College Football 2011: Power Ranking Russell Wilson and the Big Ten's QBs
Last season was the "year of the quarterback" in the Big Ten, as the conference contained some of the best quarterbacks in the country.
This year, even after a number of them have graduated, the conference still figures to be strong at the position.
The Big Ten is suddenly turning into a conference filled with dual-threat quarterbacks, although it still has a fair share of pro-style offenses. Players in both systems have helped lead their teams to January bowls.
Check out the B/R power rankings of the Big Ten's top quarterbacks.
No. 12: Dusty Kiel, Indiana
After the graduation of star Ben Chappell, Indiana's QB situation is filled with uncertainty. Chappell was one of the few bright spots for the Hoosiers over the course of his career, and his departure will mean a major loss of production for the Indiana offense.
Although the starting position is still open, sophomore Dusty Kiel looks like the most likely candidate to take over for Chappell. He was impressive in the spring game and will bring a pro-style approach to the Hoosiers' offense.
Coach Kevin Wilson could also decide to go the dual-threat route and start sophomore Edward Wright-Baker, but right now, Kiel looks like the man for the job.
No. 11: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
It's rare to see an Ohio State quarterback this low in the rankings, and in all reality, Miller will make his way toward the top. But with no experience, he starts out at No. 11.
The Buckeyes could decide to start senior Joe Bauserman at the beginning of the season, but Miller is much more talented and will, in all likelihood, win the starting job.
Miller was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation for the class of 2011 and will bring dual-threat abilities similar to Terrelle Pryor.
No. 10: Matt McGloin, Penn State
After taking over for Robert Bolden halfway through 2010, McGloin was less than impressive, topping off his season with a miserable Outback Bowl performance against Florida.
Bolden has a chance to win the job back,—the coaches have said the job is wide open—but McGloin gets the benefit of the doubt here because he finished last season.
(In all reality, Bolden would probably be ranked in this spot as well.)
Both quarterbacks have the potential to move up the list, but they had confidence issues last season and need to get more consistent.
No. 9: Robert Marve, Purdue
As has been the theme of this list so far, Marve has a chance to shoot up the charts if he proves himself.
The former Miami quarterback was injured last season and has a chance to lead Purdue back to a bowl game for the first time since 2007. Marve clearly has talent, but won't have many weapons surrounding him on the Boilermakers' offense.
There is also the possibility that Rob Henry will retain his starting job from last season, which will probably happen at the beginning of the year, but expect Marve, the more talented of the two, to grab the job by midseason.
No. 8: MarQueis Gray, Minnesota
Gray will be one of the most interesting quarterbacks to watch as he transitions into the starting job at Minnesota.
After spending time at wide receiver and quarterback last season, he will move to the full-time starting job at quarterback this year.
Gray is a dual-threat quarterback, but seems to be more of a runner than a passer. It will be interesting to see if he can improve his passing game enough to be effective in the Big Ten.
No. 7: James Vandenberg, Iowa
Although he hasn't seen much playing time during his career, Vandenberg is best known as the quarterback who took Ohio State to overtime in the Horseshoe in his first Big Ten start back in 2009.
Vandenberg will benefit from a strong running game and elite offensive line this season—much like Ricky Stanzi did during his first season as a starter in 2008—and has been around the system for a long time.
He has a strong arm and good intangibles, but lack of experience lands him at No. 7 to start the season.
No. 6: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
Unlike most experts around the country, I'm not sold on Taylor Martinez just yet.
He was outstanding early in the season, but after an injury, never became himself again. He got into numerous arguments with coach Bo Pelini, and in his team's Holiday Bowl loss to Washington, he seemed like he didn't even want to play.
Martinez's consistency and confidence are lacking right now, and he needs to fix that part of his game to show the potential he did early last season. If he can't, this could end up being a Tate Forcier scenario for the Cornhuskers.
No. 5: Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Scheelhaase was perhaps the most unheralded player in the Big Ten last season, after leading Illinois to a 7-5 record and a Texas Bowl win against Baylor as a freshman.
He is a dual-threat quarterback who got better and better as the season went on.
This year, without the help of star running back Mikel Leshoure, the pressure will all be on Scheelhaase to lead the Illinois offense. If he continues to progress as well as he did last year, the Illini could regain their prominence in the Big Ten.
No. 4: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
Cousins still has a way to go if he wants to be considered one of the country's elite quarterbacks, but he showed signs of brilliance last season, leading Michigan State to an 11-1 record and a share of the Big Ten title.
However, there were also the games against Iowa and Alabama where he was inaccurate and inconsistent.
The good news for Spartans fans is we have seen much more of the good Cousins than we have of the bad Cousins, and if he can improve his consistency, he can have MSU back in the Big Ten race in 2011.
No. 3: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
I'm not ready to anoint Russell Wilson as the top quarterback in the Big Ten and call Wisconsin the runaway conference favorite just yet. There are still concerns as to whether Wilson can learn the Badgers' system fast enough, form bonds with his new teammates and even fit into his new system altogether.
However, this was a huge pickup for Wisconsin, which desperately needed an answer at quarterback. Wilson will complement an outstanding running game and will be protected by one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten.
And as long as he fits into the Badgers' pro-style system, he will make this team extremely hard to beat, if not the conference favorite.
No. 2: Denard Robinson, Michigan
Despite his team's inconsistency, Robinson continued to put up strong rushing and passing numbers all season long for the Wolverines in 2010, destroying the Michigan record book in the process.
He is the ultimate dual-threat quarterback, with better rushing numbers than many of the league's running backs, and he has had an entire offseason to work on his passing skills.
This year, with a decent support system on offense, Robinson could make Michigan's offense the best in the Big Ten. If only he could play his own defense—imagine what kind of numbers he would put up then.
No. 1: Dan Persa, Northwestern
Plain and simple, Dan Persa was the Northwestern offense last season. He was named first-team All-Big Ten despite missing the final two games to injury, and his team showed how much they missed him, falling big to both Illinois and Wisconsin.
Not only can Persa make plays through the air—he had the best completion percentage in the country last season—but he is also an outstanding runner and may be the most balanced dual-threat quarterback in the country.
With a very solid support system surrounding him, including star wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, Persa has a chance to lead Northwestern back to a January bowl game.