Breaking down the Big Ten's quarterback battles
The start of fall camps is right around the corner and at several major programs the focus will be on the quarterback position as former elite recruits battle it out for the starting job. Last week, we took a look at some of the most high-profile battles and had National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell weigh in on how he sees them shaking out. This week, we take a conference-by-conference look at the remaining quarterback competitions. Today we focus on the Big Ten.
Front-runner: Brandon Dawkins
Longshots: Johnny Pabst, Mike Fiacable, Jack Kellams
The situation: This was Ramsey’s job to lose throughout the spring and he seemed bound to be the team’s starter, at least until Dawkins entered the picture. The graduate transfer from Arizona is now the presumed favorite for the job, especially since he chose the Hoosiers for his final season of eligibility. Dawkins was Arizona’s starter last season before he went down with an injury and was replaced by Khalil Tate, who was electric and never gave the job back. Ramsey obviously has more experience in the system, having started four games last season as a redshirt freshman and he won’t be giving the job up without a fight. Penix enrolled early and impressed in the spring, so he will be in the discussion as well, but is likely headed for a redshirt.
Farrell’s take: You have to think Dawkins will be the guy here with one year left and the high ceiling he has. He can do more things overall in the offense and he can be a difference-maker for the Hoosiers, although Ramsey showed a lot of promise at times last year.
Front-runner: Cam Thomas
Longshot: Drake Davis
The situation: This competition seems like one of the easiest to forecast, as Thomas is the last man standing after some attrition at the position following the 2017 season. He started two games last year and impressed with his ability to make plays through the air and as well as on the ground. But given his limited experience, it’s not out of the question that one of the several freshman quarterbacks on the roster gives him a run for his money. The most likely appears to be Rivers, who put up impressive numbers during his high school career in Texas and might be a more consistent passer than Thomas. Graduate transfer A.J. Bush will also be in the mix, but he's at his third FBS program in five years and was a late arrival but perhaps his experience and savvy will help him close the gap during fall camp.
Farrell’s take: Thomas has the experience, albeit limited, in the offense so you have to figure he will be the guy but watch out for the youth here, especially Rivers who has a lot of talent. Rivers is physically ready for college football and it all depends on how he picks up the offense, but I’ll go with Thomas who has added some weight and will have confidence heading into the fall.
Front-runner: Ty Pigrome
The situation: Maryland’s quarterback situation has been in a state of flux during the D.J. Durkin era, mainly because of injuries. After winning the job during a competition last summer, Pigrome only lasted one half before going down with a season-ending injury. He was replaced by Hill, who also performed well in a few games before going down with his own season-ending injury. The pair were both out for the spring, leaving Bortenschlager, who started eight games last season, as the de facto No. 1.
Both Pigrome and Hill are now healthy and poised for another battle at the position, but Bortenschlager now has the most career starts of the three as well as almost a full year as the starter. Hill probably has the highest upside of the three, so it will be worth watching to see if he can seize control of the job heading into the year.
Farrell’s take: I grew to become a big Kasim Hill fan as he progressed during his high school career and he brings the most to the table here. Bortenschlager has the experience from last year and Pigrome won the job heading into last season, but Hill has the most upside, so watch out for him.
Front-runner: Tanner Morgan
Contender: Zack Annexstad
Longshots: Jon Santaga, Samuel Pickerign
The situation: Minnesota is the unenviable situation of picking a starting quarterback despite not having one of the roster that has thrown a college pass. Morgan has emerged as the front-runner after following P.J. Fleck to Minnesota after initially being committed to Western Michigan. He spent last season redshirting and that experience may turn out to be quite valuable when a final decision is made during fall camp. Annexstad is a true freshman who enrolled early, but didn’t even have 1,000 yards passing in his senior high school season at IMG Academy. Gophers fans are hoping whoever wins this battle will be the starter for years to come.
Farrell’s take: This will be an interesting battle, but you have to think Morgan will be Fleck’s guy here and the redshirt season will do him wonders. Someone needs to take the reins here and rack up the experience and Morgan has the ability to take the job and make it his own.
Front-runner: Adrian Martinez
Longshots: Matt Masker
The situation: Scott Frost comes into Nebraska with a clean slate at the quarterback position and based on all reports, things seem to be pretty tight in the race for the No. 1 job between Martinez and Gebbia. But Frost and his staff immediately set their sights on Martinez after arriving in Lincoln and after he wowed with his dual-threat ability in the spring game, many Huskers fans are hoping that he opens the season as the starter. Frost had no problems playing McKenzie Milton as a true freshman during his last job at UCF and after a .500 season in 2016 saw him lead the team to an undefeated year in 2017. Will Martinez take his lumps early? Or will Gebbia win out? Bunch is the wildcard considering he is a former walk-on, but he also impressed during spring practice and fits well into Frost’s offense.
Farrell’s take: I was a huge Martinez fan coming out of high school and was especially impressed with him at the Under Armour Game. The bottom line is this – he can do more with his arm and feet than anyone else and he is the hardest quarterback on the roster to gameplan against.
Front-runner: Dwayne Haskins
Contender: Tate Martell
The situation: With J.T. Barrett gone, Ohio State once again has a quarterback battle involving a couple of former highly-regarded recruits. Haskins impressed last season after filling in for an injured Barrett in the Michigan game and while he didn’t play last year, Martell has a unique skill set that made him Meyer’s top choice in the class of 2017. The pair present two very different options at the position, with Haskins being more a pro-style option while Martell is known for his running ability. The choice at the position could have a major impact on the offensive identity of the Buckeyes, who are once again expected to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Farrell’s take: Martell is a talent and certain packages could be put in place to take advantage of his ability to throw on the run and tuck it and get up field, but you have to figure Haskins will be the guy based on what we saw last year.
Front-runner: Elijah Sindelar
Contender: David Blough
The situation: Purdue’s roster is loaded with quarterbacks – eight of them to be exact – but this battle comes down to the two guys who started games for Purdue last year. After a battle in the fall didn’t truly sort things out in 2017, both players saw action in the Boilermakers first seven games. As the year wore on, it looked like Blough had full control of the job before he went down with a season-ending injury. Sindelar took over and led Purdue to three consecutive victories, including a bowl win over Arizona. It was later revealed that he finished the year with a torn ACL and after having surgery to repair the injury, he missed all of spring. Blough is a veteran of past competitions and will be tough to overcome, but it will be hard for the Purdue staff to forget what Sindelar did to close the season last year.
Farrell’s take: This is a tough call but I have a feeling about Blough. I could be way off and what Sindelar did last season is impressive, but Blough is a veteran and I always liked his upside. Purdue has two solid quarterback prospects here for the offense and it will be a tough battle, but my guess is Blough because he can be a bit more mobile.
Front-runner: Giovanni Rescigno
Longshots: Jalen Chatman, Rob Nittolo
The situation: The Scarlet Knights have yet to find consistency at the quarterback position in the Chris Ash era as a number of passers have come and gone in recent years. One constant has been former two-star prospect Rescigno, who has been with the program longer than Ash. After starting seven games last season, he’s not just the oldest, he’s the most experienced. The one major wrench in the situation is the intriguing talent of Sitkowski, the one-time Miami commit who flipped to his home-state school late last year. Lewis is in his second year in the program and will also have his say in the battle, while true freshman Chatman is likely to redshirt.
Farrell’s take: I think Sitkowski has a high ceiling and upside but I don’t think he’s ready to take over the job. Rescigno will be the guy who will help mentor him along. Rescigno’s experience is key here for Rutgers.