Big Ten Football: Power Ranking the 2012 Quarterbacks

David Fidler Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2012

Big Ten Football: Power Ranking the 2012 Quarterbacks

0 of 12

    This season, almost all of the Big Ten teams will face a crossroads at quarterback.

    Whether it's the Penn State two-headed awfulness, Iowa's James Vandenberg proving he will no longer turn into jelly outside the state of Iowa or Nebraska's Taylor Martinez proving he knows how to throw a football, the Big Ten signal-callers have a lot to prove.

    In effect, the reality of this list is that one could make the case for No. 11 more appropriately sitting at No. 3, and No. 2 more appropriately moving to No. 9.

    About the only positions that are, in my opinion, not arguable are Nos. 12 and 1.

    Nonetheless, this is one person's power ranking of the Big Ten quarterbacks, as of this point in time—a few weeks before spring practice, five months before summer camp and six months before the before the first football game of the 2012 season.

    Of note, the number of asterisks next to a players' name indicates how many years he has started.

    There is a # next to his name if a player hasn't started consecutive years or if he didn't start last year.

    Players in italics are returning all-conference honorees.

    Finally, a lot can change in the next few months.

    This is based on what the rosters of Big Ten teams look like right now, as well as what we know right now.

Penn State Nittany Lions

1 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Matt McGloin (Sr)** or Rob Bolden (Jr)**

     

    Players in the Mix

    Paul Jones (So), Steven Bench (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    Penn State's issues with its two quarterbacks have been well-documented.

    In 135 passing attempts last season, Rob Bolden completed less than 40 percent of his passes.

    Matt McGloin was the better of the two, completing 54 percent and finishing 2011 with a 118.34 passer efficiency rating. However, McGloin was still the third-worst passer in the Big Ten, with a true freshman and a converted receiver as the only worse passers.

    Given that both McGloin and Bolden regressed from their 2010 performances, it is evident that the problem was the system and not the individuals.

    The question is will a new coach and new system fix what ails the junior and senior signal-callers?

    If not, it's going to be a long season in Happy Valley.

Indiana Hoosiers

2 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Tre Roberson (So)*

     

    Players in the Mix

    Cameron Coffman (JUCO transfer), Nathan Sudfeld (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    Last season, true freshman Roberson ascended the depth chart and started the Hoosiers' final five games. They lost those five games, but they lost six of their seven other games as well.

    More to the point, IU averaged 22 PPG in Roberson's starts compared to 21 PPG in the previous seven contests.

    Roberson finished the year having completed 57 percent of his passes for 937 yards, three touchdowns, six interceptions and a 110.99 passer efficiency rating. He also rushed for 426 yards, two touchdowns and 3.91 YPC.

    Roberson may have the tools to be another Antwaan Randle El, but he will need another year of polishing his passing game before he is ready to be anywhere near as dangerous as the former Indiana signal-caller.

    Lastly, depth is an issue for IU. Roberson is a dual-threat quarterback that is listed as just south of 190 pounds, There is potential for injuries there, and with only a JUCO transfer and true freshman on the bench, that is a recipe for trouble.

Michigan State Spartans

3 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Andrew Maxwell (Jr)

     

    Players in the Mix

    Connor Cook (RFr), Peter Badovinac (Sr)

     

    The Lowdown

    Maxwell has spent three seasons being groomed to take over for departed three-year starting signal-caller Kirk Cousins. He has been Cousins' backup for two seasons after redshirting his first year on campus.

    His garbage time stats are: 56.7 completion percentage, 294 yards, one touchdown and a 111.76 passer efficiency rating.

    Even in limited appearances, his improvement from year one to year two has been palpable. He completed 44 percent of 25 freshman year passing attempts. As a sophomore, he completed 69.2 percent of 26 attempts.

    His transition to the starting job will be made more difficult by the wholesale graduation of MSU's receiving corp.

    He also won't have any time to comfortably adjust to the starting gig, as the Spartans play Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State before September ends. On the bright side, all of those games will be in East Lansing.

    In short, we will know what Maxwell is made of by the time the Big Ten season rolls around.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

4 of 12

    Probable Starter

    MarQueis Gray (Sr)*

     

    Players in the Mix

    Max Shortell (So), Phillip Nelson (TrFr), Moses Alipate (Jr), Dexter Foreman (RFr), Mitch Leidner (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    MarQueis Gray is the same as he was when he came to Minnesota in 2008 as the third-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country (ahead of Robert Griffin III and Logan Thomas)—240 pounds of unlimited potential.

    After spending one year as a backup quarterback and one year as a full-time wide receiver, Gray became the starting signal-caller last year. The results were less-than-stellar.

    Gray finished with 1,495 yards passing, 50.7 completion percentage, eight touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 114.54 passer efficiency rating. He also had 966 yards rushing for 4.85 YPC and six touchdowns.

    The question is, did he improve?

    If stats are any indication, he did. In the first five games—he missed one game due to injury—he had a passer efficiency rating of 101.44. He also rushed for 371 yards and one touchdown.

    In the final six games, he had an efficiency rating of 122.91 and rushed for 595 yards and five touchdowns.

    If those numbers are indicative of improvements Gray has made, and if Gray can continue to move forward, Minnesota can have a productive offense in 2012.

    If not, the 111th-ranked scoring offense in the country couldn't get much worse.

Northwestern Wildcats

5 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Kain Colter (Jr)

     

    Players in the Mix

    Evan Watkins (Jr), Trevor Siemian (So), Zack Oliver (RFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    Colter, Watkins and Siemian all had legitimate game experience last year, so it is possible that Colter doesn't have the job locked up.

    Whoever takes over will likely be the next in what has become a factory for producing quality system quarterbacks—Dan Persa, Mike Kafka, C.J. Bacher, Brett Basanez.

    Last season, Colter, who split his time between quarterback and receiver, completed 66.7 percent of his 81 passing attempts for 669 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 654 yards, a 4.84 YPC and nine touchdowns. On top of that, he had 43 receptions.

    In short, Colter is an athlete.

    The problem is at 190 pounds, he is a small athlete that will be depended upon to shoulder NU's running game.

    This is where Watkins and Siemian come in.

    If Colter can stay healthy and be as productive in a full-time role as he was as a part-timer, he could be one of the best signal-callers in the Big Ten next season.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

6 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Taylor Martinez (Jr)**

     

    Players in the Mix

    Brion Carnes (So), Tommy Armstrong (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    In 2010, redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez completed 59.2 percent of his passes and had a 138.78 passer efficiency rating. He rushed for 965 yards, 5.96 YPC and 12 touchdowns.

    In 2011, sophomore Taylor Martinez completed 56.3 percent of his passes and had a 126.52 passer efficiency rating. He rushed for 874 yards, 4.62 YPC and nine touchdowns.

    Most importantly, Nebraska averaged 29.2 PPG in 2011. It averaged 30.9 PPG in 2010.

    It is also worth noting that Martinez was dinged up in 2010, and, in fact, missed one game.

    These numbers don't bode well for the oft-maligned signal-caller. It doesn't seem like he's making any progress.

    T-Magic can unquestionably be effective against lesser defenses, at which point he and the Husker offense can afford to be one-dimensional. On the other hand, the Husker offense, and particularly the passing game, stalls against anything approaching an elite defense.

    Against 2011's four ranked opponents, Martinez had an efficiency rating of 105.94. He rushed for 170 yards, 2.66 YPC and one touchdown.

    2012 will be a big year for Martinez. With most of his key receivers returning, Martinez will have to step up.

Ohio State Buckeyes

7 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Braxton Miller (So)*

     

    Players in the Mix

    Kenny Guiton (Jr), Cardale Jones (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    True freshman Braxton Miller became the full-time starter following last season's offensive no-show against Miami (FL),

    He didn't do badly, but OSU became decidedly one-dimensional with him under center.

    He finished the season with 157 passing attempts—the fewest of any Big Ten quarterback that started nine games or more.

    Miller completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,159 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 715 yards, 4.50 YPC and seven touchdowns.

    In 2012, more will be expected of Miller as a field general and a passer.

    It's hard to imagine he won't have an impressive career, especially now that he will run Urban Meyer's offense.

    The question is will he reach his full potential, and how long will it take to get there?

Wisconsin Badgers

8 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Danny O'Brien (Jr transfer from University of Maryland)

     

    Players in the Mix

    Joe Brennan (So), Curt Phillips (Sr), John Budmayr (Jr), Joel Stave (So), Bart Houston (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    The good news for Badger fans is that Transfer U has landed another coveted transfer quarterback.

    The further good news is that the Badger quarterback rarely has to act as more than a field general in order for UW to put points on the board.

    The bad news is that Danny O'Brien does not appear to be as quality a signal caller as Russell Wilson, though one must consider that Wilson came to Madison with more experience.

    The further bad news is that Paul Chryst, the former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, has left his home state to become the head coach at Pitt. We will see how greatly that affects the mighty Wisconsin offense, but at first glance, it appears it will be a tough blow.

    Certainly, the Badgers' quarterback situation is much better than it was in February, but I'm not willing to say that everything is hunky dory just yet.

Illinois Illini

9 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Nathan Scheelhaase (Jr)**

     

    Players in the Mix

    Reilly O'Toole (So), Miles Osei (Jr)

     

    The Lowdown

    Scheelhaase and the Illini began 2011 on a tear. Illinois went 6-0 and Scheelhaase posted an efficiency rating of 174.16.

    Then the wheels fell off the cart, and Illinois finished the regular season with six straight losses. During that stretch, Scheelhaase's efficiency rating was 103.67.

    It's hard to say what went wrong, but Scheelhaase's success in the early part of the season is evidence that he can be an effective quarterback.

    Perhaps a new coach and a new offensive system will give him the consistency he needs. After all, Ron Zook was, well, Ron Zook.

    Scheelhaase's job won't be made any easier by the graduation of top receiver A.J. Jenkins, who accounted for almost 40 percent of the Illini's receptions last year and over 50 percent of their yards receiving.

Purdue Boilermakers

10 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Rob Henry (So)#, Caleb TerBush (Sr)* or Robert Marve (Sr)*

     

    Players in the Mix

    Austin Appleby (TrFr), Robert Gregory (TrFr), Aloyis Gray (TrFr), Bilal Marshall (TrFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    If quantity counts for anything, Purdue has the best quarterback group in the country.

    As for the individuals, I'm not sure why Danny Hope opened the door to Robert Marve for a sixth year, as Marve, when healthy, hasn't been impressive in his two years as a Boiler.

    TerBush and Henry, on the other hand, have been quality signal-callers.

    Henry missed last season with a torn ACL, though he should be healthy for August camp. In 2010, he was thrown into action when seemingly every Purdue signal-caller went down with injuries or ineligibility.

    In his one year as a starter, Henry had an efficiency rating of 112.39 and ran for 547 yards, which was good for 5.26 YPC. Henry's passing stats might not seem impressive, but one has to remember he was a true freshman that was thrown into action. He wasn't even receiving second-string reps in summer camp.

    Meanwhile, TerBush was ruled academically ineligible for 2010. He came back last season and was the Boilers' top passer with an efficiency rating of 130.63. TerBush was also thrown into action as Henry, the likely starter, tore his ACL at the end of camp. Consequently, TerBush missed about three weeks of first team practice time.

    In my opinion, Henry has the bigger upside of the two, but TerBush might be safer at this point.

    Either way, the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" should be in good hands next year. The questions are how good and will Hope settle on one quarterback and let that quarterback run the offense?

    As for the four true freshmen quarterbacks, expect at least two of them to become receivers shortly after they get on campus.

Iowa Hawkeyes

11 of 12

    Probable Starter

    James Vandenberg (Sr)*

     

    Players in the Mix

    Jake Rudock (RFr), John Weinke (Sr), Cody Sokol (JUCO transfer)

     

    The Lowdown

    James Vandenberg's 2011 was a season of ups and downs.

    His statistics at home: 61.4 completion percentage, 1,798 yards, 17 touchdowns, three interceptions, 158.51 passer efficiency rating.

    His statistics against unranked teams: nine games, 63 completion percentage, 2,191 yards, 20 touchdowns, four interceptions, 157.22 passer efficiency rating.

    His statistics away from Kinnick Stadium: 55.8 completion percentage, 1,224 yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions, 117.37 passer efficiency rating.

    His statistics against ranked teams: four games, 51 completion percentage, 831 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions, 105.65 passer efficiency rating.

    JVB can be one of the best signal-callers and the best pure passer in the conference if he can bring consistency to his game.

    If not, Iowa is a seven-win team at best this year.

Michigan Wolverines

12 of 12

    Probable Starter

    Denard Robinson (Sr)**

     

    Players in the Mix

    Devin Gardner (Jr), Russell Bellomy (RFr)

     

    The Lowdown

    Denard Robinson is at a crossroads this season.

    He has proven that he is a dynamic playmaker in any system; however, his abilities as a passer are still in serious question.

    As a sophomore in Rich Rodriguez's system, he completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,570 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He ran for 1,702 yards, 6.65 YPC and 14 touchdowns.

    As a junior in Al Borges' system, he completed 55 percent of his passes for 2,173 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He ran for 1,176 yards, 5.32 YPC and 16 touchdowns.

    Stats don't tell the whole story, but there is one issue that is evident—if Robinson and the Michigan O are to be as efficient and successful as they can be, Robinson will have to take better care of the ball.

    In my oft-expressed opinion, Robinson will never be a great passer, but he doesn't have to be given how dangerous a playmaker he is.

    If he can put up the same numbers as he did in 2011, but throw half the picks, the Wolverines will be the best offense in the Big Ten.