Posts Tagged ‘Quarterback’

New in Blue: 2016 QB Brandon Peters

Sunday, April 5th, 2015


Brandon Peters(D. Kevin Elliott, Indy Star)

Brandon Peters – QB | 6-5, 205 | Avon, Ind. – Avon
ESPN: 4-star, #12 QB, 81 grade Rivals: 4-star, #5 ProQB 247: 4-star, #7 ProQB Scout: 4-star, #20 QB
Other top offers: Wisconsin, LSU, Nebraska, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Iowa, Indiana, Boston College

On the eve of the first spring game of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, the legendary Michigan quarterback received his first commitment for the class of 2016 in the form of Avon, Ind. signal-caller Brandon Peters. The 6’5″, 205-pound quarterback tweeted out the news late Friday night.

Peters is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Rivals ranks him the highest as their fifth-best pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class, while 247 ranks him seventh, ESPN 12th, and Scout 20th. In terms of national rankings, 247 has him the highest as the 157th-best overall recruit. ESPN ranks him 181st with an 81 grade and Rivals has him 211th.

Scout likes Peters’ intelligence, pocket awareness, and running ability/mobility, while listing his area of improvement as field vision. Allen Trieu expands on that by saying, “Good height and is continuing to fill his frame in. Is a good athlete who can run and escape pressure, but he also shows good awareness and feel in the pocket. Gets rid of the ball quickly and has the arm to make throws to the sideline and drive the ball downfield. As he gets bigger and stronger, that should only increase. Smart kid, tough, calm under pressure. Must continue to work on reading defenses and going through his progressions.”

As a junior at Avon High School in Indiana last season, Peters passed for 1,876 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also rushed for 244 yards and five scores.

Peters held offers from LSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Iowa among others. He joins offensive lineman Erik Swenson and linebacker Dele’ Harding in the young class. By the time he gets to campus he will join a crowded quarterback group that includes Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, Alex Malzone, and Zach Gentry.

New in Blue: Houston transfer quarterback John O’Korn

Thursday, February 5th, 2015


John OKorn(Justin Tijerina, The Daily Cougar)

John O’Korn – QB | 6-4, 220 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – St. Thomas Aquinas (University of Houston)
ESPN: 3-star, #38 QB, 77 grade Rivals: 3-star, #31 ProQB 247: 3-star, #24 ProQB Scout: 3-star, #38 QB
Other top offers: Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Louisville, Syracuse, Houston, North Carolina, South Florida
*Class of 2013

Less than 24 hours after polishing off his first 14-man recruiting class at the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh has apparently added some future insurance to the quarterback position by landing Houston transfer John O’Korn.

Although it hasn’t been made official by the program, the newest Wolverine to be announced the news via Twitter on Thursday.

O’Korn lit up the American Athletic Conference in 2013 as a freshman, setting Houston records with 3,117 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of 133 en route to winning the AAC’s Rookie of the Year award.

Following his breakout freshman season, as Smart Football’s Chris Brown pointed out, O’Korn had to adjust to a new offensive coordinator due to Doug Meachem’s departure for TCU, and the entire offense suffered because of it. O’Korn lost his starting role after throwing just six touchdowns and eight picks through five games. The sophomore struggled after starting the season with a four-interception performance in the opener against UTSA.

With a hew head coach coming in this season, former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, Houston granted O’Korn his release in January. Due to NCAA transfer rules, the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native won’t don the winged helmet until 2016 and he will have two years of eligibility remaining. As it stands, O’Korn will likely jump into a position grouping that includes Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry.

Bellomy, Heitzman to transfer from Michigan

Friday, January 30th, 2015


Bellomy-Heitzman

Four days after running back Justice Hayes announced his intention to transfer, new head coach Jim Harbaugh granted two more fifth-year seniors-to-be a release from the program. Quarterback Russell Bellomy and tight end Keith Heitzman both announced on Friday that they will seek a grad-year transfer to play out their final season of eligibility.

Bellomy appeared in six games during his four seasons at Michigan, completing 4-of-23 passes for 46 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions. The Arlington, Texas native entered the 2012 Nebraska game late in the second quarter in relief of an injured Denard Robinson and struggled to move the ball as the Wolverines lost 23-9. In that game — the most extensive action of his career — Bellomy completed just 3-of-16 passes for 38 yards and three interceptions while rushing five times for no yards.

He missed his junior season due to a torn ACL suffered in spring practice and came into the Penn State game last season for two series in relief of Devin Gardner. On those series, he went 0-of-2, but most importantly, didn’t make a mistake to take Michigan out of field goal range. Matt Wile kicked a 42-yard field goal to tie the game at 13 late in the third quarter.

Heitzman played in 36 games in three seasons after redshirting in 2011. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he appeared in 12 games as a reserve defensive end, recording seven tackles, one for loss, and recovering a fumble. In 2013, Heitzman started seven games at defensive end and played in all 12, recording eight tackles and half of a tackle for loss. Last season, he moved to tight end and caught two passes for 32 yards and one touchdown, which came against Indiana.

Both Bellomy and Heitzman expect to receive their degree from the University of Michigan this spring before transferring. Neither has picked a destination yet, but both stressed their love and appreciation for Michigan in Instagram posts on Friday afternoon. We wish both the best wherever they end up.

Click here to read Bellomy’s Instagram post. Click here to read Heitzman’s Instagram post.

Recruiting profile: 2015 QB commit Zach Gentry

Friday, January 30th, 2015


Gentry running
(Roberto E. Rosales, Albuquerque Journal)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark, 2015 CB Iman Marshall

Zach Gentry – QB | 6-7, 230 | Albuquerque, N.M. – Eldorado
ESPN: 4-star, #9 Pro-QB, 83 rating Rivals: 4-star, #4 Pro-QB 247: 3-star, #16 Pro-QB Scout: 4-star, #19 QB
Other top offers: Alabama, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Nebraska, Penn State

Jim Harbaugh’s second commit as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Zach Gentry, is a well-regarded recruit, in large part because of his prodigious size and potential upside. Gentry was previously committed to Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns, dating back to May of 2014, before decommitting earlier this month and committing to Wolverines on his official visit last weekend. Michigan was desperate at the quarterback position coming into this offseason, and now has early enrollee Alex Malzone and the newly committed Gentry appearing to be battling for the starting spot this fall, assuming Shane Morris doesn’t have a miraculous improvement this spring.

Arm Strength

Arm Strength - Zach GentryWhen speaking of towering quarterbacks, rocket-armed passers Joe Flacco and former Michigan Wolverine Ryan Mallett come to mind. It would be unfair to compare Gentry to either of these pros, as he simply does not have the cannon of arm that is expected of signal-callers who are taller than 6’6”. Gentry can stretch the field vertically by 50 yards at best, which is more than enough for most offenses, but is nothing special within itself. He can also throw it with nice velocity and spin to the sideline and over the middle, but isn’t going to sling it through a brick wall. Mechanically, Gentry’s arm action is somewhat of a concern as he has long arms which it make it difficult for him to get rid of the ball quickly and his release point is not always consistent.

Accuracy

Accuracy - Zach GentryIn terms of delivering the football with accuracy and anticipation to his receivers, Gentry is a work in progress. Once again, mechanics are an issue here as too often he will throw off of his back foot and will throw without first setting his feet. These are common issues which will affect ball placement and can be ironed out with coaching. Going back to his arm action, Gentry’s inconsistent release point can hinder his receiver’s ability to track the football out of his hand and cleanly field the ball. On the plus side, Gentry shows good touch on downfield throws and can drop the ball in a bucket when he is on.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Zach GentryAs a high school player, Gentry was a dual-threat, capable of making plays with his legs as well as with his arm, and frequently picking up huge chunks of yardage. Gentry is unlikely to carry this trait over to the collegiate ranks, however, a number of factors considered. While he is able to chew up yards with long strides, he is not explosive and lacks much shiftiness outside of weaving in and out of a straight line. Moreover, Gentry did not play against overwhelming athletic talent in the state of New Mexico, which could inflate how quick he looked on the field. Where Gentry’s ability likely will be able to carry over is his extending the play within and outside of the pocket to buy time to make the throw.

Intangibles

Intangibles - Zach GentryWith a player of his height, Gentry should have no trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage to read a defense (he is as tall as or taller than a lot of collegiate offensive linemen). From that point, however, Gentry is still a work in progress in terms of finding the right receiver to throw to and how patient he is waiting for routes to develop. As is, Gentry has some happy feet and is all too willing to take off and run without first exhausting his throwing options and keeping his eyes downfield should a receiver uncover late. Gentry is still a raw talent and has a lot of room to grow with how he processes the game, and with Harbaugh at the helm Gentry has come to right place to develop his skill set as a signal caller.

Bottom Line

While I may not be as big of a fan of Gentry as many others, there is some definite upside that Gentry brings as a recruit. My biggest concern with Gentry is that his size may have covered up a lot of his deficiencies at the high school level, as so many oversized washout players have had happen in their high school careers. The battle for Michigan’s starting quarterback job should be an interesting one, as it pits evil opposites Zach Gentry, a huge, raw, and mobile passer, against Alex Malzone, an undersized, but polished and accurate signal-caller. I expect the latter recruit to win the job, but Gentry is not someone who should be counted out.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
8.3 (3-star)

New in Blue: 2015 quarterback Zach Gentry

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


eldo-manzano fb(Jim Thompson, Albuquerque Journal)

Zach Gentry – QB | 6-7, 230 | Albuquerque, N.M. – Eldorado
ESPN: 4-star, #9 Pro-QB, 83 rating Rivals: 4-star, #4 Pro-QB 247: 3-star, #16 Pro-QB Scout: 4-star, #19 QB
Other top offers: Alabama, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Nebraska, Penn State

Just hours after Jim Harbaugh received his first commitment from defensive end Reuben Jones on Saturday evening, he landed a bigger splash with quarterback Zach Gentry. The Albuquerque, N.M. native and former Texas Longhorns commit flipped his commitment to Harbaugh’s Wolverines during halftime of the Michigan-Wisconsin basketball game and announced it via Twitter.

Gentry is a four-star recruit according to ESPN, Rivals, and Scout, and a high three-star according to 247 Sports. Rivals has him ranked the highest as their fourth-best quarterback in the class and 105th-best prospect overall. ESPN is close behind, ranking Gentry the ninth-best quarterback and 118th-best prospect. Scout lists him as the 19th-ranked quarterback and 278th overall, while 247 has him as the 16th-best quarterback and not ranked in their Top247.

While his ranking varies quite a bit among the recruiting sites, it’s largely because he plays in New Mexico, a state not exactly known for football, so the competition he faces each week isn’t the best. But with offers from the likes of Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Tennessee in addition to Texas and Michigan, it’s safe to say that if he played high school football one state to the East, he’d be ranked much higher.

Gentry’s size (6’7″, 230) is coveted at the college and NFL level, and with Harbaugh’s guidance he’s in a great spot to become the next great Michigan quarterback. But for now, he’ll enter fall camp as the low man on the totem pole, behind even classmate Alex Malzone, who enrolled for spring semester and will participate in spring practice.

Harbaugh comes home

Monday, December 29th, 2014


Harbaugh 49ers(Getty Images)

Michigan’s football season ended nearly a month ago, but the program landed its biggest win of the season on Monday when San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh landed in Detroit with his family to accept the same position at Michigan.

The move had been rumored for weeks as Michigan insiders gradually raised their odds with each passing day and NFL insiders maintained their stance that other NFL teams would swoop in and land the former Michigan quarterback. But John U. Bacon tweeted the first solid confirmation on Saturday night, ESPN’s John Clayton stated on Sunday morning on ESPN Radio that Harbaugh had begun contacting possible assistants, and Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman confirmed on Sunday afternoon. Harbaugh himself made it official on Monday, a day after closing his 49ers tenure with a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 19th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 20th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in his four years in San Francisco, taking the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVIII, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship game in 2011 and 2013. His winning percentage of .698 ranks fifth in NFL history behind only Guy Chamberlain (.784 from 1922-27), John Madden (.763 from 1969-78), Vince Lombardi (.738 from 1959-69), and George Allen (.712 from 1966-77).

Prior to the NFL, Harbaugh turned around a suffering Stanford program, taking a team that went 1-11 in 2006 to four straight seasons with improving records. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 in his second, 8-5 in his third, and 12-1 in his fourth, finishing second in the Pac-10 and beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He jumped to the NFL following that season, but the roster he recruited went on to records of 11-2, 12-2, and 11-3 in the next three seasons.

Harbaugh did the same at the University of San Diego before Stanford, taking a team that had achieved just 10 seven-plus win seasons since 1956 and going 7-4, 11-1, 11-1 in his three seasons. The latter two were USD’s first double-digit win seasons in program history.

Harbaugh also spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for his father at Western Kentucky while finishing his NFL playing career, and officially began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002-2003.

As a player, Harbaugh started 140 games in 14 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers. He totaled 26,288 passing yards and 129 touchdowns and ranks second in Bears history in completions (1,023), attempts (1,759), and third in yards (11,567). He was also inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2005.

Harbaugh is most beloved in Ann Arbor for his playing days at Michigan under Bo Schembechler when he led the Wolverines to a 24-4-1 record as a starter. He led the nation in pass efficiency in 1985 while leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and Fiesta Bowl victory. The following season, he finished third in the Heisman trophy voting and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He became the first Michigan quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game and finished his career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdown passes.

Harbaugh becomes the 20th head coach in the 136 year history of Michigan football, replacing Brady Hoke, who went 31-20 in four seasons. He will reportedly be officially introduced on Tuesday at a 12 p.m. press conference and again during that afternoon’s basketball game against Illinois, which tips off at 3 p.m.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis in the days to come.

Predicting Michigan: The quarterbacks

Monday, June 9th, 2014


Predicting Michigan- Quarterbacks Gardner

In the first season of the post-Denard Robinson era, Michigan quarterbacks suffered from many of the mistakes that made “Shoelace” so inconsistent. Turnovers and mental errors led to Al Borges’s firing in favor of Alabama’s Doug Nussmeier, who will look to construct a more concrete identity for the Wolverines. Nussmeier has plenty of quarterback options to choose from, as Michigan returns its top two candidates from 2013 and adds a talented recruit to the mix.

The Starter

Despite speculation and fan frustration that call for the senior to lose his starting position in 2014, Devin Gardner will certainly be under center for Michigan at the start of the season.

Devin Gardner

Of the 11 games in 2013 in which a Big Ten quarterback totaled at least 350 yards and three touchdowns, Gardner did it five times. No other quarterback did it more than once (Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

Gardner took a small step back early in his first full year as the starting quarterback, throwing 10 interceptions in his first six games. The veteran was reluctant to take a sack and threw passes into coverage instead of protecting the ball. A costly interception in his own end zone nearly cost the Wolverines the game against Notre Dame, and similar plays put Michigan behind against Akron and Connecticut.

But Gardner matured during the second half of the season, taking better care of the football and throwing just one interception in six games. Despite playing behind an offensive line that surrendered 34 sacks in 2013, Gardner managed to throw for 954 combined yards against Indiana and Ohio State, showcasing his potential for the 2014 season.

The top priority for Gardner during the offseason was rehabbing a foot injury that sidelined him for the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wing’s Bowl in Arizona. Gardner battled through the injury in a heroic effort against Ohio State, but it ultimately brought a disappointing season to an early close.

Spring competition will benefit the athletic redshirt senior after he coasted through camp as the consensus starter in 2013. A healthy Gardner makes the Michigan offense more dynamic, as he features both an electric arm and quickness in the scrambling game.

Gardner will have to regroup from the loss of his favorite target Jeremy Gallon and mesh with a new-look receiving core. Freddy Canteen has emerged as one of the top targets for Gardner, who demonstrated the tendency to take shots downfield in 2013. Gardner has excellent arm strength, and Brady Hoke has surrounded him with athletic receivers that can beat defenders deep.

Michigan’s starting quarterback also features a unique type of rushing ability, which allows him to extend plays and find teammates downfield. Unlike typical dual-threat quarterbacks, Gardner prefers to stay behind the line of scrimmage and buy time for his receivers to break open. Though this habit often lead to sacks last season, if Gardner can minimize his movement behind the line and avoid defenders near the pocket, he will take advantage of a deeper and more athletic wide receiver unit.

Improvement along the offensive line will offer Gardner more time to throw in 2014, so expect the fifth-year senior to take advantage of an improved overall offense and resemble the quarterback that dominated the Big Ten during the end of the 2012 season. Gardner holds all of the physical tools to be a dominant quarterback and is poised for a bounce back season in 2014.

Projected Stats
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2,700 23 9 62% 375 8
Career Stats
2012 2,960 21 11 60.3% 483 11
2012 1,219 11 5 59.5% 101 7
2011 176 1 1 47.8% 53 1
2010 85 1 0 70.0% 21 1
Totals 4,440 34 17 59.7% 658 20

Veteran depth

Shane Morris showed plenty of potential in Michigan's BWW Bowl loss to Kansas State (Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

Shane Morris showed plenty of potential in Michigan’s BWW Bowl loss to Kansas State (Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

Michigan returns two quarterbacks behind Gardner that have taken snaps during their Wolverine careers. Russell Bellomy returns to the lineup after tearing his ACL in spring practice and missing the entire 2013 season. Bellomy most notably took the reins for Michigan against Nebraska in 2012, throwing as many interceptions (three) as completions in 16 attempts.

Bellomy’s struggles ultimately forced Hoke to return Gardner to his original position of quarterback after he started as a wide receiver for the first eight games of the season. Bellomy represents the fourth quarterback option for the Wolverines heading into the season.

The more intriguing option behind Gardner is sophomore Shane Morris, who made a splash during his start in the bowl game last December. Though he failed to record a touchdown, the youngster demonstrated elite arm strength and completed 24-of-38 passing attempts.

Borges featured the former five-star recruit with a diverse selection of passing plays, and Morris looked comfortable running the offense as a freshman. Though Morris is a popular choice to compete with Gardner for the starting position, the electric sophomore is likely to hold the backup spot when Michigan takes the field on August 30.

Projected Stats – Morris
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
700 7 2 63% 59 0
Career Stats
2013 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Totals 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Projected Stats – Bellomy
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
70 0 0 55% 5 0
Career Stats
2013 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012 46 0 4 19.0% 16 0
2011 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 46 0 4 19.0% 16 0

Newcomers

Michigan added one quarterback in this season’s recruiting class: 6’6″, 230-pound Wilton Speight. Speight showcased his accurate arm during the Elite 11 camp in San Francisco last season, and figures to compete with Morris for the starting job in the coming years. The freshman is a prototypical pro-style quarterback, and threw for 63 yards as the starter for Team Nitro in the Under Armour All-American Game.

Speight has flown under the radar leading up to the 2014 season, but provides the closest resemblance to the type of quarterback that Nussmeier coached at Alabama. This freshman made dramatic improvements during his final season in prep school and will play a huge role for Michigan in the near future.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Quarterbacks (part two)

Friday, June 6th, 2014


Big Ten position rankings header_edited-1

Yesterday, we introduced Maize and Go Blue’s series that will rank the best Big Ten football players at each position in 2014. One position will be previewed each week in preparation for Michigan’s season opener in late August. These position previews will be thorough and in-depth, so the preview for each position will be split into two parts. Part One of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks was the first post of the series. It ranked the quarterbacks whom I believe are No. 6 through No. 10 at their position in the Big Ten. If you have not read it yet, I recommend that you do so before continuing below. On that note, let’s find out who are the five best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Here is Part Two:

5. C.J. Brown, Maryland | 6th-Yr Senior – 6’3″, 210 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,242 13 7 58.9 576 12
2011 842 7 6 49.4 574 5
2010 0 0 0 NA 12 0
Career Totals 3,084 20 13 55.4 1,162 17
(Jeff Vest, Icon SMI)

(Jeff Vest, Icon SMI)

After spending his first five seasons in the ACC, C.J. Brown will play his sixth and final season in the Big Ten. Not very often do we have sixth-year seniors in college athletics, but this is what happens when you have the injury misfortune that Brown has had. As a redshirt freshman, Brown suffered a fracture in his right shoulder that forced him to sit out the last 11 games of the season. Then, two years later, he tore his ACL in a non-contact drill in the preseason and missed the entire 2012 season. Because of the nature of his injuries and number of games missed, Brown petitioned that he receive a medical redshirt for a sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA granted his petition, allowing Brown to remain a Terrapin as Maryland relocates from the ACC into the Big Ten.

Brown is a dual-threat quarterback who can be a handful for defenses when healthy. Do not let the fact that his name was not as prevalent in the press as other ACC quarterbacks like Jameis Winston or Tahj Boyd fool you into thinking any differently. In 2013, Brown played 11 games, missing only two contests with a concussion. In those 11 games, Brown completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards, 13 touchdowns, and seven picks. He accumulated these numbers efficiently. He averaged eight yards per attempt—the highest by a Maryland quarterback since 2007—and maintained one of the lowest interception rates in the ACC (2.48 percent).

Yet, Brown causes more damage with his feet than his arm. Although he threw for only 13 touchdowns, which is relatively low, he compensated by add 12 rushing touchdowns to the scoreboard. His 12 rushing scores were tied for the fourth-most among all ACC players last season, including the running backs. Further, Brown’s rushing touchdowns did not result solely from quarterback sneaks and draws inside the ten-yard line. He actually is quite dangerous in the open field. Four of his rushing touchdowns were longer than 20 yards; the longest was a 49-yarder. Maryland provides Brown plenty of opportunities to break one, too. He earned almost 13 carries per game en route to 576 rushing yards and 4.1 yards per carry. If Brown finds open lanes, it can be a long day for the opposing defense.

There is a red flag, though, but it may relate to Brown’s injuries. There is a concerning disparity in Brown’s numbers in games against non-conference and conference foes last year. In five non-conference contests, he eviscerated the competition. He averaged 248.7 passing yards per game, completed 65 percent of his passes, averaged 10.1 yards per attempt, and threw nine touchdowns to two picks. On the other hand, in six conference contests, Brown averaged only 167 passing yards per game, completed 54.1 percent of this tosses, averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, and threw more picks than scores. Plus, his rushing yards per carry dropped from five to 3.4 against conference foes. The question is whether this decline should be attributed to improved competition accustomed to Brown’s tendencies or the concussion he suffered in the heart of ACC play. It is most likely the latter, but this is something on which to keep an eye. All in all, Brown likely will join Tre Roberson, Devin Gardner, and Braxton Miller as the most dynamic Big Ten quarterbacks. Brown just needs to remain healthy to do it.

4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State | Sophomore – 6’4″, 220 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,955 20 10 58.9 -68 4
Career Totals 2,955 20 10 58.9 -68 4
(Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

(Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

In terms of pure NFL talent and potential, there is no better quarterback in the Big Ten than Christian Hackenberg. In fact, other than Jameis Winston, there may be no better NFL quarterback prospect in the nation than Hackenberg. He oozes NFL potential. At six-foot-four and 220 pounds, Hackenberg has the size and build that NFL executives desire in their franchise quarterback. He also has a big arm and clean release that allows him to complete deep outs without needing to put extra oomph into his them. He possesses all of the tools needed to have a long professional career. He exhibited them last season, putting together one of the best seasons a true freshman can have. Hackenberg completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 picks, and annihilated several school freshman records in the process. NFL personnel are giddy to see how Hackenberg nurtures and grows his professional potential during his sophomore season.

However, the point of this exercise to preview the Big Ten’s best players for 2014, not for the NFL Draft years down the road. Hackenberg certainly has the ability to be the best quarterback in this conference, but he may be headed for a sophomore slump instead. Hackenberg lost his superstar safety blanket in Allen Robinson, who arguably just had the best two-year stretch by any wide receiver in Penn State history. Last season, Robinson led the Big Ten with 97 catches and 1,432 receiving yards, accounting for 46 percent of his team’s production. With Robinson’s departure, it is unclear how Penn State will fill the void. The Nittany Lions’ three returning wideouts combined for only 35 catches and 398 receiving yards in 2013, and none of the four wideouts Penn State landed in its 2014 recruiting class are expected to make an instant impact. There is no sure candidate to move into the featured role on the perimeter. Penn State may be loaded at tight end, which will help alleviate the problem, but Hackenberg’s performance very well may dip next season unless a wide receiver or two elevates their game.

The problems do not end there for Hackenberg. He also must worry about a shaky, inexperienced offensive line. Penn State returns only two starting offensive linemen from last season, but that was before one of them—Miles Dieffenbach—tore his ACL in spring practice. With only one healthy returning starter on the offensive line, albeit his left tackle, Hackenberg may not have the time and protection he needs to make the throws he wants. And this is all happening while he tries to learn a new offensive system after head coach and quarterback guru Bill O’Brien left Penn State in the offseason for the Houston Texans. Hackenberg has all the talent in the world—possibly the most of any quarterback in the Big Ten—but circumstances out of his control may cause him to slump in 2014.

3. Connor Cook, Michigan State | RS Junior – 6’4″, 219 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,755 22 6 58.7 76 1
2012 94 1 1 52.9 -3 0
Career Totals 2,849 23 7 58.4 73 1
(AP)

(AP)

Early last season, Michigan State’s quarterback situation appeared to be in shambles. In the preseason, four candidates vied to be tabbed the starter—Andrew Maxwell, Connor Cook, Tyler O’Connor, and then-true freshman Damion Terry. Yet, when the season opener arrived, none had separated themselves from the pack. Maxwell was the named the starter for Week 1, but it was only a formality. Multiple quarterbacks saw live game action the first few games as the competition spilled over into the season. It was not until Week 3 when Cook finally wrestled away the job and became the starter.

There will be no such mess this year. After leading Michigan State to its best season in over two decades, Cook is the clear-cut starter. Initially, there was not much about him that stood out. He was nothing more than a game manager. In his 10 regular-season starts, Cook averaged only 204.5 passing yards per game, and his completion rate exceeded 60 percent only four times. If there was one thing that did stand out, it was his ball security. Only four of his 277 pass attempts during those 10 starts resulted in picks, equating to a stellar interception rate of 1.44 percent. Cook’s dearth of costly errors allowed Michigan State’s emerging rushing attack and elite defense to win games comfortably.

Then, in the postseason, Cook demonstrated that he could be much more than a game manager when his team needed him to be. Facing top-five foes Ohio State and Stanford in the Big Ten Championship Game and Rose Bowl, respectively, the Spartans needed him to be the best quarterback on the field. Cook delivered. He averaged 318 passing yards per game, 8.4 yards per attempt, and threw five touchdowns while completing 60.5 percent of his passes. It was the first time all season that Cook threw for more than 300 yards, and he accomplished the feat in back-to-back games against the toughest teams he had seen all year. It was the sign of a quarterback who can produce on the biggest of stages.

Now, the question is whether Cook can repeat his postseason display week after week this season. It seems possible. Michigan State returns its star running back Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns, and a solid corps of wide receivers. The biggest concern is the Spartans’ offensive line. Last season, Cook was so calm and poised in the pocket because his jersey remained fresh from grass stains. The Spartans’ offensive line allowed only 1.21 sacks per game—tied for the 14th-best in the nation. However, Michigan State lost three starters there. If the Spartans cannot reload at the position, Cook may be pressured into making the mistakes he did not make in 2013. Nonetheless, Cook is a safe bet to be one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten. However, the offense likely will rely more on pounding the rock with Langford than airing it out with Cook, which is why Cook falls behind the next two quarterbacks on this list.

2. Devin Gardner, Michigan | 5th-Yr Senior – 6’4″, 218 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,960 21 11 60.3 483 11
2012 1,219 11 5 59.5 101 7
2011 176 1 1 47.8 53 1
2010 85 1 0 70.0 21 1
Career Totals 4,440 34 17 59.7 658 20
(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

To the surprise of many, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke repeatedly claimed throughout the spring that Devin Gardner was in a quarterback competition with Shane Morris. After the Michigan spring “game,” during which Gardner struggled, Hoke stated the battle between Gardner and Morris was close and would continue into the summer and preseason camp. This news left media and fans speculating as to whether Morris could actually pass Gardner on the depth chart before August 30th.

In a word: no. Unless Gardner injures himself in fall camp, he will be the starter in Week 1 and for all of 2014. It is foolish to bench a fifth-year senior quarterback who just had one of the best statistical seasons in school history. Gardner totaled 3,443 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2013—both figures are the second-most by a Michigan quarterback in a single season. His 2,960 passing yards were the second-most ever by a Wolverine, too. They were also the second-most in the Big Ten last season.

Gardner did this efficiently, too. His 8.6 yards per attempt were the highest in the Big Ten—this number actually improved to 8.8 in conference play—and he maintained his place in the Michigan record books as the quarterback with the highest career efficiency rating.

Gardner showed off his legs as well, becoming one of only two Big Ten quarterbacks to rush for double-digit touchdowns (11) last year. And he did all of this without any sort of assistance from the ground game and behind arguably the worst Michigan offensive line ever. Gardner is a playmaker that can go off for 350 total yards and three touchdowns amid total and utter chaos on any given Saturday. Heck, he did it five times in 12 starts last year. This is how one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks plays, not someone wearing a headset on the sideline or shifting out to wide receiver.

This does not mean Gardner is without faults. It is quite evident that Gardner has trouble with his decision-making and taking care of the football. Last season, with the entire weight of the offense on his shoulders, he understandably tried to force too many plays and locked onto his No. 1 receiver too often. This led to 11 interceptions. Although only three of those were in his final eight starts, there were too many other passes that should have been intercepted that were dropped (see: Northwestern). It does not help that Gardner also has a tendency to hold the ball like a loaf of bread when he scrambles. Consequently, he fumbled the ball 11 times, losing six of them—both of which were the worst in the nation. At this point of his career, it seems unlikely that Gardner will remedy this problem.

There are question marks around Gardner, too. How will an offensive line that allowed the most tackles-for-loss in the nation last season hold up after losing two tackles in Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to the NFL? Will a running back finally emerge to take some of the load off of Gardner? Who will step up at wide receiver behind Devin Funchess? How quickly will Gardner learn and execute new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s system? They are all valid questions, but Gardner has already proven that he can be one of the most productive quarterbacks even when everything else is breaking down around him, including his own body. So, if these questions are answered in a positive light and Gardner is not forced to take a beating on every single play, well, that is a terrifying thought for the rest of the Big Ten.

1. Braxton Miller, Ohio State | Senior – 6’2″, 215 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,094 24 7 63.5 1,068 12
2012 2,039 15 6 58.3 1,271 13
2011 1,159 13 4 54.1 715 7
Career Totals 5,292 52 17 59.3 3,054 32
(Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

(Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

Although the placement of the previous nine quarterbacks on this list can be argued to no end, there is no debate at the top. Braxton Miller is the clear choice as the Big Ten’s best quarterback. Miller has terrorized defenses the past two years in Urban Meyer’s spread offense and undoubtedly will do it one last time as a senior in 2014. He does this because he is the most explosive quarterback in the Big Ten. He was the only one the conference to throw for more than 2,000 yards (2,090) and rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,068) in 2013. His 8.2 yards per pass attempt were the second-best in the Big Ten; his 6.3 yards per carry were by far the best among Big Ten quarterbacks.

In addition to yards, Miller has quite the knack for putting points on the scoreboard. His 36 total touchdowns—24 passing, 12 rushing—were a league best, and he did not even play a full season. Miller will never be the quarterback who can stand in the pocket and make all of the throws, even though he has improved his accuracy each season. But it does not matter. His playmaking ability is the reason why he is the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year.

Miller is not superhuman, though. He is fairly durable given his smaller stature, but he is very vulnerable to being on the wrong end of some vicious hits because Ohio State runs him so frequently. Accordingly, Miller has been knocked out of several games throughout his career, although the injuries usually are minor. However, a knee injury he suffered early against San Diego State not only kept him on the sidelines for the remainder of that contest, but also for the following two games. Miller missed enough time that backup Kenny Guiton attempted 109 passes last season. With Guiton gone, the Buckeyes no longer have the luxury of a rock-solid backup in case Miller goes down for a substantial period of time once again. Miller needs to have his healthiest season yet, but he likely will miss snaps at some point. The question is just how many.

Miller also must cope with personnel changes. Miller may not have the same protection he had last season as Ohio State replaces four starters on the offensive line. Generally, the Buckeyes reload at all positions, but their offensive line recruiting has been somewhat spotty in terms of maintaining depth. If the replacements struggle to perform to expectations, Miller may not have the same number of opportunities to make big plays like he did in 2013. Additionally, Miller’s rushing numbers may dip with the departure of bulldozing running back Carlos Hyde to the NFL.

Hyde, who topped 1,000 rushing yards last year, opened up holes for Miller because defenses had to pick their poison when Ohio State ran the read-option. Until one of Ohio State’s young, talented running backs proves he is worthy of such attention, defenses will focus on containing Miller. Nonetheless, even with these changes, it would be a surprise if Miller did not have another season with 3,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns. This is why he is the Big Ten’s best quarterback, the favorite to win his third straight Big Ten Player of the Year Award, and a Heisman Trophy contender.

Do you agree with our list of the best Big Ten quarterbacks in 2014? Where did we go wrong? Please let us know in the comments below. With the Big Ten’s quarterbacks ranked and previewed, we next will take a look at their teammates in the backfield: the running backs. Keep checking in to Maize and Go Blue as we continue to preview the 2014 football season each day until August 30th arrives.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Quarterbacks (part one)

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


Big Ten position rankings header_edited-1

The dog days of summer are upon us, which means we are just a few short months away from the start of a brand new college football season. Although summer is the time for vacations and fun in the sun, it is also the time to learn in advance what you will see on the football field each and every Saturday this fall. Therefore, it is time to rank the best Big Ten players at each position for the 2014 season.

This is the first time Maize and Go Blue has previewed the Big Ten position by position. We are introducing these lists because we are striving to provide you the most comprehensive Michigan and Big Ten football preview in the Michigan blogosphere. To accomplish this, one position will be previewed weekly until Michigan’s first game week. The preview for each position will be very thorough and broken into two parts. The first will rank the Big Ten players I believe are No. 6 through No. 10 at their respective position; the second part will list the top five Big Ten players at their respective position. The criteria for these rankings are past performance as well as potential for the upcoming season only. Ultimately, the purpose of this series is to preview the most impactful Big Ten players in 2014, not recap the best returning players from last season.

It is important to note that not every single Big Ten player will be ranked in this series. Only the best 10 players at each position in the Big Ten will be listed and previewed, not all of them. There is no doubt that some valuable veterans will be excluded from these lists. And I am sure a few freshmen will burst onto the scene from out of nowhere, too. Nonetheless, by the time this series is completed, you will know which Big Ten players you should be paying the most attention to this fall.

With that said, let’s begin with the most important position in football: the quarterbacks.

10. Jake Rudock, Iowa | RS Junior – 6’3″, 208 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,383 18 13 59.0 218 5
Career Totals 2,383 18 13 59.0 218 5
(Charlie Litchfield, The Register)

(Charlie Litchfield, The Register)

The list of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks starts with somewhat of a surprise. Although no one considers Jake Rudock to be an elite Big Ten quarterback, many believe he is closer to the top than the bottom. It is not difficult to understand why. Rudock exceeded all expectations in his first season as starter in 2013, greatly improving upon Iowa’s putrid passing attack in 2012. He completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns, throwing 11 more touchdown tosses than Iowa did the previous season.

Rudock also broke Iowa’s prototypical mold for a quarterback. Most Iowa quarterbacks are statue pocket-passers, but not Rudock. He scrambled for 218 yards and five touchdowns. This may not seem like much in the age of the dual threat, but he was the first Hawkeye quarterback to exceed 100 rushing yards since 2006. Then, to add a cherry on top, Rudock led Iowa to an overachieving 8-5 record. This success, in addition to a strong offensive line and the return of No. 1 receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, has raised fans’ expectations for Rudock this fall.

However, these expectations must be tempered. There are red flags that cannot be ignored. One is Iowa’s offensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis tends to call passing plays with receiver routes that break off before the first-down marker. This prevents Rudock from picking up big chunks of yards through the air frequently. He becomes more of a game manager than a playmaker. This is why Rudock posted only 6.9 yards per attempt in 2013—the worst among all Big Ten quarterbacks who averaged at least 15 attempts per game. Unless Davis installs new packages or becomes more aggressive with his calls, Rudock’s arm will be constrained, and Iowa’s aerial attack will become stagnant.

Rudock can mitigate this if he is secure with the football, but this leads to another red flag: decision-making. He led the Big Ten with 13 interceptions last year; his interception rate was 3.76 percent—the fourth-worst among Big Ten passers with no less than 100 attempts. Not only is Rudock careless with his throws, he does it at the most critical moments. Six of his 13 interceptions were in the fourth quarter. No other Big Ten quarterback was picked more than three times in the final frame. It is possible that Rudock’s poor decisions could be attributed inexperience and first-year jitters, and he could overcome them next season with the help of the pieces around him. But this combination of red flags should make the public wary about touting a leap into the upper echelon of Big Ten quarterbacks for Rudock.

9. Trevor Siemian, Northwestern | 5th-yr Senior – 6’3″, 210 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,149 11 9 59.7 33 0
2012 1,312 6 3 58.7 48 1
2011 256 3 1 61.5 19 0
Career Totals 3,717 20 13 59.4 100 1
(Jose Carlos Fajardo, McClatchy-Tribune)

(Jose Carlos Fajardo, McClatchy-Tribune)

While some may be surprised that Rudock is so low on this list, some will be just as shocked to see Trevor Siemian in the top 10. Siemian did not produce eye-popping numbers last season. He completed 177 of his 296 attempts (59.8 percent) for 2,149 yards, 11 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He also was not a threat with his feet nor will he ever be.

This is no surprise, though. Siemian’s performance suffered for various reasons that were not in his control. This is not to say that he is completely faultless. It is to say that he could do only so much. Siemian could not control the countless injuries to his teammates, especially the ones at running back. The Wildcats’ two most explosive ground threats, Venric Mark and Kain Colter, were plagued with ailments all year. Northwestern’s offense was forced to be more one-dimensional, and the passing game struggled against the added defensive attention. Siemian could not control his playing time either. He was mired in a two-quarterback system used by head coach Pat Fitzgerald to utilize Colter’s legs. While the system gave more touches to a dangerous threat in Colter, it threw Siemian out of his rhythm and caused him to constantly look over his shoulder. There was nothing Siemian could do to change it.

It will all be different for Siemian in 2014. For the first time in his career, he will have the reins to the Northwestern offense all to himself. There will be no more rotating series. There will be no more looking over his shoulder. Siemian will thrive in this new capacity. He has shown glimpses of this in the past. He threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse, 245 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State, and a monster 414 yards and four scores against Illinois last season. Further, Mark has recovered from his injuries and will be healthy in the backfield. The energy defenses must expend to contain Mark will open up the passing attack for Siemian. Expect Siemian to post some solid numbers this year as he tries to lead Northwestern back to a bowl game after a disappointing 2013 season.

8. Joel Stave, Wisconsin | RS Junior – 6’5″, 225 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,494 22 13 61.9 -22 0
2012 1,104 6 3 58.8 -51 0
Career Totals 3,598 28 16 61.1 -73 0
(Badger Nation)

(Badger Nation)

Joel Stave has never been accustomed to job security. In 2012, he was entrenched in a three-way battle with Danny O’Brien and Curt Phillips to be Russell Wilson’s successor. Stave lost initially as O’Brien was tabbed as the Week 1 starter. But Wisconsin’s offense sputtered with O’Brien, tallying only 23 points combined in its second and third games of the season. So the Badgers made the switch to Stave in Week 4, and he proved it was the correct move. Wisconsin never scored less than 27 points and won four games in his first five starts.

Stave did not need to be a superstar. He just needed to keep defenses honest and prevent them from stacking the box against Wisconsin’s thunderous three-headed rushing attack of Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon. He did not disappoint, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt while throwing only three interceptions. The job was his.

Yet, in his sixth start of 2012, Stave suffered an injury to his left shoulder that caused him to miss the rest of the season with the exception of one attempted pass in the bowl game. It also caused Stave to lose his grip on the quarterback job. Entering the 2013 season, Stave once again found himself in a quarterback battle. This time, it was just he and Phillips duking it out. Stave won the job and was named the Week 1 starter. It was a solid, albeit not superb, campaign for Stave. He started all 13 games and completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,494 yards, 22 touchdowns, and a league-high 13 picks. His completion rate was near the Big Ten ceiling, while his 7.4 yards per attempts were in the middle of the pack. It was a season off of which Stave could build for 2014.

But, for the third straight year, Stave finds himself in another quarterback controversy. In the Capital One Bowl last season, Stave suffered an injury to his other shoulder. The injury was sufficiently serious to keep him sidelined for a portion of spring camp. This was not optimal for a quarterback who wants to correct his mistakes and better understand second-year head coach Gary Andersen’s offense. Plus, Stave’s absence meant more practice reps for Tanner McEvoy—a dual-threat quarterback who better fits the offense Anderson implemented at his previous stop at Utah State. Andersen still claims that the job is Stave’s to lose, and Stave likely will hold onto it. Nonetheless, Gordon will be the star of the Badgers’ offense, not the quarterback. Therefore, even if Stave wins the job, he likely will not have as productive of a season as the seven quarterbacks above him on this list.

7. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana | Junior – 6’5″, 232 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 2,523 21 9 60.2 -34 1
Career Totals 2,523 21 9 60.2 -34 1
(Jay LaPrete, AP)

(Jay LaPrete, AP)

Wisconsin is not the only Big Ten school with a quarterback competition for 2014. Another is Indiana. However, the loser of Indiana’s competition will not hold the clipboard all year like the loser in Wisconsin will. Last season, the Hoosiers deployed a two-quarterback system. Contrary to the widely-accepted philosophy that a team with two quarterbacks has zero quarterbacks, Indiana’s two-quarterback system sprouted one of the most lethal offenses in the nation, let alone the Big Ten. Indiana was the only Big Ten school to average over 300 passing yards per game; its average of 7.8 yards per attempt was the second-best in the conference. It would be a surprise if head coach Kevin Wilson deviated from this approach in 2014 because both featured quarterbacks return.

One is Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld assumes the role of the traditional, drop-back passer in Indiana’s two-quarterback system. The Hoosiers relied upon Sudfeld the most last season as he received the majority of the snaps under center. At first glance, it appears Sudfeld is one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 2,523 yards, 21 touchdowns, and nine interceptions last season; his 7.8 yards per attempt were the third-best among Big Ten quarterbacks that averaged no less than 15 tosses per game. Not too shabby for a quarterback who rotated series during the year.

However, a deeper dive into Sudfeld’s numbers reveals that he wilts against talented competition. Last season, Sudfeld was absolutely superb against unranked opponents. He completed 65.8 percent of his passes, averaged 229.3 passing yards per game, and threw 18 touchdowns to only five picks against unranked foes. His astounding average of 9.7 yards per attempt against unranked teams was by far the best in the conference. Sudfeld picked these inferior teams apart.

This was not the case against superior competition. In four games against ranked opponents, Sudfeld completed only 52.3 percent of his passes, averaged 172.3 passing yards per game, and threw four picks to three touchdowns. The yards he averaged per attempt almost halved to a hideous 5.2. Although not all ranked teams have talented defenses, quarterbacks usually find themselves in spots that require riskier decisions to beat ranked opponents. Given the risk, it is no surprise when these decisions flop, and subsequently, the quarterback has a worse stat line. But no other Big Ten quarterback had a statistical decline this steep when facing ranked competition. It indicates that this is more about Sudfeld than an overall talent disparity between Indiana and upper-level Big Ten teams. There is a flaw or a weakness in his game that becomes exposed when competing against ranked teams. Unless Sudfeld fixes it this season, he may find himself losing snaps to the next quarterback on this list.

6. Tre Roberson, Indiana | RS Junior – 6’0″, 203 lbs
Passing Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
2013 1,128 15 4 60.1 423 5
2012 368 2 1 66.0 133 3
2011 937 3 6 57.0 426 2
Career Totals 2,433 20 11 59.7 982 10
(Alan Petersime, AP)

(Alan Petersime, AP)

Tre Roberson is the other Hoosier competing to be Indiana’s starting quarterback. Whereas Nate Sudfeld is the statue in the pocket, Roberson is the speedy dual-threat quarterback with the arm to back up his legs. Although Sudfeld took more snaps last season, Roberson has the potential to take an already-potent offense to the next level this fall. In 2013, Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson limited Roberson’s touches. Roberson had less than 15 touches—carries or passes attempted—in half of Indiana’s 12 games. Wilson did not seem to have the trust in Roberson he had in Sudfeld.

Yet, when Roberson did receive more touches and developed a rhythm, not only was he a playmaker, he was efficient, too. He completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,128 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. Roberson’s completion rate was essentially identical to Sudfeld’s. His passing touchdown rate was significantly higher than Sudfeld’s—10.87 percent to 6.52 percent, respectively. His yards per attempt were also higher than Sudfeld’s. His interception rate was only a tad worse than Sudfeld’s. But Roberson made up for any minor difference between he and Sudfeld’s passing stats by averaging 4.98 yards per carry en route to 423 rushing yards and five rushing scores.

Although Sudfeld is a more-than-competent Big Ten quarterback, Roberson is a game-changer. His ability to run the read-option out of Wilson’s pistol formation opens running lanes and passing windows for the Hoosiers. Just look at the only two games this season in which he had more than 30 touches. Roberson turned 34 total touches into 338 total yards and four touchdowns against Michigan. In the season finale against Purdue, he had a career-high 58 touches and posted 427 total yards and six touchdowns. It is hard to give full credit to any performance against poor Purdue, but it showcased the talent and potential Roberson possesses. He needs to see more snaps this season, especially in Indiana’s bigger contests. But it seems Wilson will use the two-quarterback system and defer more to Sudfeld once again. This is why Roberson, who could be a dark horse Big Ten Player of the Year, is only at No. 6 and not listed in tomorrow’s Part Two.

Tomorrow, Part Two of Maize and Go Blue’s preview of the best Big Ten quarterbacks in 2014 will be posted, revealing the five top quarterbacks in the conference. Which quarterback do you think will be No. 1? Do you agree or disagree with the ranks of the five quarterbacks listed in Part One? Or was there someone left off the list that should be there? Let us know in the comments below.

 

New in Blue: Quarterback Alex Malzone

Monday, May 12th, 2014


Malzone

Alex Malzone – QB | 6-2, 200| Bloomfield Hills, Mich. | Brother Rice
ESPN: 3-star, NR Rivals: 3-star, #16 QB 247: 3-star, #13 QB Scout: 4-star, #15 QB
Other top offers: Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Miami (OH)

Just days after three Michigan players were selected in the NFL Draft Brady Hoke received a commitment from quarterback Alex Malzone. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich. native pledged his commitment to the Wolverines on Monday during a visit to campus and announced it via Twitter.

Malzone is rated a three-star by Rivals, 247 Sports, and ESPN and four-star by Scout. Rivals ranks him as the 16th-best pro-style quarterback in the class of 2015, while 247 has him 13th, and Scout 15th.  There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks as to when the Michigan coaching staff would extend Malzone an offer. He was named the quarterback MVP of the Detroit Rivals camp in April. New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier saw him throw on April 28 and subsequently extended an offer. Nussmeier Tweeted his excitement upon receiving Malzone’s commitment.


During the 2013 season for Brother Rice High School, Malzone went 190-of-281 for 2,794 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions, leading the Warriors to a perfect 14-0 record and a state championship. He was the Michigan Mr. Football runner-up to Ithaca quarterback Travis Smith, who is heading to Toledo this fall. Malzone was the only junior among the final four for the award.

Scout lists his strengths as accuracy/consistency, arm strength, and mental toughness, while saying his biggest area for improvement is his size. He’s listed as 6’2″ and 200 pounds. For what it’s worth, 247 lists him an inch taller and ESPN an inch shorter.

In his scouting report, Scout’s Allen Trieu states, “Has the arm to make all the throws. Mechanics can still use polishing, but he has good velocity on his passes, shows excellent timing and is very accurate. Shows the ability to make tough throws into coverage and has great touch down the field. Shows calm under pressure and lead several late game winning drives and has been in big game situations. May not have ideal dropback QB height, but is a gamer and a winner.”

Malzone reports offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Miami (OH), Ohio, Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Wake Forest, and Western Michigan, though Stanford and Tennessee expressed interest after his standout performance at the Detroit Rivals camp. He visited both unofficially back in February.

Michigan now has six commitments in its 2015 class. Malzone joins defensive backs Shaun Crawford, Tyree Kinnel, and Garrett Taylor, kicker Andrew David, and offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr.