BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — His teammates say he looks better than ever, and his coaches claim he has a bigger sense of urgency than ever before.
As for Indiana University senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, he said he is just happy to be back playing football again after a shoulder injury cost him the second half of the 2014 season.
Speaking at the podium Saturday at Indiana's Football Media Day at Memorial Stadium, Sudfeld said he feels great. The 6-6 senior from Modesto, California suffered an injury to his non-throwing left shoulder Oct. 11 at Iowa when he was driven to the ground after a hard hit.
Sudfeld said Saturday he was feeling good by the spring but really believed he has been game ready since about early June.
"Starting spring ball I was feeling pretty good but I still had a few issues with (the shoulder) and I'm not sure I could have quite played a game yet and taken some hits," Sudfeld said. "But right around June, I was really feeling good and practicing with Craig (head football athletic trainer Craig Tweedy) where he would hit me with a bag on the shoulder.
"That's when I realized I was feeling pretty good. I think I could have played a game quite a while ago."
With Sudfeld in the lineup a year ago, IU had opened the season with a 3-2 record including a victory at No. 18 Missouri before the then-junior quarterback was injured in the second quarter of IU's 45-29 loss to Iowa. Without Sudfeld, the Hoosiers were forced to go to true freshman Zander Diamont. IU lost the next five games in a row before beating Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket game to finish the season 4-8.
But as IU opened preseason training camp on Thursday it did so with a proven quarterback who ranks second in program history in completion percentage at 60.6 percent and has started 14 games in his IU career.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Ricky Jones, who was in the same recruiting class with Sudfeld in 2012, said his teammate has come back stronger and more accurate than ever.
"This is the best I have ever seen Nate right now," Jones said. "I even wrote it on Twitter. He's throwing dimes on every ball. Even if we had run a bad route he's putting the ball right in the pocket. It's going to be special. I like how he is throwing the ball right now."
IU offensive coordinator Kevin Johns likes what he has seen, too. Johns said Sudfeld just appears even more ready this season than ever before.
"I think he's back," said Johns, in his fifth season with the Hoosiers. "I think that he is physically throwing the ball as well as he has ever thrown it. The injury being his non-throwing shoulder helped a lot so he didn't lose a lot of development in the passing game."
But Johns said there's something else that's better with Sudfeld even more than his ability to throw hard, crisp and accurate passes.
"He just has a different focus, a different sense of urgency if you will," Johns said. "It's pretty cool. I've never seen him have it. When he's on the field he's into it. When he was a freshman I was always challenging to be like this. He would have it for 15 minutes in the 7-on-7 time but by the end of the team period he would be drifting. He just wasn't as good.
"Now he's taking every rep with an extreme sense of focus and it has made a difference in his game."
Sudfeld, who is on the watch lists for both the 2015 Maxwell Award and the Wuerffel Trophy, said he's ready to get back at it. IU opens the regular season in less than a month, Sept. 5 against Southern Illinois.
"I feel great," Sudfeld said. "It has been a long recovery and I've had to be patient but our training staff has done an unbelievable job. There were days when I was a little frustrated and wishing I was 100 percent but they really pushed me. Now, I'm just thrilled to be out there and playing again."