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Indiana Quarterback Competition: Connor Bazelak's Fresh Start

Indiana coach Tom Allen said he would like to choose a starting quarterback after the team's second scrimmage, but it won't be announced to the public until kickoff against Illinois on Sept. 2. Connor Bazelak spoke to the media for the first time this season on Friday, offering his prospective on the competition.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Connor Bazelak began his 2021 campaign at Missouri in a groove, tossing nine touchdown passes compared to just one interception across the first three games.

But the Tigers would lose three of their next four games, and Bazelak's hot start took a turn for the worse with three touchdowns and six interceptions in this stretch. After an up and down start, Missouri approached a crucial road trip to Vanderbilt on Oct. 30 with a 3-4 record.

Bazelak rolled to his left on an option play midway through the fourth quarter, but the Vanderbilt defensive front burst through the line, taking away both the running back pitch and quarterback run. Bazelak hit the ground hard for a loss, hobbling off the field under his own power.

His 2021 campaign had already been anything but consistent, and the grade two and a half hamstring injury Bazelak just suffered was about to complicate things even more.

"Couldn't run, but nobody cares," Bazelak said. "You go out there and you got to win games. That's what they want."

Bazelak was ruled out the following week against No. 1 Georgia, but returned to action at home against South Carolina as the Tigers pushed for bowl eligibility. He completed 15-of-23 passes for 180 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. With Bazelak clearly not 100 percent, the Tigers leaned on running back Tyler Badie to carry the load, rushing 34 times for 209 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's 31-28 win.

Missouri eked out a 24-23 win against Florida to become bowl-eligible, as Bazelak connected on 57.7 percent of passes for 165 yards and one score. On Nov. 26 at Arkansas, Bazelak went 10-for-26 for just 65 yards and an interception. Badie's 41 carries, 219 yards and a touchdown weren't enough either, as Missouri fell 34-17.

This turned out to be Bazelak's final game at Missouri as Brady Cook was named the starter for the Armed Forces Bowl against Army. Bazelak announced his intentions to transfer the day after Missouri's 24-22 loss to Army, and committed to Indiana on Jan. 6. 

It's a chance for a fresh start for Bazelak after three years at Missouri, which included SEC Co-Freshman of the Year honors in 2020. Bazelak arrived in Bloomington last spring, and he's in the midst of a quarterback competition with Jack Tuttle, who has three years of experience at Indiana. So far, Bazelak is enjoying his new home.

"I love it here," Bazelak said. "The players have been awesome, super welcoming this spring, and can't say enough about coach Allen. He's an unbelievable coach, man and leader, and coach [Walt] Bell has been great. Just the hospitality has been awesome, and I think it's been a great fit for me."

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As for the hamstring injury that he battled through in 2021, Bazelak said it's all healed and he feels great now. While Indiana won't have many designed quarterback runs under new offensive coordinator Walt Bell, Bazelak said his ability to create plays when the pocket breaks is an underrated part of his game.

Like Tuttle, Bazelak is learning a new offense for the third time in his college career. He agrees with Tuttle, saying prior experience running an offense and commanding the huddle makes this process easier each time. Bazelak is still working to fully grasp the offense, but learning under Bell has made for a smooth transition so far.

"Coach Bell just being so open to having us come into the office and teaching us anything about the offense," Bazelak said. "Whatever we want, he's there for us. He's been great."

Bazelak was happy to see the return of wide receiver D.J. Matthews, who started practicing with the team during fall camp after recovering from an ACL tear last season. Bazelak said he hit Matthews with two deep throws in their first practice together.

"'I'm like, 'Wow, this guy can play," Bazelak said. "I didn't get to see that in the spring so it's kind of a relief to have [Matthews] back."

Indiana had its first scrimmage of fall camp on Friday, and Bazelak likes where is game is at roughly three weeks before the season. He said he feels like he's throwing the ball well, mixing in deep shots while also checking the ball down when he feels pressure. Indiana returns three defensive backs with All-Big Ten accolades, who have challenged Bazelak this fall.

"Tiawan [Mullen] and Jaylin Williams make it incredibly hard to throw the ball outside, they're really good corners," Bazelak said. "Super disciplined in everything they do and it makes it hard on us, but it will make it easier on us when it comes to game time."

Indiana coach Tom Allen said three main criteria will be considered in the process of naming the starter: command of the offense, protecting the football and winning the team over.

Indiana had its first scrimmage of the fall on Friday, and Allen said he would like to choose a starting quarterback after the team's second scrimmage. Ultimately, the decision won't be announced to the public until kickoff against Illinois on Sept. 2.

"The bottom line is we will know, he will know and the team will know because game one is Big Ten football right out of the gate," Allen said. "We all know that and understand what’s at stake.”

  • INDIANA QB COMPETITION: JACK TUTTLE: Indiana coach Tom Allen said he would like to choose a starting quarterback after the team's second scrimmage, but it won't be announced to the public until kickoff against Illinois on Sept. 2. Jack Tuttle spoke to the media for the first time this season on Friday, offering his prospective on the competition. CLICK HERE
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