Grading how the Big Ten programs have developed QBs
Player development is always important, as important as recruiting in many ways. So how have Power Five teams been developing quarterbacks in the last decade? Let’s start with the Big Ten and hand out some grades.
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Regular starters: Nathan Scheelhaase, four-star, (2010-2013); Wes Lunt, four-star (2014-2016); Brandon Peters, four-star (2019-present)
The skinny: You might be surprised at the ranking of these quarterbacks but two of them, Lunt and Peters, are transfers so they didn't sign with the Illini out of high school. However, I do give Illinois some credit for solid development here, especially Scheelhaase who had a good career. The Illini haven’t produced any NFL standouts so far but that’s actually the case for most Big Ten teams over the decade. The quarterbacks they recruited themselves like four-stars Chandler Whitmer and Aaron Bailey didn’t do much so this is a mixed bag of sorts. Illinois has done well with transfers to an extent, but the program hasn't developed a homegrown QB in a while.
Regular starters: Ben Chappell, two-star, (2009-2010); Nate Sudfeld, three-star, (2013-2015); Richard Lagow, three-star (2016-2017); Peyton Ramsey, two-star, (2018); Michael Penix Jr., four-star (2019-present)
The skinny: Penix Jr. is the only highly-rated player here and he’s been excellent when healthy but the success Indiana had with Sudfeld, a three-star, and Ramsey, a two-star, is probably more impressive. Ramsey left when he lost the job to Penix Jr. but he was a solid player for the Hoosiers. Sudfeld was a sixth-round pick and is still with the Philadelphia Eagles. Indiana isn’t a recruiting hotbed or national power but I like what I’ve seen from a developmental standpoint and it’s starting to show on the field.
Regular starters: Ricky Stanzi, three-star (2008-2010); James Vandenberg, three-star (2011-2012); Jake Rudock, three-star (2014-2015); C.J. Beathard, three-star (2016); Nate Stanley, three-star (2017-2019); Spencer Petras, four-star (2020-present)
The skinny: Petras is the only four-star of the group who has made an impact and the jury is still out on him but Stanley especially was a solid job by the staff. He had a good career with the Hawkeyes and was a seventh-round pick and is still with the Minnesota Vikings. Stanzi had a great career at Iowa but only counts for one season this decade. Rudock went off to have success as a transfer at Michigan for a year, while Beathard became a third-round pick and is with the San Francisco 49ers after posting a 21-7 record at Iowa. All in all, this is excellent production from a group of three-stars.
Regular starters: Danny O’Brien, three-star (2010-2011); Perry Hills, three-star, (2012, 2015-2016); C.J. Brown, three-star (2013-2014); Josh Jackson, three-star (2019); Taulia Tagovailoa, four-star (2020)
The skinny: Lots and lots of injuries here and not a whole lot of overall success as three-stars like O’Brien, Hills and Brown had very mediocre careers. There hasn’t been good, solid QB play at Maryland for quite some time. Kasim Hill, a four-star, was expected to be a star but injuries got him too. All in all, this has not been the go-to destination for QBs.
Regular starters: Denard Robinson, four-star (2010-2012); Devin Gardner, four-star (2013-2014); Jake Rudock, three-star (2015); Wilton Speight, three-star (2016); Shea Patterson, five-star (2018-2019)
The skinny: Robinson was a superstar but more of an athlete playing QB in Rich Rodriguez’s system. Gardner didn’t live up to expectations and development under Jim Harbaugh has been a massive disappointment. Rudock and Patterson were solid but neither reached the heights fans expected. The QB situation is unsettled heading into 2021; J.J. McCarthy provides hope but he could be just another quarterback under Harbaugh who treads water.
Regular starters: Kirk Cousins, three-star (2009-2011); Connor Cook, three-star (2013-2015); Brian Lewerke, four-star (2017-2019); Rocky Lombardi, three-star (2020)
The skinny: Michigan State has done a stellar job of taking three-stars and turning them into college standouts. Cousins was second-team All-Big Ten in 2011, a fourth-round pick and has been a two-time Pro Bowler. Cook was second-team All-Big Ten in both 2013 and 2014 and was a fourth-rounder as well while Lewerke was solid as well. Lombardi elected to transfer to Northern Illinois after the 2020 season.
Regular starters: Adam Weber, three-star (2007-2010); Marqueis Gray, four-star (2011); Phillip Nelson, three-star (2012-2013); Mitch Leidner, two-star (2014-2017); Tanner Morgan, three-star (2019-present)
The skinny: Weber holds many Minnesota records but he counts for only one year in the decade and the rest is very up and down. Gray had a ton of potential but it never got met, Nelson was average and Leidner was 24-17 as a starter but threw almost as many picks as touchdowns. Morgan had one great season but regressed this past year. Overall, this program has been too erratic when it comes to development to earn a high grade. The NFL is certainly not littered with Gophers quarterbacks.
Regular starters: Taylor Martinez, three-star (2010-2012); Tommy Armstrong, three-star (2014-2016); Tanner Lee, two-star (2017); Adrian Martinez, four-star (2018-present)
The skinny: Taylor Martinez was an athlete coming out of high school who did very well as a dual-threat quarterback. Armstrong had a very good career and set many records while being on the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Watch lists. With both being three-stars and Lee as a two-star transfer who had one average season, Nebraska has done well overall. Adrian Martinez started strong but has tailed off but QB play has not been the reason the Huskers have been sub-par.
Regular starters: Dan Persa, three-star (2010-2012); Trevor Siemian, three-star (2013-2014); Clayton Thorson, four-star (2015-2018); Peyton Ramsey, two-star (2020)
The skinny: Persa and Siemian were serviceable quarterbacks as three-stars and Thorson lived up to his four-star billing and then some. Siemian is an interesting one because he threw 27 touchdown passes and 24 picks in his Northwestern career but he’s still in the NFL and was a starter at one point. Thorson holds all kinds of team records and is also in the NFL, while Ramsey was a transfer who was excellent this past season.
Regular starters: Terrelle Pryor, five-star (2010); Braxton Miller, four-star (2011-2013); J.T. Barrett, four-star (2014-2017); Dwayne Haskins, four-star (2018); Justin Fields, five-star (2019-2020). Others of note: Cardale Jones, three-star (2015)
The skinny: Ohio State recruits at a higher level than any other program in the Big Ten so its grading is slightly different. Overall, the Buckeyes have done a tremendous job as far as college success goes. Pryor switched to wide receiver in the NFL as did Miller, while Haskins is already a first-round flameout. Fields will be a first-rounder this year. Barrett holds a ton of team records and I had to pop Jones in there as he came off the bench and won a national title.
Regular starters: Matt McGloin, unranked (2010-2012); Christian Hackenberg, five-star (2013-2015); Trace McSorley, three-star (2016-2018); Sean Clifford, four-star (2019-present)
The skinny: Talk about an interesting analysis. McGloin went from walk-on to starter and had some time in the NFL while Hackenberg went from five-star to solid his first two years and then a bust. McSorley played well over expectations and Clifford has been up and down. But with McSorley’s success and records he holds, he gives Penn State a solid grade.
Regular starters: Caleb Terbush, two-star (2011); Robert Marve, four-star (2012); Danny Etling, four-star (2013); David Blough, three-star (2015-2018)
The skinny: This is kind of ugly with a couple of four-stars not doing a ton (even though Marve was a transfer from Miami) and Blough being the lone shining light. Blough got better and better as time wore on and he’s still in the NFL but overall this is an ugly group and no real headliner in recent years.
Regular starters: Chas Dodd, two-star (2010-2011); Gary Nova, three-star (2012-2014); Chris Laviano, three-star (2015); Artur Sitkowski, three-star (2018); Noah Vedral, two-star (2020-present)
The skinny: Nova is the line bright spot here but Dodd and Vedral were two-stars so expectations were low. The verdict is still out on Vedral, but Laviano and especially Sitkowski were not good. That’s not overly fair to Laviano as he threw more touchdowns than picks while Sitkowski threw just four touchdowns to 18 interceptions in 2018. Nova was solid with 73 touchdowns and 51 picks, and keeps the Scarlet Knights from an awful grade.
Regular starters: Scott Tolzein, two-star (2009-2010); Russell Wilson, two-star (2011); Joel Stave, two-star (2012-2015); Alex Hornibrook, three-star (2016-2018); Jack Coan, four-star (2019); Graham Mertz, four-star (2020-present)
The skinny: Wisconsin is known for game managers and we can’t really give the Badgers credit for Wilson, who was already a star from NC State when he landed in Madison. Tolzien did much better than projected, Hornibrook was very average as expected and Coan was a bit of a disappointment based on his four-star rating. Mertz is off to a solid start but it’s Stave who impresses me as a winner who lasted a long time and had some looks in the NFL. That’s excellent two-star development.