In his first season at Indiana, Cameron Coffman posted one of the most prolific passing seasons in Indiana history. By the end of his second, he realized that the odds were prohibitively against him ever starting another game as the Hoosiers’ quarterback.
On Wednesday, IU coach Kevin Wilson announced through a video posted on the Indiana football Twitter account that the rising senior Coffman had decided to transfer and use his final year of college football eligibility elsewhere. In the same video, Wilson announced that redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Wallace would also transfer, and that defensive end John Laihinen and cornerback Brian Williams would graduate and not use their respective fifth years of eligibility.
Coffman leaves a bigger mark on the IU record book than any of the other three, but his transfer may have been the least surprising. He was the odd man out in Indiana’s three-man quarterback competition in preseason camp. Sophomores Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson split snaps with Sudfeld throwing for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns and Roberson throwing for 1,128 yards and 15 scores while also rushing for 423 yards and five scores. Coffman, meanwhile, completed two of just nine passes for 29 yards and appeared in just three games.
Sudfeld and Roberson return next season, so Coffman didn’t see that changing for his senior season.
“I just want an opportunity to play somewhere,” Coffman said. “I realized Nate is a very good quarterback and so is Tre. I don’t see myself getting that opportunity here, so I’m going to try to find another spot where I can play.”
Coffman didn’t have to wait long to play at Indiana initially. The Peculiar, Mo., native committed to the Hoosiers in January of 2012 after throwing for 2,244 yards and 21 touchdowns in a season at Arizona Western Community College and leading that squad to the NJCAA national championship game. Right around the time he committed, Indiana’s Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel left the program.
Coffman and Roberson were the only two quarterbacks in the program that spring, and Sudfeld joined in the fall. Roberson won the three-man quarterback battle that season, but broke his leg in the season’s second game at Massachusetts. With Sudfeld still brand new to college, Coffman became the de facto starter. He threw for 2,734 yards that season, ranking second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game and claiming the No. 4 spot at Indiana in all-time single-season passing yards. He also finished third in Indiana in single-season completion percentage (.607), fourth in completions (247) and fourth in attempts (407). The Hoosiers finished 4-8, but he and Sudfeld combined to put Indiana first in the conference in passing yards.
“It just happened to be right for me and for them with Tre going down,” Coffman said. “I was able to fill in and do OK.”
But Sudfeld and Roberson both matured over the next season. Roberson always had more athleticism than both of them, and Sudfeld got command of the offense and combined it with his rocket arm.
“Nate from his freshman to his sophomore year,” Coffman said, “that’s a completely different player.”
So Coffman is on the move, though he hasn’t yet found a landing spot and is going to spend the spring semester taking classes in Bloomington. He still has a redshirt year available along with one season of eligibility, so he can afford to sit out one year. For that reason, he has his sight set on playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision of Division I, formerly known as Division I-A. If that doesn’t work out, he will look to the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA, where he would be able to play right away.
“I just want to be able to compete against someone for the starting position,” Coffman said. “It’s gotta be the right fit. It wouldn’t be a good idea to go somewhere that has a returning starter, because they would definitely be giving him every opportunity to keep the job. I want to go somewhere where I can compete against someone who’s never had a starting job.”
Wilson said that he’s going to try to find Coffman such a place.
“he’s a great player,” Wilson said on the video. “Great kid. Was in a great competition this past year, but in a very competitive deal with Nate and Tre, he kinda came in where he’s the odd man out. He’s got a great attitude, he’s a great student, well over a 3.0. He’s just looking to transfer to find a place to play here. … We’re working to help him find a spot.”
Wallace will also look for a spot. He was a highly-regarded recruit out of Warren Central in the Class of 2012, but played little this season behind a talented corps of freshman linebackers that included T.J. Simmons, Marcus Oliver and Clyde Newton. He broke into the two-deep at times this season, but did not record a tackle. He did not return a call seeking comment.
Lahinen, a former walk-on, moves on after leading the team in sacks with 4.5 and tackles for loss with 7.0. His sack total was the most by an IU defensive end since Darius Johnson had 4.5 in 2010. Williams started at cornerback in 2012 and recorded 58 tackles, an interception and eight pass break-ups, but appeared in just two games in 2013, recording two tackles.