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If Michael Penix Jr. Can't Play Saturday, Hoosiers Have Full Faith in Backup Jack Tuttle

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has a shoulder injury and coach Tom Allen said Monday that his availability won't be known until Saturday's noon kickoff against Michigan State. But if Jack Tuttle has to start, everyone is confident that he will play well.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Jack Tuttle knows the routine. It's priority No. 1 for Indiana's backup quarterback to always be ready to play.

Tuttle may need to play on Saturday when the Hoosiers take on Michigan State at Memorial Stadium, because Indiana coach Tom Allen said Monday that Penix remains ''week-to-week'' after getting knocked out of the Penn State game on Oct. 2 with a separated AC joint in his left throwing shoulder.

Penix has dealt with injuries throughout his career, and Tuttle, who's been in Indiana's program for three years now, never lets that factor in to his preparation. He makes sure he's ready every day, no matter what. He prepares as if he's the starter every week anyway.

Allen said the final decision on who gets the start against Michigan State will be made Saturday at noon before kickoff. Penix, who's coming back from a second ACL injury suffered last November, has started the first five games this year, but injured his shoulder when he went down hard on a tackle after a run.

Tuttle played the rest of the way, filling in like he did last year after Penix was injured in the Maryland game on Nov. 28. Tuttle helped Indiana win 27-11, and then led the team to a 14-6 victory over then ranked No. 14 Wisconsin in the Hoosiers' regular season finale. 

Allen says Tuttle's preparation and attention to detail are attributes that most stick out to him.

"He gets the ball out fast and has a strong arm," Allen said. "Also, he has the ability to extend plays with his legs, and that's a positive thing, without question. We saw that even last year."

The road win at Wisconsin last season gave Allen the confidence that the redshirt junior has the talent to help the Hoosiers win Big Ten games. He went 13-of-22 for 130 yards with two touchdowns, capping off Indiana's record-setting 6-1 regular season.

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"I think he's a strong leader on our team and more verbal in that role and brings a great energy to the guys," Allen said. "His work ethic is tremendous in the weight room."

If Tuttle does start against the unbeaten and No. 10-ranked Spartans, he's very capable of running Indiana's offense, but Allen said it's up to his veteran teammates to help carry the load, too.

Allen said offensive linemen Caleb Jones, Dylan Powell and Matt Bedford, and running back Stephen Carr, tight end Peyton Hendershot and wide receiver Ty Fryfogle all will have to step up to help Tuttle.

"It's those critical moments," Allen said. "It's those critical plays. Those guys have got to make plays, so it's more than just a verbal leadership. That's part of it, but it's the attitude you bring to practice. It's the effort you bring to practice. That's part of it, but it's stepping up in the game and making plays.

"It's a collective group effort, without question," Allen said. "But the quarterback needs to be the guy leading the show."

Tuttle has the full faith and confidence of everyone in Indiana's locker room, players and coaches alike. 

“There is not a guy in our program that works harder than Jack Tuttle,'' Indiana offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said. "Jack's preparation and work ethic, that gives you confidence as a coach.''

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