O.k., so we gave you a look at the least shiny unit in the Big Ten, special teams, yesterday so it's only right we come back to you today with a big hitter, right? Well, your thoughts were ours and today we get down to the one position that everyone likes to focus on and discuss - the Quarterbacks.
This list is once again our Editor's own personal picks and does not reflect that of the staff as a whole, so we're just going to let you get right to it - no frills tonight as the QB's are the star of the show. Enjoy and let the debate begin...
1. Northwestern: If there's a better one-two punch at QB than Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian I'd love for you to show me who that is. The two combined for 2,184 yards, a 63.2% completion rate, and 15TD's to 7INT's last season alone. These guys have a great repoire and both are experienced weapons with Siemian having 218 attempts and Colter adding 149 of his own in 2012. We know more about these guys than anyone else in the league and both are good QB's. For me there isn't a better overall group in the league with as diverse a skill set as they bring to the table.
2. Ohio State: The difference between Northwestern and Ohio State at QB is small, but the fact that Siemien has played and proven himself on a bigger scale wins the day. We did rank Braxton Miller as our No. 1 overall player in the league, but Kenny Guiton isn't Trevor Siemian in terms of experience. What will make this season interesting is to see how much Miller stays in the pocket this season - something that was worked on a lot in the spring to help improve his passing game. Miller is the most dynamic play maker at QB in the conference and realistically I have no problem with those that want to put them ahead of the Wildcats.
3. Nebraska: Taylor Martinez is the 3rd best athlete at QB in the Big Ten, so it's fitting that this unit ranks 3rd in the conference. What holds him and this group back on the whole is a severe lack of being a good passer. Yes, he did improve last season to a career best in completion percentage (62%), yards (2,871), and TD's (23). He also still has a massively awkward throwing motion that has gotten only slightly better. He still floats too many balls and he throws too many stupid passes as well (12INT's last season). Behind him are two very strong armed and young options in redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong III and true frosh Johnny Stanton. If Martinez goes down there is a lot to like behind him and Armstrong really put himself in good position with a great spring. Yes, the depth is young and unproven behind Martinez, but do you really think they'll be asking any QB outside of Martinez to win them football games? I sure don't.
4. Indiana: What in the blue hell... I'm sure you're thinking I'm crazy. I'm also sure you are quickly forgetting that this team has not one, not two, but three QB's who have starting experience on their roster. It also helps that all three bring different things to the table. Tre Roberson was looking to be a breakout player before breaking his leg last season. Then we got to see Cameron Coffman do his thing and we all saw a QB capable of leading a team with his arm and legs (if needed). There was also Nate Sudfield who showed some promise as well. As a unit you'd be hard pressed to find one that has more versatility and experience on it. The problem here is no one knows who's going to be the starter and we may not know until early into the season either. My money is on Roberson, as he is very dynamic with the ball in his hand and on his feet - He'll be the starter if he can show he is mentally better and can avoid the mistakes he had before the broken leg.
5. Michigan: Devin Gardner is a hot commodity - he's everyone's pick for "Breakout Player of the Year" in the Big Ten and we get why. He made Michigan better when Shoelace went down last season and that's saying a lot considering how good Robinson was at times. However, the issue with UofM is what happens if he goes down. Shane Morris, a true freshman, is the only other scholarship QB on the roster for 2013 thanks to a torn ACL from expected backup Russell Bellomy. That is a major buzzkill to the momentum some give this group.
6. Wisconsin: The difference between Indiana and Wisconsin? The QB's in on the battle for the starting spot on the IU roster have all got starting experience at the FBS level. Wisconsin has some good options with Joel Stave (who started six games) and Curt Phillips (who started the final five games, including the Big Ten Championship game and Rose Bowl). However, neither may end up the starter because they have one of the top JUCO transfers in the country coming in in Tanner McEvoy - who was recruited specifically by this new staff. After the spring it was pretty clear that Stave is the better option of the two that were around in spring and the battle is like to come down between the athletic McEvoy and the strong armed Stave. Then there is strong armed, but green Bart Houston as well. Things have never looked better at the QB position for the Badgers and that's good news for an offense looking to find it's identity.
7. Michigan State: Um, ya.... Andrew Maxwell wasn't good last year. O.k., I will say more, but that's the gist of this ranking and if he would've been even average at best this team would've been a contender in the Legends Division race. Maxwell needs to show vast improvement because there's the guy, Connor Cook, who came in to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and won it.
8. Penn State: Nothing like a QB battle between two players who have never seen a snap in an FBS game to make you tumble down the rankings following a magical season with now graduated Matt McGloin. The good news is they have the best pro style QB in the 2013 class coming on board in Christian Hackenburg. If he's all they say he is chances are he wins the job. He's got a ton to like about his game, but jumping from high school to college is massive and even if he starts it could be a bumpy ride. He'll battle JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson for the job this fall. Other than that there's nothing for true depth and thus the low ranking this preseason.
9. Illinois: Who would've thought just two years ago a team with Nathan Scheelhaase as their QB would rank this low. I guess that's what injuries and a hit to the old confidence will do to you. Since his breakout freshman campaign in 2010 it's been downhill for this veteran signal caller. The Illini experimented with Riley O'Toole last season but he wasn't much better. Scheelhaase appears to have a lock on the starting job in Bill Cubbit's new look spread offense and that plays to his strengths. In fact it sure looked more like the old Scheelhaase out there in the spring game than the one we saw over the past two seasons. If that's the case this gam may not be as bad as we all think, but count this group as a member of my "I'll believe it when I see it" crowd.
10. Minnesota: Phillip Nelson got his feet wet in 2012 as a freshman and the results were about as mixed as you'd expect them to be. He didn't have much in the way of accuracy, completing less than 50% of his passes and having as many picks as touchdowns (8) too. However, that experience will be valuable as he looks to win the job this fall. All indications are that he will win it over strong armed redshirt freshman Mitch Liedner. This group is very young as a whole, but there is potential for them to be good. I do like the moxy Nelson has shown, but the question is if he'll match that with the improvement needed to help the Gophers make the jump.
11. Iowa: When you return exactly ZERO snaps at QB from a season ago it's not exactly looking up in the Big Ten. Experience is at a premium. The battle will be between Cody Sokol, a JUCO transfer, and Jake Rudock, a sophomore. Rudock was the backup QB last season in Iowa City for what it's worth. Reports out of spring were not exactly pie in the sky, jump for joy happy with what went down between the two and that isn't good news. Perhaps they make a jump, but these guys have a lot to prove and a short amount of time to do it in as they take on Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois to open this season up. Look for the winner to be steady hand at QB at the very least given the talent coming back in the running game.
12. Purdue: Yes, there is experience returning in Robert Henry, but behind him are two freshman in redshirt Austin Appleby and then early entrant Danny Etling who's a legit challenger to Henry for the No. 1 spot this fall. Anyone else see it as a problem when you are a team who's got issues with a QB that hasn't stayed healthy and two green QB's plus a whole new offense that is predicated on the QB performing at a high level? I like some of the talent that this group has as a whole, but I'm not a fan of it being very good this season and it may even be two years before we see anything resembling the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" returning in West Lafayette.