It worked to a large degree last season, as the Hoosiers led the Big Ten in passing yards per game behind eight starts from Sudfeld and four from Roberson. And once again this offseason, the two battled and finished neck-and-neck after spring ball.
So it's not particularly surprising that one of the quarterbacks would get tired of the time-share agreement, given how quickly players at that position transfer these days at the first sign of trouble. But the timing of Wednesday afternoon's announcement that Roberson is leaving Indiana was stunning nonetheless.
No official reason was given for Roberson's transfer. With summer workouts under way, we don't know yet if Wilson let Roberson know that he planned to go with Sudfeld as his starter or if Roberson had other reasons to leave. But we definitely expected Roberson and Sudfeld to compete again in fall camp before any move like this would occur.
Wilson told me this spring that he and his coaching staff had to make sure to continue managing the situation properly. He said sometimes it was tougher for Roberson to outshine Sudfeld in practice because much of Roberson's game was based on his escapability and athleticism, two traits that often don't show up when the defense is not allowed to hit the quarterback. Roberson was also an important early recruit for Wilson as a star prep player from Indianapolis.
For his part, Roberson had said all the right things about the quarterback competition.
"We've figured it out," he told ESPN.com in April. "We're trying to separate, but it's hard to separate when the other one is really good. But we can coexist and we'll keep on working together."
Roberson looked like the future leader for the Hoosiers when he started five games as a true freshman in 2011. But he broke his leg in the second game of the 2012 season, forcing him to miss the rest of the year. Roberson started the opener last season against Indiana State, but Sudfeld took the vast majority of the snaps for the first several games. Roberson then had some big games later on, throwing for 288 yards and three scores against Michigan and compiling 427 total yards (273 passing, 154 rushing) and six touchdowns in the season finale against rival Purdue.
Expect Roberson to be a hot commodity on college football's version of the waiver wire, because he is a very good quarterback with mobility and two years of eligibility left. A lot of teams could definitely use that. (Too bad transferring within the conference is so difficult; Roberson could be an answer under center for teams like Wisconsin and Rutgers).
For Indiana, this is now unquestionably Sudfeld's team. That could be a good thing, as neither he nor the rest of the team will have to deal with quarterback uncertainty any more. The Hoosiers believe he is a legitimate future NFL passer; he's got a strong arm and threw for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns last season despite the time share.
But Indiana's depth at the position takes a major hit. The only other scholarship quarterback is true freshman and early enrollee Zander Diamont. He was a well-regarded recruit from Los Angeles, and Wilson has a knack for developing passers. But Diamont is rail thin and could use another year in the weight room.
Sudfeld, who also split time with the since-transferred Cam Coffman in 2012, has a great opportunity ahead of him. For the first time in a while, the Hoosiers quarterback situation has clarity, even if the way it happened was stunning.