Northwestern adds ex-Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey to boost struggling offense

Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Former Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey is staying in the Big Ten. 

Ramsey announced Monday that he will finish off his college career at Northwestern. As a graduate transfer, Ramsey will be immediately eligible to play in 2020 for the Wildcats. 

“I would like to thank everyone at Indiana University for allowing me to live out my dream of playing college football. I would especially like to thank my teammates that pushed me, encouraged me, and trusted me,” Ramsey said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Sometimes the road to realizing your dreams can take you in a different direction than you expected. With that being said, I would like to announce my decision to continue my playing career at Northwestern University. I am grateful to Coach Fitz and his entire staff for this opportunity. I can’t wait to get started.”

Ramsey joins crowded QB room

Northwestern’s offensive output was miserable in 2019 and Ramsey, who started 23 games at IU, represents a much-needed upgrade in talent at the quarterback position. Northwestern ranked No. 126 (out of 130 FBS teams) in the country in passing offense, averaging a measly 117 yards through the air per game. 

Four different players – Aidan Smith, Hunter Johnson, Andrew Marty and TJ Green — had passing attempts for Northwestern last season. With the exception of Green, who went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1, all struggled mightily. The struggles of Johnson, a highly-touted transfer from Clemson, were the most notable.

Those four are all back in camp for NU, but Ramsey immediately jumps to the front of the pack as the favorite to start for head coach Pat Fitzgerald in 2020. 

Ramsey started games in each of the last three seasons at IU. He appeared in eight games with four starts in 2017 as a redshirt freshman, throwing for 1,252 yards and 10 touchdowns. He returned as IU’s starter in 2018 and threw for 2,875 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 starts. 

Ahead of 2019, Ramsey ended up losing the starting job to talented redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. But when Penix Jr. suffered a season-ending injury, Ramsey returned to the top of the depth chart and helped the Hoosiers reach the eight-win mark for the first time since 1993. With Penix Jr. set to return in 2020, Ramsey, who completed 68 percent of his throws in 2019, decided to move on to another school for his final year of eligibility. 

Can Ramsey bring boost to struggling Northwestern offense?

To put in perspective just how poorly the Northwestern offense performed in 2019, consider that the only teams with worse passing attacks were Kentucky, a team that started a wide receiver at QB, and three teams (Navy, Army and Georgia Southern) that run an option-based offense. 

One option team, Air Force, actually had a better passing average — 123.3 yards per game — while attempting just 126 passes for 1,602 yards in 13 games. By comparison, Northwestern attempted 312 passes for 1,404 yards in 12 games. 

The team’s 3-9 record was the worst in Fitzgerald’s 14-year run as the head coach of his alma mater. Those struggles prompted changes.

Most notably, Fitzgerald moved on from longtime offensive coordinator Mick McCall and brought in Mike Bajakian as OC. Bajakian spent the 2019 season at Boston College and also has been the OC at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee. He has experience as a quarterbacks coach in the NFL, too. 

Other QB movement in college football

There has been plenty of quarterback movement in college football this offseason. 

Other notable graduate transfers include Jamie Newman (Wake Forest to Georgia), D’Eriq King (Houston to Miami), K.J. Costello (Stanford to Mississippi State), Jake Bentley (South Carolina to Utah), Chase Brice (Clemson to Duke) and Feleipe Franks (Florida to Arkansas).

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