BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Spring football is a critical time for young quarterbacks to get in a lot of work, and Indiana's Dexter Williams was really looking forward to taking advantage of his opportunities.
Williams, a freshman from Macon, Ga., figured to plenty reps this spring because starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is recovering from a torn ACL and not participating in the 15 spring workouts. Williams and Jack Tuttle are the only two quarterback on scholarship this spring.
But during Indiana's first week of practice, Williams also tore an ACL in a non-contact situation. He'll have surgery in a few weeks and likely will miss the 2021 regular season.
"That was a big blow to him, and to us,'' Indiana coach Tom Allen said of Williams' injury. "It happened in a non-contact situation and is one of those things that's hard to explain. He will be out and having surgery in a couple of weeks. We have to be able to continue to develop the quarterback room and every other position as well.''
This shouldn't be a problem for the fall because Penix is expected to be full strength by September and highly touted recruit Donaven McCulley from Indianapolis will be on campus, too. McCulley is playing for a basketball state championship for Lawrence North next Saturday.
So for Indiana's remaining nine workouts, including a potential spring game, it will Tuttle and three walk-ons – Zack Merrill, Grant Gremel, and Will Jontz – getting all the work at quarterback.
"At the same time, we have three walk-ons that are in our program right now that all do a really good job. All three were part of our scrimmage and are good, solid players that have a high care factor,'' Allen said. 'They all got several reps on Saturday, quite a few reps actually, and they did some good things. That's why we go out and recruit a room full of guys that are bought in and doing the little things right and take a bunch of reps. They've done a really good job this spring. That has to continue.''
With Williams down, McCulley will need to get ready quickly in the fall. There's no doubt that sometimes a team needs to go three-deep at that position. Last year, Penix got hurt in the Maryland game and Tuttle started his first game at Wisconsin. He got hurt in that game, and Williams was ready to go in, after not taking a snap all season. Tuttle returned from the locker room, though, and guided the Hoosiers to a win over Wisconsin.
"It definitely increases the need for Donaven McCulley to come in and be ready to go, which I have full confidence that he will,'' Allen said. "I am excited for him and his opportunity that this creates.
Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said that the mental reps Williams gets the rest of the spring will still help with his development
“We’re going to continue to develop Dexter so that his understanding of what we’re doing offensively continues to grow, continues to develop,” Sheridan said. “He has a great attitude and a great heart and he’s a great kid, and we expect him to come back stronger than ever.”
Allen was asked about finding more depth in the transfer portal, and he said it has been discussed. He does feel good about the group he has, though, and isn't worried – at least not yet – about the fall.
But if Penix is slow to recover, a bit more experience in that room might help.
"We're definitely not going to leave any options off the table yet,'' Allen said. "We're still looking at everything possible to do what's best for our program and have everything covered for the fall so we can have a great football season.''