Wes Lunt, quarterback for the Illinois Fighting Illini, will grace the field as the starter in the fall of 2014 after his transfer this spring.
Nathan Scheelhaase, the current Illlini QB, will be gone, and Lunt is too talented to be kept off the field if he can stay healthy.
In 2012, Lunt appeared in six games as the quarterback of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
It started off well, with a perfect 11-for-11 performance against woeful Savannah State in the OSU season opener, but a knee injury in Week 3 forced him to miss six weeks of football.
But his injury woes were far from over.
After coming back to start again and lead the Cowboys to victory over TCU, Lunt had a game to forget against Kansas State the next week, throwing three interceptions to only one touchdown before leaving the game with a head injury—which led to plenty of speculation about whether he might be injury prone.
His numbers for the season were decent when leaving out the interceptions, as he completed almost 62 percent of his passes, while scoring six touchdowns. His seven interceptions in only six appearances on the field was a bit disconcerting, but it is obvious that Lunt has the talent to be an excellent pocket passer with the right development.
After all, 2012 was his true freshman season, and which of us hasn't struggled through some mistakes at that point in our lives?
This spring, Lunt decided to transfer. After a dramatic saga that included OSU head coach Mike Gundy shedding his good-guy image to block Lunt's transfer to just about every school in the contiguous 48 states, he landed at Illinois.
While he has to sit out for a season due to NCAA transfer rules, Lunt will undoubtedly take the field next fall for the Illini with some hope that he can help turn around a program that has struggled over the last several seasons.
But if he were on the field this fall, where would he rank in the pantheon of current Big Ten quarterbacks.
The guys currently holding down the starting jobs in the conference are less than stellar, with the exception of OSU's Braxton Miller. Miller will be a Heisman candidate in 2013 if he can stay healthy, possessing a great arm and an otherworldy ability to scramble himself out of trouble.
Lunt is certainly no Miller.
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, while talented, has a history of struggling with ball security. Last season, he fumbled the ball more often than Tim Tebow prays. In 2011, he struggled with interceptions on a routine basis. To his credit, his throwing motion and accuracy continue to improve, and if the chips fall the right way in 2013, he could be a dark horse Heisman candidate.
Lunt's lack of dual-threat ability leaves him behind Martinez.
At Northwestern, Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian are an interesting combination. The two combined for a 63.2 percent completion rate in 2012, as well as 2,184 yards passing. Both of them are dual threats and will help Northwestern to another big season in 2013.
Based on Lunt's performance when he was in last season and the usual progression of a quarterback from year to year, it's difficult to see him ahead of this duo.
Devin Gardner at Michigan has the talent to sit near the top of this list in 2013, if all goes well. He has talent surrounding him, some experience under his belt and the tools to make some noise in the conference this season. Lunt would not be on that level this season.
From there, it's a crapshoot.
Andrew Maxwell at Michigan State and Nathan Scheelhaase at Illinois were mediocre at best. Indiana's quarterback trio of Tre Roberson, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld are diverse but unstable, and no sure thing, despite their several varied talents.
Wisconsin has options in Curt Phillips, Joel Stave and incoming JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy. Neither Phillips or Stave were particularly impressive last season, and McEvoy is an unknown commodity. Lunt's pocket presence and accuracy are at least equal to Stave and far superior to Phillips.
Besides the UW quarterbacks, Lunt would be about even with Rob Henry at Purdue and Phillip Nelson at Minnesota. Both are wildly inconsistent, but each has some experience at the position, much like Lunt.
Iowa and Penn State return no starting experience from last season, and the battle between Cody Sokol and Jake Rudock at Iowa is at a standstill. Things are a mess of epic proportions at the quarterback position in Happy Valley, and they easily sit in a tie with Iowa for worst starter in the conference going into the season.
So, to sum it all up, here is a ranking of the starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten, along with Lunt in his place as if he were going to play this season:
- Braxton Miller, OSU
- Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
- Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter, Northwestern
- Devin Gardner, Michigan
- Stave or McEvoy, Wisconsin
- Wes Lunt, Illinois
- Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State
- Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
- Phillip Nelson, Minnesota
- Rob Henry, Purdue
- Indiana's trio
- Christian Hackenburg or Tyler Ferguson, Penn State
- Sokol or Rudock, Iowa
This list will not take your breath away, and it is certainly not a roll call of Heisman candidates. It actually gives an accurate picture of exactly how shallow the quarterback ranks are in the B1G.
Lunt, for all his faults and foibles, if he can stay healthy, would rank squarely in the middle of the pack, with a strong possibility of rising throughout the course of a season.
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