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Indiana QB Jack Tuttle ‘Week-to-Week’ With Foot Injury, Donaven McCulley Next Man Up

Indiana will head into its Big Ten road game at Maryland on Saturday with plenty of question marks at quarterback after Tom Allen said Jack Tuttle's status is ''week-to-week'' with an apparent foot injury. That means true freshman Donaven McCulley will likely get his first career start.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana's depth at quarterback is going to get tested again. this weekend at Maryland. Coach Tom Allen said Monday that redshirt junior quarterback Jack Tuttle has a foot injury and his status is ''week-to-week.''

That's not a good sign. 

Allen, who doesn't like to get specific with injuries, uses the ''week-to-week'' phrase often. For instance, starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr suffered a separated AC joint in his shoulder on Oct. 2 at Penn State and has been deemed ''week-to-week'' ever since. He hasn't played yet, and has been in street clothes the last two games. 

Allen gave the same status with Tuttle, who has started the last two games in Penix's absence. He led the Hoosiers on a 15-play scoring drive on their first possession, but was injured on his touchdown throw to tight end Peyton Hendershot.

X-rays were negative at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, but an MRI revealed a few issues on Sunday.

"I don't know his status as of right now,'' Allen said of Tuttle's availability. "I would say what the MRI taught us, or showed us, was that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I guess those were probably the first words I was given. It definitely was enough to where it creates some unknowns for him to be able to know his status moving forward on a day-to-day basis.

"But hopefully he'll be able to recover from that as efficiently as possible.''

In Tuttle's two-plus games, he's completed 40 or 77 passes (51.9 percent) for 397 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. 

If he can't go, and that seems unlikely, Indiana then has to turn to true freshman Donaven McCulley, who's had a taste of action so far but is clearly getting thrown into the fire sooner than expected.

McCulley didn't arrive on campus until June, and once the season started he mostly worked with the scout team. Now, just like that, he could be starting. He's very athletic, and can run the ball, but his grasp for the entire playbook, especially with pass plays, is limited.

"I would say with Donaven, you feel good about certain things that you want to be able to do, and you want to have him ready with his skill set and the reps he's gotten at this point,'' Allen said. "Obviously, he prepared and practiced and took those reps as the No. 2 all week.

"You just go through and prepare the best that you can with your guys. And you only have so many reps each week. And, obviously, he was the guy taking those and getting yourself ready for that.''

McCulley had to be called upon quickly last Saturday, and in probably the worst possible situation. Not only was he facing an aggressive Ohio State defense, but it was also raining hard. 

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"You get to that moment, and obviously it happened very early in the game. And then it's raining, so it's really tough for a kid getting his first opportunity against such a high level opponent and tough weather conditions. 

"It just created a tough situation for him, without a doubt. But I thought he improved throughout the game, and I'm glad he got all those reps. It will definitely pay dividends moving forward, no matter how much he has to play in future. I thought he got more comfortable doing some things, and he made some nice runs and took some big hits and popped back up and made some throws. He just has to continue to grow with that. It's really about just building things around what he feels comfortable and can function at a high level and be able to do things he needs to do to help us win a football game.''

Allen and Indiana offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan both said that McCulley worked on a limited number of packages during the week, just in case, And with Tuttle out so soon, a lot fell on his shoulders quickly. 

"When I talk about certain packages for him, there's a lot within those packages that he will be able to do,'' Allen said. "And the bottom line is that he was No. 2. He took every single No. 2 rep throughout the week. The bottom line is that he took those practice reps, and we went to the things he felt he was comfortable doing where he was at in his development.

"To me, you've got to be able to execute those, and we didn't execute those at the highest level possible, in my opinion. Obviously, the results speak for themselves. But, you know, obviously it's a challenging situation for us to be in at this point in that room. We have those guys that are there, and they've got to be ready to play. But he was obviously the guy that took those reps as we went through each day in practice and then being able to take that from the practice field to the game field is what has to happen. Obviously, he was thrown into a tough situation after the first drive of the game.''

Indiana also used walk-on Grant Gremel at quarterback. The Noblesville, Ind. native is in his third year in the program and knows the system well. Allen and Sheridan thought he might be a better option on certain pass played. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 9 yards.

"Grant took some reps as well during the week,, especially more of the third down situations, passing situations,'' Allen said. "That's why Grant played, because he had certain things we thought he could do well as well. So we didn't make a big deal about it leading up to it, but if it was necessary for him to be in there, because he was ready to do that. And that's why he played.'' 

McCulley and Gremel will get a crash course this week leading up to the Maryland game. The Terrapins are allowing 29.7 points per game, which ranks No. 13 in the Big Ten. (Indiana is last at 30.7). So hopefully the young quarterbacks can have some success against the Terrapins defense.

"I think that with the unknowns that you have with Jack, you have to just fully prepare him in that regard mentally and physically, and from a reps perspective,'' Allen said. "And we'll see how the week plays itself out as far as how much that happens with Jack.

"Donaven needs to get as many reps as possible. So you have to have that mindset, he's going to be the guy, and then we'll see what happens. But the bottom line is, that would be the approach, to get him ready and get Grant ready as well. Those two guys have to be getting the majority of the reps and getting themselves in position to play. That's going to be the approach.

"I think it does need to be accelerated. When he wasn't the No. 2, he was getting some reps, but not a lot. And I think, too, being a guy that was a three-sport athlete guy that just didn't sit around and play football in his offseason, he was playing other sports, which is fine. That's part of his past and that's part of who he is and makes him as athletic as he is, but it also created a situation where he did not have a lot of the rep base that maybe other guys may have. He's a talented athlete that hasn't played a lot of college football, but he's a big kid, tall and athletic, and we just have to build things around what he is best at and allows him to be successful. That's the objective. That's the goal. And that's the charge for our guys. He's been working hard on that these last couple days, and that will continue.''

Indiana is 2-5 on the season, and 0-4 in the Big Ten. All five losses have come to teams that were ranked No. 8 or higher at some point this season. In the two wins against unranked foes, the Indiana offense scored 56 points against Idaho and 33 against Western Kentucky. 

In their four Big Ten losses, they have scored a TOTAL of 28 points, a 7.0 average that is the worst in the league.

Saturday's game starts at Noon ET, and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.