Nebraska Football: 5 Best Quarterbacks Cornhuskers Will Face in 2014
Nebraska football fans will be looking at the quarterbacks facing NU in 2014 and wondering who will be the greatest challenge.
While it is fair to say that 2014 does not present a murderer’s row of opposing signal-callers, some of the opposing quarterbacks will give the Blackshirts fits. Here are five of the toughest.
No. 5: Joel Stave, Wisconsin
Yeah, I know that Stave hasn’t even won the starting job yet. He’s competing in fall camp with Tanner McEvoy—who started at quarterback, moved to safety and moved back to quarterback—and according to Jake Kocorowski of Bucky's 5th Quarter, it is far from certain that Stave will keep his starting job.
I also know that Wisconsin will be without Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen and James White, three dangerous pass-catching options this year.
Indeed, Wisconsin’s leading receiver that will be back in 2014 is Jordan Frederick—with 27 career catches.
However, Stave does have the frame (6'5", 220 lbs) and the stats (278-for-455, 3,598 yards, 28 TD, 16 INT) of an impressive quarterback.
He’s fully healthy coming into this season and will have Melvin Gordon, who will give Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah a run as the Big Ten’s best running back, behind him. That kind of a running threat will make any quarterback better.
Combine all of that with the game against Nebraska being in Camp Randall on Nov. 15, and Stave could give the Blackshirts plenty of headaches.
No. 4: The Dude from Miami
This would have been a lot easier had Miami’s senior signal-caller, Ryan Williams, not gone down at the start of spring practice with a torn ACL.
While he is hoping to return for the 2014 season, even if he did, it would be a lot to ask of a quarterback coming off a major injury like that and without any kind of a preseason.
Vying to replace Williams will be redshirt freshman Kevin Owens and Kansas transfer Jake Heaps. None of the three are running threats, and it is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Owens’ talents that the Miami coaching staff felt it necessary to bring in Heaps as a transfer.
Nevertheless, all three are still top-level talents and will have a healthy Duke Johnson at tailback behind them, which will take the pressure off any passing game.
Throw in talented receiving options like Stacy Coley and Clive Walford, and the Hurricanes’ quarterback will be a true challenge for Nebraska.
No. 3: Wes Lunt, Illinois
Yes, Illinois is pretty terrible, vying with Purdue as the worst team in the B1G. However, Lunt is a big-time talent, now eligible to play after sitting out a year due to his transfer from Oklahoma State.
As a freshman in Stillwater, Lunt looked primed to step in as Brandon Weeden’s successor before injuries—and six touchdowns to seven interceptions—ended his Cowboy career.
After a year of learning Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit’s system, Lunt looks set to take over the Illini offense. While Illinois has enough troubles and the overall talent gap to make it one of Nebraska’s softer opponents, Lunt will be a challenge for NU.
No. 2: Jake Rudock, Iowa
One would never think of Iowa quarterbacks as flashy, although dynamic playmakers like Brad Banks and Drew Tate did lead the Hawkeyes to some of their most successful seasons.
Rudock is not a quarterback along those lines, but as a returning sophomore, one could argue that he is the most reliable returning signal-caller in the B1G West.
Rudock completed 59 percent of his passes last year for 2,383 yards. His 18-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a little worrisome, of course, but his play will be buttressed by a punishing running attack and protected by an offensive line that could be the best in the division.
Those factors, along with his experience as a returning starter, make him dangerous for Nebraska.
No. 1: Connor Cook, Michigan State
At this time last year, Michigan State’s quarterback situation was looked at as a weakness. This year, Cook provides one of the strongest arguments as to why the Spartans can repeat as B1G champions—and maybe earn a place in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
For those Nebraska fans looking for optimism, the same thing may be said of Tommy Armstrong in August of 2015.
The numbers really tell the story. Cook completed 58.7 percent of his pass attempts for 2,755 yards last season. More importantly, though, he only threw six picks to his 22 touchdowns.
Given the strength of the Spartans defense, Cook was both able to make enough plays to win games and not give the ball back to the opposing team.
Coming into his sophomore season, look for Cook’s growth to continue and for him to be even more dangerous in 2014.
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