Terrelle Pryor Gone: Watch Persa, Cousins and Martinez Plus 3 Other Big Ten QBs
With the anticlimatic decision by Terrelle Pryor to leave Ohio State University, attention shifts to six other Big Ten quarterbacks that can be difference makers in the upcoming 2011 football season.
Quarterbacks like Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez are expected to lead their teams to a division title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
Northwestern's Dan Persa is a preseason favorite for the Big Ten Player of the Year. And you'll want to follow the adventures (and possibly) misadventures of Michigan's Denard Robinson, Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase and Purdue's Rob Henry.
The rest of the Big Ten teams are sorting through their quarterback options as the 2011 season approaches.
Northwestern's Dan Persa: the Perfect Quarterback to Engineer Big Ten Upsets
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Wildcats quarterback Dan Persa has the skills, instincts and ability to make Northwestern a "dark horse" candidate for the Big Ten Players Division crown.
Prior to his injury during the 2010 campaign, Persa had a league-leading 152 quarterback rating, 2,581 yards passing and 15 touchdown passes. He ran for nine touchdowns and 519 yards last year.
Persa has completed 72 percent of his passes during his Big Ten career. His pass attempts-to-interception ratio is 56 to 1.
The season opener at Boston College could be an indicator of how well Persa has recovered from injury and if Northwestern is truly a "dark horse" candidate for the Players Division title. If Persa picks up where he left off in 2010, the Wildcats could be a 9-3 team by the end of the season.
Michigan State's Kirk Cousins: Can He Lead MSU to a Second Consecutive Title?
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After playing three years in the Big Ten, Spartan senior quarterback Kirk Cousins is used to the pressure. Coach Mark Dantonio has surrounded him with plenty of talent, so the expectations at MSU have been pretty high the last two years and it will be no different this year.
Thankfully, Cousins responded with a solid 2010 season and enters this year with a quarterback rating of 150.7. It puts him second behind Dan Persa among the starting quarterbacks returning for the 2011 campaign.
He had 2,825 yards passing and threw 20 touchdown passes last year. And unlike Persa and other quarterbacks on this list, Cousins prefers to hand the ball off to MSU's talented tandem of running backs, Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell.
Cousin's success this season may be decided in two October road games. He faces Ohio State in Columbus on the 1st and Nebraska in Lincoln on 29th. If he and the Spartans can win those two games, they will be the Legends Division representative in the Big Ten championship game.
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez: Can He Lead the Cornhuskers to a Big Ten Title?
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Now if the defensive linemen don't contain him, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez will have a big year in Nebraska's inaugural season in the Big Ten.
Martinez rushed for 985 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last season. He also threw for 1,631 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 138.8 quarterback rating is the result of throwing seven interceptions and completing 59.2 percent of his passes.
Nebraska changed or juggled a number of offensive coaches during the off-season, so Martinez must adjust to new coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. Expect Martinez to work well with Beck as the Cornhuskers have a strong offensive line anchored by returning starters Mike Caputo and Jeremiah Sirles and a fine running back in Rex Burkhead.
We've focused a lot on offense, but it's Nebraska's stout defense that may stifle opponents in critical games. Martinez and Nebraska have two big games on Oct. 1 when they face Wisconsin and October 29 when they face Michigan State. A victory at home against MSU may be just what they need to play for the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.
Michigan's Denard Robinson: The Big Ten's Most Interesting Player to Watch
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New head coach Brady Hoke is hoping we see plenty of the flashy and productive results from Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Last year you heard "Ah!" and "Wow!" when Robinson broke free for a long run, but you also heard "Oh!" and "No!" when the ball was turned over by a fumble or interception. The challenge for Hoke (seen talking to Robinson in the picture) is eliminating the mistakes that provided opponents with too many opportunities to beat Michigan.
Robinson scored 14 touchdowns and amassed 1,702 yards running the football. He also threw for 2,570 yards and tossed 18 touchdown passes.
Michigan's success in 2011 will depend on surrounding Robinson with talented offensive and defensive players.
Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase: Their Most Potent Offensive Weapon
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It may be the most difficult last name to spell in the Big Ten, but Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase generated a lot of media attention last year.
Scheelhaase was the most productive weapon on offense as he had 1,825 yards passing and tossed 17 touchdown passes. He rushed for 868 yards and scored five touchdowns. He amassed more total yards than Illinois star running back Mikel LeShoure, who left school during the off-season and was drafted in the second round (with the 57th pick) by the Detroit Lions.
With LeShoure gone, look for Scheelhaase to throw the ball more to A.J. Jenkins. The Illinois wide receiver caught 56 passes and seven touchdown passes last year.
Purdue's Rob Henry: Does He Join the List of NFL-Bound Quarterbacks
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Will Rob Henry accomplish as much at Purdue as New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees?
The Boilermakers have a rich tradition of producing NFL-caliber quarterbacks and they need one in 2011 to improve on last year's 4-8 record. Henry seems like the ideal candidate, because he is well-liked by his teammates and coaches.
Henry started as a freshman and managed to throw eight touchdown passes and run for four touchdowns. He had 996 yards passing and 547 yards rushing.
Though elected one of the team captains for 2011, Henry could face some competition at quarterback from Robert Marve, who started the first three games for Purdue before he was injured and Henry became the starter. Head coach Danny Hope has been reluctant to name Henry the starter, so Marve may still be in the Purdue quarterback picture.