Big Ten Football: When It Comes to Freshman QB Talent, Michigan Is the Have-Not

Adam Jacobi@Adam_JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterOctober 29, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 27: Quarterback Russell Bellomy #8 of the Michigan Wolverines looks down field over the Nebraska Cornhuskers defense during their game at Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bellomy entered the game after quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines left the game with an injury. Nebraska defeated Michigan 23-9. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Of the six Big Ten football games last Saturday, half-featured freshman quarterbacks playing prominent roles as their team's primary signal-callers down the stretch—none of whom were expected to play serious minutes this year. Here's a list of the three QBs and how they and their teams fared.


Quarterback A: Replaced ineffective starter late in first quarter, 10/15 for 107 yards and two touchdowns in 31-17 victory.

Quarterback B: Made second career start and went 15/22 for 246 yards and three touchdowns while adding nine rushes for 37 yards; named co-freshman of the week in Big Ten as team won 44-28.

Quarterback C: Replaced injured starting quarterback late in first half and went 3/16 for 38 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions as game gradually got out of hand in 23-9 loss.


Okay, anybody who paid attention to the Big Ten knows who each of these three guys is. Quarterback A is Indiana's Nate Sudfeld, who keyed the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten victory under Kevin Wilson and stopped a five-game losing streak. Quarterback B is Minnesota freshman Philip Nelson, who burned his redshirt two weeks ago and is making the most of it.

And then there's Quarterback C, who you might know as Michigan freshman QB Russell Bellomy, who stepped in for an injured Denard Robinson and accomplished practically nothing in the process. Bellomy didn't get much help from his receivers as several passes were out-and-out dropped, but several more of the throws were wildly inaccurate and Michigan's only way to move the ball was basically praying for a flag.

In case you're keeping score at home, that's two perennial Big Ten basement-dwellers with freshman saviors at quarterbacks...and perennial Big Ten powerhouse Michigan with no hope behind star QB Robinson.

Granted, the competition has to be considered. Sudfeld and Nelson were playing against Illinois and Purdue, respectively, and those two teams are the worst in the Big Ten. Bellomy was facing Nebraska, who could very well be the Big Ten's best team aside from Ohio State.

But there's only so much you can blame on the opponent. Nebraska's pass defense is very good, but Bellomy's evening was horrific. His quarterback rating for the game was 1.2.

That is not a typo.

In a sport where the very best defense by a wide margin (Alabama) allows a passer efficiency of 86.62 and even disastrously bad seasons like James Vandenberg's merit a 104.84 rating, Bellomy earned...a 1.2.

The worst part is, that was an improvement from Bellomy's season pace. Coming into the game, Bellomy was 1-of-5 for eight yards and one interception, so once you throw in his Saturday horror show, his season stats are 4-of-21 for 46 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions, resulting in an unfathomable QB rating of -0.7.

If Bellomy just threw the ball into the turf or into Row Q or at Brady Hoke's head (we advocate none of these things) every time Michigan called a pass play for him, his season passer rating would be higher than it is now.

So just to recap: the have-nots have answers at freshman quarterback. Michigan...has not.

Granted, 5-star prospect Shane Morris is a Michigan commit and is a mortal lock to sign. He practically bleeds maize and blue. He's all in.

But Morris isn't a known quantity, and elite quarterback prospects aren't sure things at the next level. In fact, Michigan has had two elite QB signees in recent memory: 5-star prospect Ryan Mallett in 2007 and the highest-rated dual-threat QB of the 2010 class, 4-star prospect Devin Gardner.

You can play the "yeah but" game all you want with those two guys. The fact is neither ended up being Michigan's first-string quarterback. Mallett's only starts came as a result of injury to Chad Henne and he was run out of town when Rich Rodriguez installed his new offense, while Devin Gardner is now a full-time wide receiver.

You can also throw in fifth-ranked dual-threat QB Tate Forcier (2009) if you want. That didn't work out great for Michigan either. Denard Robinson (14th-ranked "athlete," 2009) obviously did, of course. 

The point isn't to trash Michigan's recruiting. It's that simply signing high-profile QBs out of high school isn't the same as having a successful quarterback waiting. So let's be clear: Shane Morris is a hugely promising prospect. But he's not even on the team yet, much less starting, much much less successful.

So as of right now, once you get past Denard Robinson, Michigan is a have-not at quarterback. And things will stay that way until we actually see something positive out of Bellomy or Morris, anything even close to what Minnesota and Indiana are seeing from their freshmen. Neither Bellomy nor Morris is a sure thing as yet.