Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. on track in ACL recovery to start opener

It’s been a long road for Michael Penix Jr. to get back on the field for the Indiana Hoosiers, and now he’s about to get the news he’s been waiting for. Penix was injured in the final play of the Hoosiers’ season opener against Oregon, and returned to school to rehab the knee injury. Penix was rehabbing his knee at the same time he was trying to get his speed and agility back on track, and it appeared his hard work was starting to pay off.

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix made a remarkable comeback after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury that sidelined him for the 2017 season. Penix, who was the Hoosiers’ starter last season, is already out on the field working with strength and conditioning coaches, signalling that he’s on track for a comeback that could put him back on the field as soon as the season opener against Northwestern.

The 2018 season has gotten off to a rough start for the Indiana Hoosiers, but after two games without their starting quarterback, they are hopeful that a return to full health will provide a much-needed boost.

INDIA, BLOOMINGTON — Even if he doesn’t take a hit until September 4, Indiana expects quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to start the season opener against Iowa.

Penix’s comeback has the Hoosiers dreaming big once again.

Coach Tom Allen told reporters on Monday that Penix’s rehabilitation is on track, a move that may help the Hoosiers beat last year’s record.

Allen said Thursday, “We’ve been very open about our objectives, haven’t shied away from it.” “Last year, we finished second in the Big Ten East. Our goal is to compete in the Big Ten championship game and win it. Before it can happen, a lot of things must happen first.”

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It won’t be simple to repeat the sensational 2020 season.

For the first time since 1967, Indiana entered the top 10, produced its best conference record (6-1) in more than a half-century, and came within a hair of winning its third league championship.

The Hoosiers also understand the importance of having a healthy Penix on the field.

In overtime, his brilliant 2-point conversion run handed Indiana its second victory against long-time powerhouse Penn State. Penix passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns two weeks later, breaking Michigan’s 24-game losing skid. Two weeks later, he came up one touchdown short of leading Indiana back from a 28-point third-quarter hole against Ohio State. Nonetheless, his spectacular performance turned skeptics into believers.

Then, in November, Penix tore his ACL in his right knee, terminating his season for the third time and the second time he had torn the ACL in his right knee. While Indiana continued to win, Penix’s health was a nagging offseason concern.

He is scheduled to take part in the first session on Friday, but with one condition.

Nick Sheridan, the offensive coordinator, said, “We’re not going to tackle him.” “Mike isn’t going to be touched, so if we’re conducting a team exercise that could put him in danger, we’ll keep that in mind. I believe that every time you return to practice after an injury, you must be cautious since the volume and intensity of exercise is considerably greater.”

Sheridan believes that imaginative playcalling may help Penix minimize the huge shots he’s taken in the center of the field from larger defenders. Penix seems to be able to stay upright thanks to a new offensive line.

Penix seems to be unconcerned. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound redshirt junior went to the stage without a stutter or any visible concern of sustaining another injury on Thursday.

“What we want to show is that last year wasn’t a fluke, that we’re a squad capable of competing against anybody,” Penix said. “We have a lot of players who didn’t get a lot of playing time last year but will make huge plays this year. We know what we’re capable of, and now is the time to show it.”

Donaven McCulley, a 6-5, 200-pound freshman quarterback from Indianapolis, is one newcomer who may end up in the mix.

McCulley may have to play snaps with Penix limited from contact, backup quarterback Jack Tuttle recovering from shoulder surgery, and third-string quarterback Dexter Williams II sidelined after tearing his ACL in spring practice.

Sheridan said, “Donaven has to be ready to play yesterday.” “We need to make him ready to leave, as does everyone else in the room. I’m impressed with the toughness and leadership in the room. All we have to do now is make sure they’re all packed and ready to leave.”

The Hoosiers know there is no time to waste with the league opening less than a month away.

“There are a lot of expectations,” Allen said. “Going from believing, and I think we have a squad that believes, to now anticipating a particular result on game day has been the difficulty.”

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