to take advantage of his experience.
"The first couple of years, I'd go back and as I was watching film, I'd think and compare and contrast," Ramsey said Thursday. "Now that I'm older, I realize what matters most is my approach and being consistent out there because that's what the coaches want to see."
As a stressed-out redshirt freshman in 2017, Ramsey finished second to Richard Lagow coming out of camp, then relieved Lagow in Week 4. Ramsey kept the job for four more games before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Last year, the healthy incumbent battled two newcomers, highly touted freshman Michael Penix Jr. and graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins, for the starting job. Eventually, Ramsey's knowledge of the offense helped him prevail. He went on to start all 12 games in 2018 and cracked the school's top 10 lists in career 300-yard games (five), career completions (429), career attempts (652), career touchdown passes (29) and total offense in a career (4,707 yards).
Now, he's about to embark on a new duel with Penix and Jack Tuttle, a redshirt freshman who transferred from Utah in the spring. The NCAA granted Tuttle a waiver, making him eligible immediately.
Again, Ramsey appears to have the inside track.
"He's a returning starter, and I think there's a lot of merit in that, and he's earned it," coach Tom Allen said, explaining Ramsey would begin Friday's first practice with the starting offense. "I think there's a level, when you put yourself in that position like he has in the past, and he earned a chance to be a starter two years ago and did it last year, as well. So to me, reward him for that."
Penix looked like he might take over from Ramsey last October until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament against Penn State. Penix did limited work in the spring and still has not taken his first hit since having knee surgery.
Tuttle, meanwhile, missed the spring game with a short-term illness and can't wait to show what he can do when all three contestants are on the field together for the first time.
"I love lifting and I love running and I love practicing," Tuttle said at the Hoosiers' annual media day. "I'm just super excited for the season because I missed a little time last season and I'm just really eager to get going."
Since Indiana's spring game, the coaches have not been allowed to see their players work out on the field because of NCAA restrictions. And although they have met with the players, they have yet to really see what they can do.
So Allen has changed his practice routine. The plan is to let the three or four players on the depth chart take more practice snaps in hopes of creating a deeper, stronger roster — a move that could help Tuttle and Penix make stronger cases to supplant Ramsey.
Penix, for one, is a fan.
"I'm 100 percent confident in the knee, 110 percent," he said. "The way it worked in rehab, the way I pushed it, I feel like I can come back stronger."
The questions about Ramsey center primarily on whether he has the arm strength to stretch the field.
While Ramsey acknowledges he might not beat Penix and Tuttle in a long-distance competition, he does have more starts, more game tape, more experience working with the receivers and running backs at Indiana, and a stronger understanding of what he must do to win the starting job for the Aug. 31 opener against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I'm going to focus on myself more now that I've been through a couple of these competitions. It can be stressful when you're making comparisons," Ramsey said. "I can't control what Michael does, I can't control what Jack does, I can't control what the offensive line does. But I can focus on what I do every single play and I have to be able to do that again and again."