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2018 Big Ten Football Position Preview: Quarterbacks

This might not be the Year Of The Quarterback.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Wisconsin vs Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We do not live in the golden age of Big Ten quarterbacking.

I wrote this up last year and some of my predictions are quite wrong in hindsight, while others were quite wrong right off the bat. We do have diversity here however: there are emerging dual-threat playmakers, steady experienced game managers, a couple gunslingers, some dumpster fires of mystery...We’ve really run the whole gamut here.

Let’s get to it.

1: Trace McSorley, Penn State Nittany Lions

McSorley shouldered a lot of the offensive load last season for the Nittany Lions as The Trebuchet proved to have surprisingly good wheels. Though Joe Moorhead and Saquon Barkley have departed, McSorley has a versatile skill set that should allow him to adapt to any role he is assigned, especially if that role is “siege engine.” No returning quarterback has more experience in big-time high stakes games, and expect big chunks of yardage to be found at the end of his rainbows.

2: Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State Buckeyes

If I’m being perfectly honest, Haskins will probably have a better season than McSorley because of the tremendous amount of talent around him. He showcased great physical skills as a J.T. Barrett stunt double and resembles the prototypical Urban Meyer quarterback. The only knocks on him are that his only playing experience so far has come in garbage time, but he’s the next subject of the question “when will this Ohio State quarterback finally graduate?”

3: Brian Lewerke, Michigan State Spartans

Heading into his junior year, Lewerke has already set several program passing records as the Spartans showed an increase willingness to sling the ball around. The key to his success will be the offensive line’s ability to pass block, as he’s faced a lot of pressure and made numerous mistakes as a result. Still, he’s shown that he can carry the offense. What remains to be seen is how far he can carry the offense if the poor rushing continues.

4: Nathan Stanley, Iowa Hawkeyes

In his first full year as a starter, Stanley showed the ability to throw all over the field, and though he was wildly inaccurate in a couple of bad losses, he was very good at avoiding mistakes. He threw 26 touchdowns to 6 interceptions and never threw more than 1 pick in a game. Stanley has enough deep ball skill to make defenses respect the pass, which is all Iowa ever really needs.

5: Clayton Thorson, Northwestern Wildcats

That Thorson is this high should tell you volumes about the state of quarterbacking in the Big Ten, but such is life. Northwestern likes to plod on offense with a heavy dosage of running the ball and conservative but plentiful passing, so while Thorson’s 450 or so attempts will seem high, it’s a far cry from Brett Basanez chucking 60 a game. Thorson will also be asked to run some extremely inane speed option plays, and if Mick McCall is trying to get one yard on 4th and 2 there’s nobody better. Expect Thorson to average about 5 yards per attempt, take quite a few sacks, throw some interceptions, have a total meltdown early in the season and then make you wonder how he keeps doing just enough for Northwestern to win in November.

6: David Blough / Elijah Sindelar, Purdue Boilermakers

The two-headed monster returns to full health, and while I expect Blough to win the job, Sindelar sure did sling it against Arizona. Both are pro-style quarterbacks but Blough is much more of a running threat. Blough’s been through some tough times and if adversity builds character, Blough has it in spades. They combined to take 33 sacks and they might have to be prepared to take a few more this year.

7: Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin Badgers

Yes, really. Despite tossing 15 picks, Hornibrook managed 8.31 yards per attempt and proved to be a competent game manager behind a great running game and a good receiving corps. He’s not asked to do a huge amount, but he does what’s needed of him. To call him a game manager implies that no game in which he is involved should become unmanageable, and that was true last year. With Quintez Cephus returning, the receiving corps should enable him to do the same in 2018.

8: ACL Zombies Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, Maryland Terrapins

These poor unfortunate souls have very small data sets so far, but I believe either one could end up being serious weapons in a new Matt Canada offense...if they’ve fully recovered. In limited game action, Pigrome was instrumental in the clowning of Texas that kicked off the season and I think he’ll benefit from a talented offensive line and a whimsical offense.

9: Peyton Ramsey, Indiana Hoosiers

Ramsey split time with Richard Lagow for much of last year, but got a few games to prove he was a dynamic dual-threat playmaker before suffering a season-ending injury. He has a limited sample size but high upside as the most important offensive player for the Hoosiers in 2018.

10: Heisman McHeismanson, Michigan Wolverines

At this point, Shea Patterson still hasn’t arrived in Ann Arbor, Wilton Speight still hasn’t officially left, Alex Malzone has, Brandon Peters is the presumed starter and Dylan McCaffrey is on a shelf with his packaging unopened (NRFB). Whoever is announced as the starter will almost immediately be lauded as a high-upside prospect who could become Andrew Luck. What else seems certain is that this quarterback will disappoint, because that’s just how it goes for this iteration of Michigan football.

11: Scott Frost, Nebraska Cornhuskers

Frost has not played a college football game in over 20 years, but displayed great poise and leadership as the Huskers’ quarterback and he’s probably out of eligibility but there’s a bunch of things that could happen here. Tanner Lee will likely go to the NFL draft, so this competition will be between pro-style Patrick O’Brien, redshirt freshman pro-style quarterback Tristan Gebbia and true freshman Taylor Isaiah Adrian Martinez. Of the three, Martinez is probably closest to the type of quarterback Frost wants to start, but this quarterback platoon is a complete unknown

12: Vic Viramontes, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Well, after dumping Brennan Armstrong and Creaning Demry Croft, the Golden Gophers turn to onetime Michigan commit Vic Viramontes, a junior college quarterback with some wheels on him. It’s probably going to be a very emotional and inspiring journey that BTN will cover with reflective piano in the background.

13: Somebody, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

With a new offensive coordinator yet again, everything’s up in the air here. Kyle Bolin was a disappointment, Gio Rescigno didn’t break through known limitations, and Jonathan Lewis looked like a pretty big project as he went 14 for 38 in limited action throughout the season. At first, IMG Academy’s Artur Sitkowski seemed to be the quarterback recruit they needed, but during his senior season he was benched for future Minnesota walk-on Zack Annexstad. Still, could be worse.

14: Twitch Plays Quarterback, Illinois Fighting Illini

Somehow, this quarterback battle is even less inspiring than last year’s between Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. Crouch was so bad he was demoted to tight end, while George’s limitations soon became apparent and project freshman Cam Thomas was pressed into action. Crouch has retired and George has transferred, leaving one scholarship quarterback for spring ball. Thomas is a fast and shifty runner but really struggles throwing to his left or 20+ yards downfield...which takes away a lot of the field. Four star JUCO player Dwayne Lawson will probably never suit up here as Illinois admissions once again showed everyone how big their balls are. High 3 star recruits Coran Taylor and MJ Rivers join the fold in the fall and are both dual-threat guys with much better passing mechanics than Thomas, and yesterday I was surprised to learn that someone named A.J. Bush was transferring from Virginia Tech.

But the player I think will end up being the starting quarterback is Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins, who at this point has not announced a transfer destination but has announced he will graduate-transfer. Having his former offensive coordinator can’t hurt.

This is going to be a mess.


Who’s the best quarterback in the Big Ten?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Trace McSorley
    (257 votes)
  • 12%
    Dwayne Haskins
    (81 votes)
  • 33%
    Brian Lewerke
    (219 votes)
  • 8%
    Nathan Stanley
    (56 votes)
  • 3%
    Clayton Thorson
    (25 votes)
  • 2%
    Tim Brasic
    (19 votes)
657 votes total Vote Now