BLOOMINGTON – Even if only a few select people can see it, the fact remains that Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is getting bigger.
College football players use the offseason to get faster and stronger, but the coronavirus pandemic has complicated the process for the redshirt sophomore from Florida.
The cancellation of spring practices and offseason team workouts means players around the country have been left to their own devices, and with their own workout equipment, to stay in shape.
This applies particularly to Penix, who has already suffered two season-ending injuries in his young career. A torn ACL prematurely ended his freshman season in 2018, which he was able to redshirt, before right shoulder surgery brought his 2019 season to a close in early November.
So it's significant news that Penix has added substantial weight to his frame in anticipation of another Big Ten season.
Penix went from 206 pounds to 202 pounds between the 2018 and 2019 seasons (according to his listed roster weight). He's already jumped from 202 pounds to 218 pounds in the five months since his surgery, thanks in part to now being at home and benefiting from his mom Takisha's cooking.
“That's one thing that I have to continue to make sure I push on because that's a big factor,” Penix said via teleconference this week. “That would be letting my team down and that's something I'm not going to do.”
Not all of Penix's weight gain can be attributed to home-cooked meals.
Like other IU players, Penix has received customized workouts to complete from new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, a Ligonier native.
“He (Wellman) made them specific for whatever we had. He sent out body workouts if we don't have weights. He sent out dumbbell workouts. If you have a full gym, he sent us a full-gym workout,” Penix said. “He's been talking to us and continuing to tell us that working out is going to keep us in shape.”
Penix, who describes himself as “100 percent” in recovering from the shoulder surgery, has also returned to train at The Stable QB Academy in Tampa, Florida, where he's been molded into a dynamic passer since his first session as a high school freshman.
On-field access restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic have meant Penix's practices have switched from throwing passes to more film study, in addition to his individual training and running.
But, nonetheless, word spread fast about Penix's offseason development.
“He throws much stronger having gained 15, 20 pounds over the spring,” cornerback Tiawan Mullen said. “Mike can do it all. I feel like he is going to take us far this season.”
Penix keeps in constant communication with his wideouts.
During a period in which timing and a rapport is created between quarterback and receiver, frequent texts have been forced to substitute for in-person throwing sessions.
“We always talk about how we want to run things ... make sure we don't get off the page,” Penix said. “This is nothing we're really worried about.
“Whenever you have limited resources and adversity out there, sometimes people tend to change their ways. That's something I've been working on to make sure I don't do. I continue to push every day and I feel like nothing's stopped. It's all the same.”