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Grading the QB situations across the Big Ten Conference

Justin Fields
Justin Fields (AP Images)

The quarterback position is arguably the most interesting to follow in recruiting to see where they go to play and how schools recruit the position. Here’s a look at the scholarship QBs across the Big Ten.

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ILLINOIS

Lovie Smith and his staff went all over the place for quarterbacks - both near and far. Starter Brandon Peters was a four-star from Avon, Ind., who is a transfer from Michigan. The other regional quarterbacks are Isaiah Williams, a big recruiting victory for the Rivals100 prospect out of St. Louis (Mo.) Trinity Catholic and then three-star Coran Taylor is from Peoria, Ill. The Illini went to California for Matt Robinson and Florida for Deuce Spann as well.

Farrell’s take: I give Illinois a solid B for recruiting at the quarterback position as Williams was a big get and the portal is essentially also recruiting and the Illini made it attractive for Peters.

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INDIANA

Maybe Indiana is in the Midwest but that’s not where the Hoosiers stayed for quarterbacks. Starter Michael Penix is a former four-star from Tampa (Fla.) Tampa Bay Tech and then Dexter Williams was a three-star pro-style QB out of Macon (Ga.) Mt. De Sales Academy. There is a third scholarship quarterback on the roster since former San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills four-star Jack Tuttle transferred to Indiana from Utah.

Farrell’s take: A B-plus for Indiana here and it could be higher as Penix has been amazing. His play will only help the program add better QBs down the line.

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IOWA

Iowa wins a lot of recruiting battles in the Midwest for linemen and for many other players on the roster but when it comes to quarterback, Kirk Ferentz and his staff head out of the region. Starter Spencer Petras is from Northern California and starred at Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic, Jared Goff’s high school. In 2019, the Hawkeyes went to Greenwood Village (Colo.) Cherry Creek for three-star Alex Padilla and last recruiting cycle Iowa signed four-star Deuce Hogan out of Grapevine (Texas) Faith Christian.

Farrell’s take: The QB recruiting is a not great at Iowa but the Hawkeyes do manage to find some solid game managers and every once in awhile a somewhat polished passer. But overall it’s a C.

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MARYLAND

Maryland’s quarterback room is definitely one of the more interesting ones in the conference. Starter Taulia Tagovailoa grew up in Hawaii, then moved to Alabama when his brother, Tua, played for the Crimson Tide and Taulia played at Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson. Also on the roster is Josh Jackson, who is originally from Saline, Mich., and a Virginia Tech transfer and then Lance Legendre, a four-star former Kansas pledge from New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton. The Terrapins have gone to all corners for their QBs.

Farrell’s take: Maryland does a solid job through the portal as you can see and landing Legendre over Florida State and others was a big deal. I’d give them a solid B.

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MICHIGAN

Starter Joe Milton is a former four-star from Orlando (Fla.) Olympia and it’s important for Michigan to continue to recruit the Southeast hard, but the Wolverines went everywhere for their other quarterbacks. Out West, Michigan landed Dylan McCaffrey out of Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian and Reno (Nev.) Damonte Ranch’s Cade McNamara, both four-stars. Three-star Dan Villari was signed out of Massapequa (N.Y.) Plainedge in the 2020 class.

Farrell’s take: Recruiting and developing are separate things but this is about recruiting and Jim Harbaugh does a solid job. However the only gets a B because bigger names should be coming to want to play for an ex-NFL QB.

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MICHIGAN STATE

Michigan State is a hard-nosed football team that mainly stayed regionally for its quarterbacks as well. Starter Rocky Lombardi is a former three-star from West Des Moines (Iowa) Valley and then backups Payton Thorne and Theo Day are from Naperville (Ill.) Central and Dearborn (Mich.) Divine Child, respectively. In the 2020 class, Centreville (Va.) Westfield’s Noah Kim flipped from Virginia Tech to Michigan State. All four were three-star prospects.

Farrell’s take: This is a C-plus at best although Michigan State has turned some three-stars into NFL players. But overall they need to up their recruiting game a bit at the QB position nationally.

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MINNESOTA

Starter Tanner Morgan was a three-star from Union (Ky.) Kyle who had only two other Power Five offers from Louisville and Wake Forest but he has definitely outplayed his ranking. Two-star Zack Annexstad is from Minnesota and played at IMG Academy before going to the Golden Gophers, where he’s now on scholarship. Another state of Minnesota QB is on the roster in three-star Cole Kramer. The future at quarterback? It could four-star Jacob Clark out of Rockwall, Texas, a top recruit from the 2019 class.

Farrell’s take: Clark was a good get as this is trending up under PJ Fleck but is still a work in progress. I’d give Minnesota a solid B-minus here.

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NEBRASKA

In terms of ranking and name recognition, Nebraska might have the second-best group of quarterbacks in the Big Ten with Adrian Martinez being a Rivals100 prospect out of Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West and 2020 signee Logan Smothers out of Muscle Shoals, Ala., being the two highest-rated quarterbacks on the roster. High three-star Luke McCaffrey from Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian is emerging as well even though he was ranked as an athlete in the 2019 class.

Farrell’s take: Martinez was a huge get and McCaffrey is showing some great signs but the Huskers need to take this to the next level and I thought they would under Frost. I’d give them a C-plus.

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NORTHWESTERN

The Northwestern quarterback room is definitely interesting as well - and it was an inter-conference transfer that has breathed life into the Wildcats. Former two-star Peyton Ramsey from Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder played at Indiana before coming to Northwestern and getting the starting job. Former five-star Hunter Johnson out of Brownsburg, Ind., signed with Clemson and transferred to Northwestern but it still has not worked out. The Wildcats went to Salinas, Calif., for three-star Carl Richardson and back to Cincinnati for Andrew Marty out of Wyoming HS.

Farrell’s take: Getting Johnson was supposed to be huge but he’s been awful while Ramsey was an instant impact transfer. The Wildcats are landing solid prospects out of high school and deserve a solid B.

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OHIO STATE

The quarterback room at Ohio State is an interesting group and arguably the best in the conference led by former five-star Justin Fields, who played at Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison and signed with Georgia before transferring to lead the Buckeyes. Another transfer, this one from Kentucky, is former Dublin (Ohio) Coffman standout Gunnar Hoak, who’s also on the roster. In the 2020 class Ohio State went west and signed four-star CJ Stroud out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral’s Jack Miller.

Farrell’s take: There is no better quarterback room in college football to me except perhaps Clemson. Ryan Day is an A-plus QB recruiter.

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PENN STATE

Pennsylvania has had some big-named quarterbacks over the years but while Penn State has hit the border states there are no in-state QBs on the roster. That’s still OK since starter Sean Clifford is out of Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier and then Will Levis is from Madison (Conn.) Xavier and Ta’Quan Roberson played at Wayne (N.J.) DePaul Catholic. The only out-of-region QB for the Nittany Lions is former three-star Micah Bowens from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.

Farrell’s take: This is interesting because Penn State doesn’t land big-names quarterbacks but they develop solidly. From a recruiting standpoint I’d give them a C-plus as I expected bigger names to head to Happy Valley.

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PURDUE

The Boilermakers also have an interesting group of quarterbacks with starter Aidan O’Connell out of Long Grove (Ill.) Stevenson coming to Purdue as a walk-on. Jack Plummer is a three-star out of Giilbert, Ariz., Austin Burton played at Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange before going to UCLA and then transferring to West Lafayette and the Boilermakers signed high three-star Michael Alaimo out of Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph’s in the 2020 recruiting class.

Farrell’s take: I like the eye Jeff Brohm has at QB and you can’t expect four-stars to line up yet at Purdue. He gets a B-plus for players like Plummer and Alaimo.

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RUTGERS

Starter Noah Vedral has maybe taken the most circuitous route to Big Ten starter. The Wahoo (Neb.) Bishop Neumann two-star signed with UCF then transferred to Nebraska and then to Rutgers where he won the starting job. Johnny Langan played his high school ball at Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic and went to Boston College before transferring to play with the Scarlet Knights. Former starter Artur Sitkowski started in New Jersey before transferring to Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. Two others, Evan Simon and Cole Snyder, are from Pennsylvania and New York respectively, so local QBs - except for the starter - has been the move for Rutgers.

Farrell’s take: This has been a problem and will continue to be one even under Greg Schiano. The quarterback position has been a solid D, if not an F, for Rutgers lately.

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WISCONSIN

Going to Overland Park (Kan.) Blue Valley North and landing high four-star Graham Mertz was a huge recruiting victory for the Badgers and it could lead to a lot of wins in the coming years. Mertz is that good. Another Long Island QB is four-star Jack Coan out of Sayville, N.Y. Also on the roster are local prospect Danny Vanden Boom out of Kimberly, Wisc., and three-star Chase Wolf out of powerhouse Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier.

Farrell’s take: Mertz is the best QB recruited to Wisconsin in Rivals history and Coan has been solid. Wisconsin does a great job here and I give them an A-minus.

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