Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has frequently stated that he leans toward playing as many true freshman as he can instead of redshirting them because he uses large rotations at every position, because he likes as much competition as possible for every spot and because he thinks its better for the players to play right away.
Quarterback is a slightly different animal, however, because of the nature of position. Like most coaches, Wilson doesn’t like to rotate quarterbacks, so it rarely makes sense to burn a redshirt for a player who will not play significant snaps. It also makes sense to stagger quarterbacks by class, allowing them to mentor each other and maximize the return on each scholarship.
Sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson’s season-ending broken leg has interfered with Wilson’s plan in that regard to some degree. Wilson said after Saturday’s game that he had intended to redshirt freshman Nate Sudfeld, a strong-armed 6-foot-5, 216-pounder from Modesto, Calif. If Sudfeld had taken a redshirt and Roberson had made it through the season, he and Roberson would have been separated by two classes and would not have been in a position battle in every year of Sudfeld’s eligibility. With Roberson looking to take a medical redshirt and Sudfeld having now burned his redshirt to make sure the Hoosiers have a quality backup behind Cameron Coffman, they will now go into the preseason in the same class, both sophomores.
Wilson said he’s not too concerned, however, because he can still redshirt Sudfeld in the future and the continued competition could be good for all three quarterbacks.
“It is what it is,” Wilson said. “To me, I think long-term, it will be a great opportunity to develop Tre even further. You might have considered redshirting Nate Sudfeld, but this happened at Oklahoma one year. We had an injury. We had to pull a redshirt off of a guy. We played him and then the following year we redshirted him and got his year back to balance it out. Now, you’ll have Nate, might have been redshirted, might not have. Potentially, you’ve got Sudfeld and Tre in the same class. There’s a redshirt year still coming for Cam Coffman if you want it. Now that Nate’s played, there’s redshirt years for him as well. There’s certain schools that like to play more than one quarterback. I typically don’t like to, but I think you have to have two or three ready. My thought the other day too, when Tre got hurt, and you knew his season was over, well, we’re gonna need more than Cameron to get through the year, so let’s go ahead and play Nate. To me what that does for Nate, the more he plays this year, the more excited he’ll be, the better he’ll prepare. now he’s gonna be a sophomore. It is what it is. They’ll space it out. It won’t affect recruiting. We have those three guys. We need one more. We need a fourth. We’ll keep building and go from there. The negative is we don’t have Tre for this week and this season. The positive, we’ve got all of those guys now for the remainder of this year for three or four more years, and we’ve got Tre Roberson for three more years.
— Wilson mentioned quickly in passing Wednesday that guard Jake Reed had missed significant practice time with a MRSA infection in cuts in his hands, but had recently returned to practice.
Wilson spoke about the situation at greater length Wednesday, addressing a question about what Indiana had done to make certain that Reed’s situation remained isolated and didn’t become a bigger problem for not only the team but the support staff around it. MRSA — which stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — is a particularly dangerous form of staph infection that can be resistant to certain antibiotics including penicillin and can be lethal in some cases. Athletes are particularly vulnerable to infection as are hospital patients and hospital workers among other groups, and it’s particularly dangerous among people in those settings.
Wilson said the Indiana medical and athletic training staff made certain that Reed was effectively quarantined while he was recovering from the infection and that it is believed the infection was isolated.
“He just got a hand that got a couple of nicks as he was blocking,” Wilson said. “Those little small scrapes on his hand just got infected. Initially, because you’re blocking, you punch the guy in the helmet or pad and he just bruised his hand. We didn’t catch it for a day there, but once we did, he was kind of isolated, wasn’t around us for a week or so. He’s back doing some light-practicing and moving in a good way. We’re very fortunate. It’s an unfortunate deal, but it is just right now a single incident. Hopefully that will be contained, and that’s what it is. We believe it is. That’s one too many, but hopefully that’s all it is.”