football Edit

Hit or Miss: Highest-ranked QBs ever at each Big Ten school

Ryan Mallett
Ryan Mallett (AP Images)

With some recent big quarterback commitments like Quinn Ewers to Texas and Gunner Stockton to South Carolina I thought it would be interesting to take a look at each program's highest-ranked quarterback signee (or in a couple cases, a future signee as they're still just commitments) in Rivals history and give a take on whether we HIT or MISSED on the prospect's ranking. We start today with the Big Ten.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

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FARRELL 25: Nos. 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series

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ILLINOIS — Isaiah Williams (2006)

Overview: Williams, nicknamed Juice, was a strong-armed quarterback who could also move and threw one of the prettiest balls you’ll see. He had an absolute cannon and threw for more than 8,000 yards and rushed for more than 2,500 yards in his Illinois career. He was named second-team All-Big Ten in 2008 and set many Illinois records.

Judgement: HIT. He lived up to the hype despite not being drafted in the NFL and played early and often at Illinois and led the team to the Rose Bowl. This was a special talent.

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INDIANA - Donaven McCulley (2021)

Overview: It’s obviously too early to say we hit or missed on McCulley as he’s in this class and needs to sign. But it’s a very good sign for Indiana that its highest-ranked quarterback in Rivals history is the program's future.

Judgement: TBD. This is a major recruiting win for Tom Allen and his staff and the previously highest ranked quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., is panning out well.

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IOWA - Jake Christensen (2005)

Overview: Christensen was a lefty with a strong arm who could move around and extend the play and had bloodlines as his father Jeff played in the NFL. He had a solid year in 2007 with 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions but lost the job to Ricky Stanzi the next season and transferred to Eastern Illinois.

Judgement: MISS. His college career didn’t stand up to a Rivals100 ranking and there was some controversy surrounding his departure from the program as some said he took shots at the former coaches.

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MARYLAND - Kasim Hill (2017)

Overview: Hill, like most on this list, had a big arm out of high school and he could run but we had him as a pro-style because he preferred to stay in the pocket and had good touch. His Maryland career was marred by injuries and he threw for just 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns despite showing promise. He has transferred to Tennessee and sat out last season.

Judgement: MISS. But mainly because of injuries. Hill was effective as a young player before being injured two different times. He’s not expected to make a huge impact at Tennessee.

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MICHIGAN - Ryan Mallett (2007)

Overview: Mallett still had the strongest arm I’ve ever seen out of high school as he could throw it through a brick wall. He was perfect for the Michigan offense until Rich Rodriguez was hired and he didn’t fit the dual-threat mold at all.

He transferred to Arkansas after one very average season at Michigan and had tremendous success and became a third-round pick. He had an NFL career with three teams over seven seasons.

Judgement: MISS. For all the success he had at Arkansas he still never lived up to his No. 4 overall ranking, which would have required All-American success and a first-round grade.

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MICHIGAN STATE - Andrew Maxwell (2009)

Overview: Maxwell started one year at Michigan State in 2012 and threw for 13 touchdowns against nine picks. He lost the job to Connor Cook after that and was never drafted. He was a smooth kid out of high school with great upside but only showed flashes of that.

Judgement: MISS. He never came close to panning out as expected and was one of the few at Michigan State that wasn’t developed as Drew Stanton, Kirk Cousins and Cook all went on to the NFL.

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MINNESOTA - MarQueis Gray (2008)

Overview: Gray was a phenomenal talent out of high school and a great athlete. He played quarterback and wide receiver at Minnesota with varying degrees of success. His best season under center was 2011 with 1,495 passing yards and nearly 1,000 rushing yards. He was drafted and played tight end for five years in the NFL.

Judgement: MISS. Gray wasn’t a stellar quarterback but the fact that he was so versatile and had success under center and catching the ball showed his promise. But as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, he fell short of expectations.

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NEBRASKA - Harrison Beck (2005)

Overview: Beck was a talented kid coming out of high school who had his first offer in middle school. However, he completed only one pass at Nebraska and transferred to NC State, where he struggled for two years and transferred to North Alabama. The nation’s No. 3 quarterback became one of the biggest busts in our history.

Judgement: MISS. Beck is trying to cultivate an online following, mixing quarterbacking and politics and still has a brash, confident attitude, which is odd after all the failures. He is an interesting character but was a massive bust.

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NORTHWESTERN - Clayton Thorson (2014)

Overview: Thorson was by far the biggest quarterback win for Northwestern in our history and started an amazing 53 games for the Wildcats. He passed for more than 10,000 yards and had a very good career. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2019.

Judgement: HIT. He was a leader, put up big numbers and holds records at Northwestern, so you can’t ask for more than that.

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OHIO STATE - Terrelle Pryor (2009)

Overview: Pryor was an amazing talent who played early for Ohio State and put up some impressive numbers. He threw for more than 6,100 yards and rushed for more than 2,100 in three years with the Buckeyes and I’m convinced he could have won a national title his final year had he not been suspended for trading memorabilia for tattoos. He went off to the NFL and became a successful wide receiver.

Judgement: HIT. Pryor lived up to his immense talent at Ohio State and was a year away from dominance and a Heisman run.

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PENN STATE - Anthony Morelli (2004)

Overview: Morelli was a highly regarded in-state get for Penn State and was supposed to lead the Nittany Lions to a national title. At Penn State he was up and down and didn’t reach expectations throwing 31 touchdowns and 19 picks in two years as a starter.

Judgement: MISS. Some say Morelli was the best 7-on-7 quarterback they have ever seen but handling a pass rush was an issue. He was a major disappointment in the eyes of Penn State fans.

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PURDUE - Brady Allen (2022)

Overview: Allen is still in high school so we are far from a verdict, but he has immense talent and is by far the highest-ranked quarterback get for Purdue.

Judgement: TBD. A huge recruiting win for Jeff Brohm, Allen could lead Purdue to some big things.

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RUTGERS - Tom Savage (2009)

Overview: Savage was a big kid with a huge arm and a massive recruiting win for Greg Schiano but he never panned out at Rutgers. He transferred to Arizona and then transferred again (like Mallett) when Rich Rodriguez was hired. He had a very good year at Pitt in 2013 and became a fourth-round pick.

Judgement: MISS. Savage had a solid career but never lived up to the hype at Rutgers.

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WISCONSIN - Graham Mertz (2019)

Overview: Mertz is battling Jack Coan at Wisconsin right now and has an amazing future but he’s still young and needs to develop. He was polished as a passer coming out of high school with great touch and accuracy.

Judgement: HIT. Wisconsin produces solid quarterbacks who are game managers (aside from the Russell Wilson year) but Mertz could be a game-changer.

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