Ranking the B1G QB situations heading into spring
We’re midway through February, meaning that spring football is right around the corner. We’re already starting to look into the 2019 season a little more in depth.
The one thing everyone wants to talk about this time of year is the quarterback position. And, it makes sense, because it is considered the most important spot in all of sports. Some teams are in great situations and others have a lot of work to do. The rest are somewhere in between.
Here’s how we’ve ranked the B1G quarterback situations entering spring:
Projected starter: Shea Patterson Other QBs: Dylan McCaffrey, Joe Milton, Brandon Peters
Why it’s No. 1: Patterson returns after throwing for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns last year. It gives Michigan’s offense some stability and consistency under center, and new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis might be better able to utilize Patterson’s talents next fall.
Not only is Patterson’s return huge, Michigan has a quarterback room filled with talent. Former four-star prospects Dylan McCaffery, Brandon Peters and Joe Milton are all excellent backups, giving the Wolverines excellent depth at the position.
Projected starter: Adrian Martinez Other QBs: Noah Vedral, Luke McCaffrey
Why it’s at No. 2: After leading a high-powered offense at Nebraska in his freshman campaign, the bar is one step higher for Martinez entering his second year under Scott Frost. Martinez accounted for more than 3,200 yards of offense and scored 25 total touchdowns. He’ll be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the B1G next season, if not the nation.
Though Martinez will win the starting job, he’ll get good competition from Noah Vedral, who will be in his third year under Frost, dating back to the UCF days. It may not be a ton of experience, but Nebraska is in a really good spot at quarterback.
3. Ohio State
Projected starter: Justin Fields Other QBs: Matthew Baldwin, Chris Chugunov
Why it’s at No. 3: It’s easy to look at Justin Fields’ five-star status and Ryan Day’s success with Dwayne Haskins and put the Buckeyes at the top of the list. But there’s still a bit of the unknown with Fields, who threw fewer than 40 passes at Georgia last year. Fields has the ability to be the most dynamic passer in the B1G, but seeing him in spring practice should help gauge where he stands.
Plus, Ohio State doesn’t have great depth under center heading into the season. That doesn’t help the situation for Day and his staff.
Projected starter: Alex Hornibrook Other QBs: Jack Coan, Graham Mertz
Why it’s at No. 4: Wisconsin may actually have one of the more interesting quarterback situations in the B1G next fall. After spending the last two years as the full-time starter, Hornibrook will likely start the season in the No. 1 spot. But when Coan stepped in during Hornibrook’s injury, he did a solid job, throwing for 515 yards and five touchdowns.
Incoming freshman Graham Mertz is the real deal, too. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if he earned some serious playing time at some point in the season.
Projected starter: Nate Stanley Other QBs: Peyton Mansell, Spencer Petras
Why it’s at No. 5: Stanley is one of the more underrated passers in the B1G, likely due to his consistency issues. When he’s clicking, he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league. When things get rough, they get really rough. Still, having a three-year starter under center is always beneficial.
As far as the backups are concerned, Mansell and Petras aren’t nearly as talented as Stanley, at least not yet, but they could be serviceable in emergency situations. It’ll be interesting to see who sits at the No. 2 spot after spring.
Projected starter: Peyton Ramsey Other QBs: Jack Tuttle, Michael Penix Jr.
Why it’s at No. 6: The Hoosiers are quietly in a really good spot at quarterback. They return Ramsey, who’s thrown for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Bloomington. And Penix — who provides a more dual-threat dynamic — has an optimistic outlook for return following an ACL injury in the fall. Oh, and IU brought in former four-star gunslinger Jack Tuttle, who’s eligibility remains in question.
Under Kalen DeBoer, Indiana’s quarterback play has the ability to improve drastically in 2019. And there are a ton of great candidates to help the Hoosiers make that next leap offensively.
Projected starter: Hunter Johnson Other QBs: T.J. Green, Andrew Marty, Aidan Smith, Jason Whittaker
Why it’s at No. 7: Similar to the situation at Ohio State, it would be easy to look at Johnson’s five-star status and put Northwestern near the top. But with a limited number of reps in his young career, we’ll enter wait-and-see mode with Johnson. He certainly has the talent to improve Northwestern’s passing attack moving forward.
It’s beneficial that the Wildcats also of T.J. Green on the sideline as well, after rotating in with Clayton Thorson early in the 2018 season. He’ll provide good competition and has B1G game experience that helps Northwestern’s depth.
Projected starter: Elijah Sindelar Other QBs: Jack Plummer, Nick Sipe, Paul Piferi
Why it’s at No. 8: The Boilermakers suffered a huge loss with David Blough’s eligibility expiring, but fortunately Sindelar has plenty of experience in the black and gold. He split time with Blough in each of the last two seasons before suffering a season-ending injury midway through the year. Sindelar threw for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017 and is a great option for Jeff Brohm.
The question is Sindelar’s health and if he’s capable of handling the starting job in a full-time role. Jack Plummer and Nick Sipe could be excellent backups if they don’t earn the starting job.
9. Michigan State
Projected starter: Brian Lewerke Other QBs: Rocky Lombardi, Theo Day, Eli McLean
Why it’s at No. 9: Yes, this is awfully low for a team that returns a two-year starter and a solid backup, but Michigan State had serious issues under center last fall. Granted, a good chunk of those struggles came due to offensive line problems or injury. Still, it’s hard to know what to expect out of the Spartans in the passing game next season.
Michigan State is fully capable of climbing up this latter, especially having a pair of quality dual-threat quarterbacks on the roster in Lewerke and Lombardi. Improvement all around offensively would really help Mark Dantonio’s quarterback situation.
10. Penn State
Projected starter: Tommy Stevens Other QBs: Sean Clifford, Will Levis, Michael Shuster
Why it’s at No. 10: Of all the teams, Penn State has the potential to make the biggest leap up this list. But, like most other programs ushering in new quarterbacks, there’s still plenty we don’t know. Stevens and Clifford both have live experience, though Stevens has been used in multiple roles, not just at quarterback. Combined, the two have thrown just 48 collegiate passes.
Of course, both guys spent time behind one of the greatest quarterbacks in Penn State history in Trace McSorley, so it’s tough to know how far behind Stevens and Clifford are after learning from one of the best. For now, the Nittany Lions are low on this list, but don’t be surprised if they work their way up after spring practice.
Projected starter: Tanner Morgan Other QBs: Zack Annexstad, Jon Santaga, Samuel Pickerign
Why it’s at No. 11: Annexstad handled the duties in the first half of the season and Morgan took over in the second part of the year. Minnesota ended on a good note, winning four of its final six games with Morgan under center. Neither quarterback was dazzling in 2018, but as freshman, that’s too be expected.
Minnesota’s quarterback situation isn’t necessarily bad, but with so many quality quarterbacks in the B1G, the Gophers are near the bottom of the conference for now. Fortunately, Minnesota will have an excellent rushing attack with Rodney Smith, Mohamed Ibrahim and Shannon Brooks all back next season, making the jobs of the quarterbacks much easier.
Projected starter: Artur Sitkowski Other QBs: Johnny Langan, Jonathan Lewis
Why it’s at No. 12: Life was rough for former four-star quarterback Artur Sitkowski last fall. He threw 18 interceptions with just four touchdowns and completed just 49 percent of his passes. He also took shot after shot from defenders all last season. While early experience is good for any player, hopefully Sitkowski’s first year wasn’t a detriment to his development.
As bad as things were, Sitkowski was a four-star quarterback for a reason. He simply didn’t have enough help at any of the skill positions or offensive line to get into any rhythm. After starting 11 games last year, it’s hard to imagine Chris Ash moving Sitkowski off the field, but Johnny Langan and Jonathan Lewis will also be in the mix.
Projected starter: M.J. Rivers II Other QBs: Matt Robinson, Coran Taylor, Isaiah Williams
Why it’s at No. 13: A.J. Bush is gone, leaving M.J. Rivers as the leading candidate to replace him under center after appearing in eight games a year ago. Matt Robinson has limited experience, throwing six passes in three games last fall. Incoming four-star athlete Isaiah Williams will also have his chance to win the starting job in Champaign.
Basically, Illinois has been a revolving door at the quarterback position over the last several years, failing to find any consistency. Rivers has proven he can be a dual-threat option, but he’s a much more effective runner than passer. We’ll see if any of the other candidates can beat him out for the No. 1 spot.
Projected starter: Tyrrell Pigrome Other QBs: Lance LeGendre, Max Bortenschlager
Why it’s at No. 14: Maryland is another program that has struggled with consistency at the most important position. Pigrome brings essential experience to the mix and the addition of four-star dual-threat quarterback Lance LeGendre gives Mike Locksley a great young option. But the Terrapins just haven’t had much success throwing the football in the recent past.
The Terps have been almost one-dimensional for the past three seasons, relying heavily on playmakers to break tackles and speed past defenders to move the football. While Pigrome provides a nice rushing threat, he’s not the greatest passer. Unless we see some progress in the spring, it could be another rough year under center in College Park.