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QB Week: Big Ten programs that have had the most QB success

We kick off quarterback week with a conference look at the Big Ten programs that have had the most success at the quarterback position during the era, starting with the only school to have produced a Heisman Trophy winner at the position.

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J.T. Barrett
J.T. Barrett (AP Images)

The quarterback position at Ohio State has been a position of strength in the Buckeyes' offense recently with the likes of J.T. Barrett, Cardell Jones and Braxton Miller, but they were strong in the first decade of the era as well. The Buckeyes have the only quarterback Heisman Trophy winner in the Big Ten during this time – Troy Smith in 2006 – and the only No. 1 overall ranked prospect in Terrelle Pryor, who had some bright spots in his Ohio State career but probably did not get the most out of his talent due to off-the-field issues that shortened his college career.


Connor Cook
Connor Cook (AP Images)

Ohio State is a pretty clear No. 1 in this ranking, but Michigan State is a pretty clear No. 2. Mark Dantonio had a string of NFL-bound quarterbacks captaining his offenses, starting with Brian Hoyer and continuing with Kirk Cousins and then Connor Cook. In between, eventual third-round NFL Draft pick Nick Foles transferred out and, the highest rated prep quarterback to sign with the Spartans, Andrew Maxwell, was overtaken by Cook. The pace-setter, though, was Drew Stanton, a four-star in the 2002 class.


Trace McSorley
Trace McSorley (AP Images)

Former five-star Christian Hackenberg finished off a productive career and made the early jump to the NFL, paving the way for the reigning Big Ten Championship Game MVP, Trace McSorley to take over. Interestingly, McSorley was rated as an athlete prospect out of high school and had originally committed to James Franklin at Vanderbilt, before flipping to Penn State when Franklin was hired there. Penn State has signed two five-star quarterbacks in the era, with the other being Anthony Morelli. Four-stars Kevin Newsome, Pat Devlin, Robert Bolden and Michael O’Connor would transfer out before finishing their Penn State careers.


Denard Robinson
Denard Robinson (AP Images)

Michigan recruited the quarterback position better than their play at the position would suggest. Several top-ranked quarterback recruits never met their potential, but enough did to earn a spot in this top five. The most successful was Chad Henne, a five-star from the 2004 class who would start four straight seasons and set many of Michigan’s career passing records. Four-stars Devin Gardner, Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier would enjoy some success during their careers, though other highly-rated prospects like Ryan Mallett and Shane Morris never made it happen in Ann Arbor.


Clayton Thorson
Clayton Thorson (AP Images)

Northwestern does not have as many four and five-star signees as the other schools on this list. In fact, its only four-star quarterback signees during the era are both on the 2017 roster: Clayton Thorson and Matt Alviti. Northwestern has had consistent production from the quarterback position, though, stretching back more than a decade. Thorson was preceded by Trevor Siemian, who is now a starter in the NFL. Before him, the Wildcats went on a five-year stretch (2007-11) with a quarterback ranking among the top three in the Big Ten for passing, a group that featured C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka and Dan Persa.