ESPN ranks B1G quarterback units
ESPN is going through the Big Ten skill player units and ranking how each stacks up. Today was the quarterbacks.
To the surprise of very few, Ohio State’s group topped the list with Michigan State next in line.
Here’s how Austin Ward ranked each team’s signal-callers. Do you agree or disagree?
1. Ohio State: There may never have been an Ohio State quarterback battle like it before, and as a result, the Buckeyes certainly are the envy of the country with their embarrassment of riches at the game’s premier position. Thanks to J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, Ohio State already has moved two other touted passers to wide receiver or H-back during training camp — including some guy named Braxton Miller, who was merely a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year.
2. Michigan State: If the rankings were purely decided by the starting quarterback, the Spartans might enter the season in the top spot thanks to Connor Cook’s veteran experience, track record and even some additional room to grow. But the Spartans don’t have quite the same security blanket as the Buckeyes, even though Tyler O’Connor has been around for a while and could keep the offense afloat, if needed.
3. Penn State: The NFL potential and the college production haven’t really matched up yet, but Christian Hackenberg still remains a tantalizing prospect, thanks to his physical tools, and should be in much better position to deliver for the Nittany Lions behind an improved offensive line. The junior’s skills would be tough to replace if he went down, but Penn State is high on versatile backup Trace McSorley, who could bring more of a dual-threat component to the position.
4. Indiana: The wheels came flying off for the Hoosiers when Nate Sudfeld went down last fall, but the team should be better equipped to handle any similar scenario after getting Zander Diamont some experience. Sudfeld is the main attraction, and his arm strength, football intelligence and leadership skills seem to have been largely forgotten as he returns healthy and looking to get Indiana into a bowl game.
5. Illinois: The Illini no longer have the room for error that they once did, but assuming Wes Lunt is afforded some protection and avoids the injury bug that seems to be going around the program, he has the ability to put up eye-catching numbers and finish the season among the elite in the league. There’s nobody behind him with any experience, but Lunt’s skills still give Illinois a boost going into the year.
6. Nebraska: There may not be all that much flash to Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s work leading the offense, but he’s a veteran with game experience who finished No. 5 in the Big Ten in efficiency a year ago, and that’s a fine place to start for new coach Mike Riley. The backup race is still something of a crapshoot, but Armstrong could easily move the Huskers up in the rankings if he can cut down on his interception total of 12 from a year ago.
7. Minnesota: Mitch Leidner isn’t likely to be confused with the most accurate throwers in the league, and despite tweaking the offense a bit to expand the passing attack this season, the Gophers aren’t going to live and die by airing out the football. But with Leidner’s toughness, knowledge of the playbook and unquestioned leadership, Minnesota is in good hands. Meanwhile, the Gophers fully trust Chris Streveler to come off the bench and provide a rushing spark at the position when called for.
8. Michigan: Despite bringing in a two-year starter from another Big Ten program, the Wolverines remain something of an enigma behind center. Jake Rudock is a steady presence and doesn’t turn the football over, but the low-risk approach didn’t typically provided great rewards offensively at Iowa. Jim Harbaugh knows a thing or two about the position, and his work with Rudock or Shane Morris will be closely watched early in the year.
9. Iowa: The Hawkeyes elected to cast their lot with C.J. Beathard instead of having Rudock around for another season, and they are expecting a lift in the downfield attack now that he’s going to be the full-time answer. There have been flashes of his potential in the past, including a couple of touchdown passes in an otherwise dreary loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but Iowa will need Beathard to blend his big-play potential with Rudock’s ability to avoid mistakes to kick-start the offense.
10. Wisconsin: The best-case scenario for the program is that coach Paul Chryst’s homecoming and experience with quarterbacks unlocks the potential in Joel Stave and allows him to develop more confidence and consistency, which could make the Badgers a truly dangerous offense to slow down. Whether Wisconsin can pull that off with Stave could determine its ceiling as a contender this season, and that might also put some pressure on backups Bart Houston and D.J. Gillins.
11. Purdue: The Boilermakers continue to do a nice job of recruiting touted quarterbacks, but the next step is developing one into a reliable option at the Big Ten level. Austin Appleby was the safe bet to win the job during training camp and officially claimed it on Tuesday, but David Blough and Elijah Sindelar give the program a decent amount of depth if Appleby’s not able to put a stranglehold on the job.
12. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights haven’t had to deal with much uncertainty at this spot in a while, and they have certainly taken their time coming to a decision in training camp. Neither Chris Laviano nor Hayden Rettig have been able to get a leg up in the race. But that might actually be an encouraging sign for Rutgers, given some of the solid scrimmage performances during the battle to take over for former four-year starter Gary Nova. Rettig will, however, get the first crack at it thanks to a suspension for Laviano for the first half of the season opener.
13. Maryland: The three-man battle to lead the Terrapins seems to be a bit more difficult to handicap than originally expected, as somewhat surprisingly Perry Hills has taken the lead with training camp winding down. Talented transfer Daxx Garman and Caleb Rowe remain in the mix, but this again might be a problem position for coach Randy Edsall if the picture doesn’t clear up soon.
14. Northwestern: The Wildcats aren’t short on options, but there isn’t much experience at hand and they won’t have much time to ease the eventual winner into the rotation. Zack Oliver, Matt Alviti and Clayton Thorson all bring some positive qualities to the table, but Northwestern has largely kept quiet about its decision, leaving it as the program with the greatest unknown and most room to grow.