Ranking the Big Ten: Quarterbacks
The Big Ten has always been known as a conference with prototypical pro-style quarterbacks. But with how college football is changing, the Big Ten is seeing an increase in dual-threat QBs.
Four years ago, no one would have predicted quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor and Daryll Clark would be starting for Big Ten powerhouses Ohio State and Penn State. But who's the best?
11. Indiana-Ben Chappell
Indiana took a big hit earlier this spring when their star Kellen Lewis was kicked off the team. Kellen Lewis had been the Hoosiers QB for the past three seasons and was expected to again be the starter this year.
Now, Junior Ben Chappell will have to take over duties. Chappell does have some experience after taking over duties last season while Lewis was out in that time throwing for 1,001 yards. But with a weak offensive line and the departure of leading rusher Marcus Thigpen, now Chappell will be the main man.
10. Purdue-Joey Elliot
Elliot has had to take a back seat to Curtis Painter for the past four years, but now as a fifth-year senior he should get his chance to shine. Elliot would have headed into the fall competing for the spot with Justin Stiller.
Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, Stiller was dismissed from Purdue due to an academic violation. The Boilermakers have another QB in Caleb TerBush but Elliot should get the starting job due to his experience filling in for Painter while he was injured last year.
9. Wisconsin-Dustin Sherer
Sherer started for Wisconsin's final seven games in 2008 but didn't prove to be anything exceptional. He threw for six touchdowns and four interceptions while being sacked a ridiculous 20 times. Although the o-line wasn't outstanding, quite a few of those sacks can be accredited to Sherer holding onto the ball too long.
Although Sherer will be the starter at the beginning of the season, if he doesn't improve, don't be surprised to see him replaced by either Curt Phillips or Jon Budamayar.
8. Northwestern-Mike Kafka
Kafka has proven he can make things happen with his legs, setting the Big Ten record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback against Minnesota last year with 217 yards. But Kafka's passing game has been average at best. When filling in for injured senior C.J. Bacher last year, Kafka threw more interceptions than touchdowns. He did throw for a 69 completion percentage last year but proved to have quite a bit of trouble on short and intermediate routes.
If Kafka doesn't improve his throwing, than sophomore Dan Persha could challenge him for the starting role like he did this spring.
7. Michigan-Tate Forcier
All eyes will be on the Wolverines this year to see if the Rich Rodriguez experiment will work. Much of that will rely on the success of freshman Tate Forcier. Forcier comes in as one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks in the nation, second in scholarship offers for QBs behind Aaron Murray.
Forcier is your prototypical dual-threat QB but surprisingly accurate. His mechanics were called "nearly flawless" by rivals.com and it shows in his competion percentage, which was 71 percent in his sophomore year and 77 percent his junior season. Forcier already had a good showing in the spring game, throwing for over 150 yards and four touchdowns. In comparison, Threet and Sheridan, Michigan's QBs last year, combined for six interceptions in the 2008 spring game. Despite being obviously suited for the spread, Forcier will still be a freshman and make freshman mistakes. Another freshman Denard Robinson could challenge for the starting spot. Robinson is much more like Pat White, the QB head coach Rodriguez used at West Virginia, in that he has great scrambling ability and blazing speed. But it is unlikely with Forcier being on campus since January.
6. Michigan State-Kirk Cousins
Michigan State's QB battle will be interesting to watch in 2009. Right now, the Spartans have two sophomore QBs in Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol battling out for the starting spot. It appears right now that Cousins has the edge due to being in East Lansing a year longer than Nichol, who transferred from Oklahoma.
Cousins is a pocket-passer with quick precise throws while Nichol poses more of a dual-threat game. Expect the two to split time early on in the season and possibly throughout 2009. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has stated that the QBs could alternate starts throughout the season and have that decide the starter of the 2010 team.
5. Iowa-Ricky Stanzi
Stanzi was alternated at the QB position for the first four games with Jake Christensen, who started in 2007, but was then named the starter by head coach Kirk Ferentz. Stnazi struggled in his first two starts but followed that up with helping lead the Hawkeyes to a 6-1 record in their next seven games.
Last season, Stanzi threw for a 59 completion percentage and around 2000 yards for a 134-passer rating. But now, Stanzi will have to play a bigger role in the offense with consensus All-American running back Shonn Greene gone.
4. Ohio State-Terrelle Pryor
As a freshman last year, Pryor took over for senior Todd Boeckman in the fourth game and never looked back. Pryor threw for a 60 percent completion percentage and 1,311 yards while also gaining 631 yards on the ground.
Pryor will this year have to step up his game with the loss of both his top two receivers and departure of running back Chris Wells. He will now have to lead this offense. Pryor's number one problem right now is his throwing motion, which doesn't utilize his arm strength. If Pryor can master that, watch for him to possibly become on of the Big Ten's best.
3. Minnesota-Adam Weber
Weber is one of the more undervalued QBs in the Big Ten despite receiving second team All Big-Ten accolades last year. In 2008, Weber threw for 2,761 yards, which was good enough for first in the Big Ten, along with a 62 completion percentage and 15 TDs. Don't expect Weber to slow down in 2009, as he has Eric Decker, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) Minnesota wide receivers returning.
Minnesota will also utilize MarQueis Gray, a red-shirted freshman who provides a dual-threat and is Weber's successor. In fact, Gray looked so good in spring practice that he could challenge Weber for the starting role before the season's over.
2. Illinois-Juice Williams
Williams comes into the season with 8,455 total yards. If Williams can get 4,238 yards, he could become the all-time Big Ten leader in total yards. With Williams' incredible scrambling ability, some believe that he is the top quarterback in the Big Ten. But Williams must improve his throwing ability.
Last year Williams threw under sixty percent in completion percentage and also threw sixteen interceptions. Williams does have the number one receiver in the Big Ten in Arrelious Benn to throw to and will have more options with Florida-transfer Jarred Fayson now eligible. If Williams can learn to improve his throwing and utilize his many threats, there is a chance he could go down as one of Illinois' greatest, allowing Illinois to challenge for the Big Ten title.
1. Daryll Clark-Penn State
Clark was selected last year as the First Team All-Big Ten QB after throwing for 2,592 yards, rushing for another 282 yards, and 29 total touchdowns. Clark is the Nittany Lions' unquestioned leader after leading them to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth.
Clark did lose the all-time Penn State leading receiver Deon Butler along with two others and last year's Big Ten offensive lineman of the year. Watch for Clark to make more plays with his legs as new linemen and new receivers get used to everyday duties. But along with Evan Royster, the Big Ten's top back, Penn State now has the best backfield in the Big Ten