Back in January, Indiana was desperate to land another quarterback.
The Hoosiers had Tre Roberson, who emerged out of a crowd to seize the starting job as a true freshman. But in part because of that, Dusty Kiel and Ed Wright-Baker transferred. One-time star recruit Gunner Kiel had decommitted, eventually winding up at Notre Dame.
Roberson was the only scholarship signal-caller left on the roster. So the IU coaches called Arizona Western junior college quarterback Cameron Coffman to see if he was interested. Luckily, Coffman was just as desperate as the Hoosiers and committed before he'd ever seen Indiana's campus and without any prior relationship to the school.
"We were scrambling," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said Tuesday. "It was pure necessity and pure luck. We're very thankful he's here."
Where would the Hoosiers be without that move? Roberson broke his lower leg in Saturday's win over UMass, thrusting Coffman into the starting role. Coffman went through spring practice with Indiana and pushed Roberson this offseason, so the coaching staff feels comfortable with him at the controls.
He's not the same type of quarterback as Roberson, a great athlete who ran for 133 yards and three touchdowns last week, including a 50- and 39-yard score. But Coffman is viewed as a more accurate passer. Wilson has made no secret of his desire to improve the Hoosiers' passing proficiency.
"Tre makes a little bit more happen with his feet," Wilson said. "At the same time, Cam's a good enough athlete that we can probably do some of that. But Cam's probably more of a thrower. He has little bit more potential to be more polished there."
Coffman replaced Roberson after the first-half injury last week and finished 16-of-22 for 159 yards and a score.
He's from Peculiar, Mo., and it's kind of peculiar that he didn't have a Division I home last winter. Coffman's father, Paul, played tight end at Kansas State and for the Green Bay Packers. His brother, Chase, was a star tight end at Missouri who played for the Cincinnati Bengals. Another brother, Carson, was a K-State quarterback.
Coffman had several major scholarship offers out of high school but was waiting on potential opportunities at powerhouse schools like Alabama and LSU. Unfortunately, he waited too long and those offers didn't arrive, leaving himself without a lot of options. So he headed to junior college in an attempt to boost his stock. He led Arizona Western to the junior college national title game, throwing for 291 yards and four touchdowns in a loss. Still, no big-time programs came calling until he heard from Indiana out of the blue.
IU did not make Coffman available to the media this week for interviews. Wilson is attempting to limit distractions for his 2-0 team, which will get its toughest test of the season Saturday against Ball State. The Cardinals have won their last two meetings against Indiana.
"They have as much talent as we do, and maybe more," Wilson said.
The Hoosiers will have to play their best game of the season to get to 3-0. And they'll have a new starting quarterback -- one they're pretty glad they lucked into last January.
"It's a tough deal for Tre and our guys love him and miss him," Wilson said. "But we're moving forward in a strong way."