Sunday, February 8, 2009

2009 Big Ten Quarterbacks: Returning Starters and New Candidates

Everyone knows the importance of the quarterback in football, be it college or pro level. Returning a starting quarterback is almost always considered to be a huge plus to any football team in terms of continuity and on-field performance.

Let's review 2008 briefly and the teams that returned starting QBs and the team records:

1.) Penn State 11-2
QB Darryl Clark replaced Anthony Morelli and was far more productive offensively.
Penn State led the Big Ten in scoring 40 pts. per game and in yards per game. Entering the 2008 season Clark was experienced in clean up duty and was very comfortable as starter.
2009 Nittany Lion QB Candidates:
Darryl Clark is back as a senior.
Then there is 2009 incoming freshman Kevin Newsome.
(Paul Ciancolo graduated and backup Pat Devlin transferred to the Delaware Blue Hens)

2.) Ohio State 10-3
QB Todd Boeckmann led OSU to the Big Ten title and national championship game in 2007. In 2008, Boeckmann played second fiddle to freshman sensation Terrelle Pryor at QB.
Buckeyes finished 5th in league scoring and a surprising 9th in yards/game. Great defense is what elevated Ohio State play most of the season. Oh, and a healthy Beanie Wells.
The Buckeyes landed a great freshman class for 2009 and the timing is perfect.
Pryor will need significantly better play for the OL and a rejuvenated running game under Brandon Saine and Jamal Berry. Otherwise, the overwhelming pressure on Pryor will only mount.
2009 Buckeye QB Candidates:
So. Terrelle Pryor
So. Joe Bausermann
2009 freshman recruit Ken Guiton

3.) Michigan State 9-4
QB Bryan Hoyer returned as the Spartans' senior starter for 2008. Offensively, Michigan State was decidedly mediocre in the Big Ten, measuring 6th in the league in scoring and 7th in yard/game. A strong running game, fewer turnovers and adequate defensive play allowed MSU to win key games in 2008. Hoyer graduates in 2008.
2009 Spartan QB Candidates:
Jr. So. Kirk Cousins
Jr. Keith Nichol
2009 Fr. recruit Andrew Maxwell

4.) Iowa 9-4
Redshirt freshman QB Jake Christianson lost his starting job to sophomore QB Rick Stanzi in the second game of the season, a 42-0 shut of Florida International. The Hawkeyes never looked back. With Stanzi under center and Shonn Greene at tailback, the Hawkeyes exploded offensively finishing 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring and 3rd in the league in yard/game - a major improvement of the prior year. The Hawks were the only Big Ten team to win their bowl game by crushing SEC rep South Carolina in embarrassing fashion in the Outback Bowl 31-10.
Jake Christiansen has transferred.
2009 Hawkeye QB Candidates:
Jr. Rick Stanzi owns this position right now.
So. Marvin McNutt
RS Fr. John Wienke
2009 freshman recruit Micah Hyde.

5.) Northwestern 9-4
CJ Bacher and Mike Kafka split duty at QB in 2008. Kafka was more productive (and dangerous) in the spread offense because of his running ability. Kafka has a good throwing arm as well, and I'm sure we'll see him throw more in 2009 since the Wildcat running game of Sutton and Conteh blew up last fall to injury and do not return. Northwestern finished 8th in scoring and 6th in yards/game.
2009 Wildcat QB Candidates:
Kafka is the heir apparent for 2009.
So. Joe Mauro
2009 freshman recruit Evan Watkins.

6) Wisconsin 7-6
Wisconsin had QB issues the minute Tyler Donovan graduated in 2007. Wisconsin finished 4th in scoring and 3rd in yards/game in 2008 in 2008. Not bad. Unfortunately, the Badgers never achieved the consistency they needed under starter Allan Evridge. I sort of expect improved numbers going into 2009 with backups Tolzien or Sherer at the helm, because I think they are more talented players than Evridge was.
2009 Badger QB Candidates:
Jr. Scott Tolzien
Sr. Dustin Sherer
Curt Phillips
2009 recruit Jon Budmayr round out the Badger QB depth chart.

7.) Minnesota 7-6
The Golden Gophers finished 6th in scoring and 10th in yard/game in 2009 under QB Adam Weber. Weber has been sidelined with off-season surgery, so it's not entirely certain whether he'll start the first few games of the 2009 campaign. He may get into the role again later into the season. No team in the Big Ten returns with more total starters on offense and defense than the Golden Gophers (estimated at 18), so it would not surprise me to see Minnesota winning again 7 games or more, upsetting a few Big Ten teams along the way in their new TCF stadium, and then getting embarrassed in a bowl game per tradition. By 2010 this Gopher team could be pretty good. Weber might miss the first 1 or 2 games of the season in 2009.
2009 Gopher QB Candidates:
Sr. David Pittman is the most experienced behind Weber.
Soph. MarQueis Gray
2009 freshman recruit Moses Alipate.
Sr. Adam Weber (surgery)

8.) Illinois 5-7
I'm still trying to figure out how you go from Rose Bowl team, return your starting QB (Williams), return an awesome WR (Benn), and sensational tailback Daniel Dufresne, and not become bowl eligible. I guess this explains Ron Zook's negative recruiting tactics. I think it's also explained by something called "Western Michigan". Regardless, the Fighting Illini return with Juice at QB, and hey, that's all you need, right? Well, minus the 16 soul-crushing interceptions, I mean. Juice Williams is probably the Big Ten's loudest demonstration that it's simply not good enough to have a Pat White under center making big plays and giving defensive coordinators fits. You can't turn the ball over. You need a consistent running game, and the defense has to stop people. It sounds strange to say this, but Juice Williams is entering his senior season for the Illini. He threw for a sick number of yards in 2008, but behind closed doors right now Zook has to be thinking very hard about his QB situation and whether Juice Williams is the right choice. Williams is times. No question about it. He destroyed Michigan (not much of a feat last year, but still) and he almost single-handedly knocked off Ohio State in Columbus a year ago. Still, at other times, Williams' throwing errors have literally sucked the life out of the Illini football team.
2009 Illini QB Candidates:
Jr. Eddie McGee
RS freshman Jacob Charest
2009 freshman recruit Nathan Scheelhaase

9.) Purdue 4-8
Purdue's high octane spread attack earned a rating of 7th in league scoring and 4th in yards/game under star QB Curtis Painter. Painter graduates and coach Joe Tiller is being replaced by former Boilermaker offensive line coach Danny Hope. Will Hope continue Tillers passing attack or mix in some other razzle-dazzle? I'm not too optimistic about the Boilermarkers' future right now, mainly because I don't know about Danny Hope. I do know this: Purdue has a good QB coming back in Joey Elliott.
2009 Boilermaker QB Candidates:
Sr. Joey Elliott
So. Justin Siller
RS Fr. Caleb TerBush
then 2009 freshmen Najee Tyler and Rob Henry.

10.) Michigan 3-9
RS Freshman Steven Threet shared duties with Sophomore Nick Sheridan. Both performed poorly in the 2008 campaign overall as Michigan finished last in scoring and last in yards/game.
Both threw inconsistently and did not seem to fully grasp the offense. On the one hand, it's not going to be that difficult for Michigan to improve upon the 2008 QB numbers - they were that bad. On the other hand, Michigan enters the 2009 campaign with either low talent and low experience (Threet, Sheridan) at QB, or high talent and low experience (Forcier, Robinson).
One thing is certain now, head coach Rich Rodriguez finally has some players joining the football team in 2009 more to his liking, i.e. with good throwing accuracy, excellent footspeed and big playmaking ability. Threet has the inside track to start in 2009, in my view. Forcier and Robinson are going to push him very hard, however, in the Spring and Fall practice sessions. Threet's strength is his offensive playbook understanding, arm strength and game experience. His weaknesses have been lack of speed, poor throwing accuracy and hanging onto the ball way too long. But again, as far as arm strength goes, Threet may be the best there is in the Michigan lineup. Accuracy awards, though, will likely go to Mr. Forcier and Mr. Robinson. The quarterback position at Michigan is going to be interesting to watch for another reason in 2009: The Wolverine receiving corps may very well be the best in the Big Ten, if not the entire MidWest, from an overall speed, experience and talent perspective.
2009 Wolverine QB Candidates:
So Steven Threet
Fr. Tate Forcier
Fr. Denard Robinson
Jr. Nick Sheridan
Fr. Nader Furrha

So. Justin Feagin (playing slot)
Senior David Cone is also in the depth chart, but probably never before slotback.

11.) Indiana 3-9
I liked Indiana in 2007. Gaining bowl eligiblity and dedicating the season to Terry Hoeppner as they did was a cool thing. I thought it might be a program on the rise, to some extent anyway. 2008 was a disaster, however. Indiana finished 10th in league scoring and 8th in yards/game. The Hoosiers alternated talented quarterbacks Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappelle most of the season. The results were 12 TD passes and 11 INTs. I would expect these numbers to improve in 2009. Indiana's depth at QB is substantial, and Lewis could have a breakout senior season for the Hoosiers if he can stay out of trouble off the field, and if the other ten players on the Hoosier offense would only cooperate. Lewis's backups are capable and experienced.
2009 Hoosier QB Candidates:
Sr. Kellen Lewis,
Jr. Ben Chappelle,
Jr.Mitchell Evans,
So. Teddy Schell,
RS Fr. Adam Follett
2009 Freshman Edward Wright-Baker.

The Big Ten teams with the best QB outlook for 2009?

1.) Penn State (Darry Clark)

2.) Iowa (Rick Stanzi)

3.) Indiana (Kellen Lewis)

4.) Northwestern (Mike Kafka)

5.) Ohio State (Terrelle Pryor)

6.) Minnesota (When and if AdamWeber returns to full health)

7.) Michigan State (because of Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol play to hype)

8.) Illinois (The Juice!!)

9.) Michigan (Steven Threet/Tate Forcier/Denard Robinson)

10.) Purdue (Joey Elliott)

11.) Wisconsin (Scott Tolzien)

The next key variable is total returning offensive starters. Here are my estimates for 2009 football teams in the Big Ten conference:

1.) Michigan 11+ returnees
2.) Minnesota 10 returnees
3.) Indiana 9 returnees
4.) Iowa 7 returnees
5.) Illinois 7 returnees
6.) Michigan State 6 returnees
7.) Wisconsin 6 returnees
8.) Purdue 5 returnees
9.) Northwestern 4 returnees
10.) Ohio State 4 returnees
11.) Penn State 4 returnees

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