Nate Sudfeld: The Journey of Indiana’s Historic QB


Success is a fickle thing.

When storied, top-tier programs with high expectations fall even a few inches short of those goals, heads often roll – as we saw with Georgia “parting ways” with head coach Mark Richt after a 9-3 record or LSU’s almost-goodbye with Les Miles.

By: Cory Burrell

But for Indiana, a perennial also-ran in the Big Ten, a 6-6 record and the chance for the Hoosier’s first bowl win in almost a decade is a potential sign of improvement. This season’s comes in large part of the back of senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, the most prolific passer in school history by nearly every measure. Sudfeld gave a struggling Indiana program hope for the future – now he will get a chance to see if he can measure up at the NFL level.

Sudfeld received some noteworthy recruiting coming out of high school. According to 24/7 Sports, he ranked as a three-star recruit among the top 25 pro-style quarterbacks in the nation. While he was originally considering Arizona, Sudfeld eventually landed with Indiana.

Indiana netting Sudfeld was considered a huge boon for the Hoosiers, but Sudfeld initially faced a roster crowded with quarterbacks. In 2012, incumbent starter Tre Roberson held the position until he broke his leg, cutting his season short very early. Even after Roberson’s injury, sophomore Cameron Coffman was the first-string QB the whole season.

Still, Sudfeld did manage to find time in relief of Coffman – time he used to the best of his abilities. With only 82 pass attempts, Sudfeld threw for seven touchdowns, 632 yards, and just one interception on the year. He managed to earn a co-Big Ten freshman of the week honors for a 172 yard, two touchdown performance against Ball State, where Sudfeld played only the fourth quarter.

The next season, Roberson returned and initially split time with Sudfeld. But the “split” ended up not last very long, with Sudfeld eventually starting eight of the Hoosier’s 12 games and ending with 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 2014, Sudfeld’s junior season, both Roberson and Coffman transferred and Sudfeld finally earned the starter spot undisputedly.

Indiana hoped 2014, the first full season with one undisputed starting quarterback at the helm, would let them break the string of losing season that dated back to 2007 – their last winning season. Early results were promising – Indiana went 3-2, including a win over a ranked Missouri team, and were poised to enter the bulk of conference play in form. But Sudfeld suffered an injury to his shoulder halfway through the season. The injury knocked Sudfeld out for the season and dashed any hopes for a quality season by Indiana. Sudfeld’s backup, Zander Diamont, struggled to keep the Hoosier’s offense moving and the 3-2 start ended with a 1-6 slide.

Sudfeld recovered and finally gave Indiana the full, successful season he was capable of this year. He tallied the most touchdowns (29) and yards (3,225) of any player in the Big Ten and led the Hoosiers with a score of knocking off a number of quality teams, including Iowa, Michigan, and even the former number-one team in the nation, Ohio State.

“He’s a kid who’s almost put an entire program on his back from a leadership standpoint, from him having to play well every single week to give us a chance to win, and for the most part he has,” offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said about Sudfeld’s impact this season in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.

Indiana matches up against Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl, a chance for Indiana to get a bowl win that has eluded them since 1991. For Indiana, it will be the culmination of quarterback who has been historically good for the school, and possibly a turning point for the program as a whole. For Sudfeld, it will be the bittersweet moment to cap off his collegiate career.

“Knowing this is my last game, I’m kind of getting a little sentimental,” Sudfeld said. “I’m really enjoying the time I have with my teammates. I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss it. But at the same time, I’m so excited about this extra few weeks.”

Sudfeld ranks 5th among all senior quarterbacks on Optimum Scouting’s draft board.

Numbers to know about Nate Sudfeld:

  • .500: If Sudfeld can lead Indiana to a win against Duke, the Hoosiers will earn their first winning season since 2007. It will be just the sixth winning season for Indiana since 1990.
  • 10: The 2015 Pinstripe bowl will be 10th bowl game Indiana has ever appeared in. Rutgers is now the only current Big Ten team that has appeared in fewer than 10 bowl games (they have appeared in nine, with a 6-3 record).
  • 10 – 1: When Indiana trailed this season, the Hoosiers often turned to Sudfeld’s arm to attempt a comeback. Sudfeld rarely disappointed – when the Hoosiers were behind on the scoreboard, Sudfeld threw for 1,482 yards and completed 58.8 percent of his passes, all with a sparkling 10-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
  • 8: Sudfeld was only fifth in the Big Ten in passing attempts, but he certainly made the most of every throw. Sudfeld averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt, the best mark in the conference. Sudfeld was also ninth in the nation in adjusted yards per pass attempt with an adjusted average of 9.5 yards per attempt.
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