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For Indiana quarterback Michael Penix, the wait (and weight) continues



LOUISVILLE, Ky. — You want Heisman Trophy odds, the fine folks at CircaSports have Heisman odds for the 2020 season.

You can obviously find Trevor Lawrence of Clemson (bet $100 to win $700) or Justin Fields of Ohio State (bet $100 to win $550).

Keep digging. CircaSports calculated odds on 367 guys.

There’s Micale Cunningham of Louisville as well as his teammate Javian Hawkins. If you like Hawkins, a running back, your $100 investment would turn into $12,500 if he strikes the Heisman pose, the way Lamar Jackson did. For Cunningham, the quarterback, the return is $10,000 on $100.

If you love long-shots, here is another name to consider:

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr, who retreated to his family home in Tampa, Fla., waiting out the novel coronavirus.

“Whenever you have limited resources and adversity out there, sometimes people change their ways,” Penix said in a teleconference arranged by the IU athletics department Tuesday.

“That’s something I’ve been working on that I don’t do.”

Penix will start the 2020 season at the same Heisman odds as Hawkins — win $12,500 on a $100 wager. But if Indiana does something totally ridiculous, like steal its season-opening Friday night game at Wisconsin Sept. 4, you might beat the rush and get a bargain.

“Mike Penix can do it all — read (defenses), accuracy,” said Tiawan Mullen, a top defensive back on coach Tom Allen’s IU team. “Mike Penix can do it all.

“He’s a great leader. I feel like he’s going to take us far this season. The next step for IU football is to keep building, that we can be consistent, that after one (winning) year, we’re not going to go backwards.”

OK, Penix is a certified Heisman longshot. So are about 360 guys on the CircaSports list. Anthony Thompson is the only Indiana player to make it to New York City for the Heisman ceremony.

The novel coronavirus put football on hold. We’ve been encouraged to use our imaginations.

Raise your hand if you had Obi Toppin of Dayton as your college basketball player of the year last November.

I’ll confidently make the argument that Penix will be one of the top storylines in the Big Ten as Indiana tries to improve on its eight-win season.

With some quarterbacks, people track their completion percentage. With Penix, they track his weight, especially after he added more than 15 pounds to his narrow, 6-foot-3 frame.

Penix is pushing 220 pounds while retaining the quickness that made him a dangerous runner. He was closer to 190 when he de-committed from Tennessee and signed with IU before the 2018 season.

IU coach Tom Allen recruited Aaron Wellman from the New York Giants to direct the football program’s athletic performance staff. Yes, from the NFL franchise from New York City to Bloomington.

Wellman and the IU training staff directed Penix to maintain his body mass, a concern generated by the knee (2018) and shoulder (2019) injuries that Penix suffered the last two seasons.

Penix said he was 100 percent before Indiana canceled classes and spring football practice because of the novel coronavirus last month.

He returned to Tampa, where he said there has been one benefit to returning home — his mother is a fantastic cook.

“My weight has definitely been staying the same or if not gone up a little bit,” he said “I’m for sure not losing any weight.

“I know that’s something I have to continue to push on That’s a big factor that I push myself on. I just can’t go out and not come back at my (proper) weight. That would be letting my team down and that’s just not something I’m going to do.”

In 2019, Penix played in six games and completed at least 60 percent of his throws in all of them, including a 33 of 42 (78.6 percent) performance against Michigan State. Twice he was voted Big Ten freshman of the week.

He won five games and pushed veteran quarterback Peyton Ramsey to the bench, starting with the season opener against Ball State.

But for Penix, the 2019 season ended the way his 2018 season ended — with an injury.

He missed the Hoosiers’ final four games. It was Ramsey who directed IU past Purdue for the the Old Oaken Bucket as well as their eighth victory. It was Ramsey who nearly delivered a victory over Tennessee in the Gator Bowl.

As good as Ramsey was, Penix remained the Future. Ramsey realized that. He took advantage of his graduate transfer status and jumped to Northwestern.

Now it’s up to Penix to lead the team — and remain healthy. Ramsey is not around as a safety net this season.

“I’m definitely ready,” Penix said. “There’s nothing holding me back now.”

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