Big Ten/Notre Dame QB Rankings

The Big Ten is back and a big reason why are the quarterbacks in this conference. The Ohio State duo and veterans Connor Cook, Nate Sudfeld, and Christian Hackenberg lead this group. There are also some young guns with a promising future.

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The Big Ten won a great amount of credibility back in 2014 with Ohio State winning a national title. As we look ahead to this fall and the quarterback position, this conference is loaded and it starts with the national champion Buckeyes. But there are a handful of teams chasing Urban Meyer who have some terrific signal callers. Here’s a closer look at this position from 1-15. Independent Notre Dame is thrown in here as well.

1) Ohio State

Projected Starter: Cardale Jones
QB Depth Chart: Jones, J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller, Torrance Gibson

So who will guide the Buckeyes in 2015? Will it be Jones, who played exceptional football when things mattered the most in Columbus with the Big Ten Championship Game, their playoff game, or national title contest? Remember, Jones replaced an injured J.T. Barrett who replaced the injured Braxton Miller. Barrett was having a sensational season leading Ohio State. Poor Urban Meyer, as he has a major quarterback dilemma here that every coach in the nation envies. The Buckeyes are loaded and whoever gets the call here just has to manage the offense and limit mistakes. But these guys are all so talented. The starter could also be a Heisman Trophy front runner with a great chance of getting Ohio State back in the playoff. Miller is listed on this depth chart even though there have been persistent transfer rumors regarding him.

2) Michigan State

Projected Starter: Connor Cook
QB Depth Chart: Cook, Tyler O’Connor, Damion Terry, Colar Kuhns

Connor Cook is one of the top returning quarterbacks in college football and with another good fall campaign he could be seriously considered a potential first round draft pick. This is a quarterback that manages the game exceptionally well and doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s 23-3 as the Spartan starter. Last season he passed for 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Cook won’t be asked to carry their offense with his arm. It’s a balanced attack that he runs well in East Lansing. Look for Sparty and Michigan State to have another big season and a big reason why is Cook.

3) Penn State

Projected Starter: Christian Hackenberg
QB Depth Chart: Hackenberg, Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens

I knew a few years ago when I saw Hackenberg in high school that he had the physical traits to one day soon be a high level pro prospect. He has prototype size at 6-4/236. Hackenberg has arm talent and can make all the throws. In two seasons as the Penn State starter he has thrown for 5,932 and 32 touchdown passes. On the flip side he has thrown way too many interceptions (25) and has struggled with consistency. Hackenberg had a bumpy 2014 season, caused in part by a poor Nittany Lion offensive front. He needs to clean things up and work on ball security. Everyone around him should be better in 2015. If that’s indeed the case look for Hackenberg to bounce back big in the fall.

4) Indiana

Projected Starter: Nate Sudfeld
QB Depth Chart: Sudfeld, Zander Diamont, Nate Boudreau, Danny Cameron

The Hoosiers are led by an outstanding quarterback prospect in Sudfeld. This player is technically as sound as they come. He has a beautiful and quick release and nice mechanics. In this area of the position he's further along than most. He has completed 60% of his passes for 4,306 yards and 34 touchdowns. Sudfeld has 14 career starts and needs to stay healthy in 2015. He played only half the season in 2014. The Hoosiers could be a Big Ten sleeper this year, especially if Sudfeld plays well.

5) Notre Dame

Projected Starter: Malik Zaire
QB Depth Chart: Zaire, Brandon Wimbush, DeShone Kizer

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know Notre Dame is not in the Big Ten. But they are located in the middle of Big Ten country. I wanted to make sure they were in this feature so I put them in this league for this exercise. Everett Golson’s departure (just transferred to Florida State) puts Malik Zaire atop the quarterback depth chart. He played in seven games last season, starting in their Bowl game win over LSU. He finished the season with 266 passing yards and a touchdown pass. Zaire also rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Like Zaire, Kizer and Wimbush can both run and throw. So now the Fighting Irish have three talented dual-threat guys that should be able to run the full array of Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame offense. This is a good group that just lacks experience.

6) Wisconsin

Projected Starter: Joel Stave
QB Depth Chart: Stave, Bart Houston, D.J. Gillins, Thad Armstrong

Stave played in 13 games in 2014, throwing for 2,494 yards and 22 scores. He completed 62% of his passes and threw 13 interceptions. Stave has played well for three years now in Madison, compiling a 20-6 record as a starter for the Badgers. If Stave stays healthy he could challenge many of the Wisconsin records before it’s all said and done this fall. Paul Chryst returns to Wisconsin along with his pro-style system and you would think Stave will be a nice fit.

7) Nebraska

Projected Starter: Tommy Armstrong
QB Depth Chart: Armstrong, Ryker Fyfe, Johnny Stanton, Zack Darlington, A.J. Bush

It’s a new regime and a new offense in Lincoln, Nebraska with Mike Riley running the show. The former Oregon State head coach brings his passing game to the Cornhuskers. Tommy Armstrong returns for his junior season as a player primed to have a nice 2015. He has 21 starts over the past two years and the only quarterback with experience. The big thing with Armstrong is becoming a more accurate passer. In 2014 he had 3,400 total yards and 28 touchdowns. Both Zach Darlington and A.J. Bush had good springs.

8) Minnesota

Projected Starter: Mitch Leidner
QB Depth Chart: Leidner, Chris Steveler

In his first season as the Gophers starter, Leidner threw 1,798 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for over 400 yards. Those are not huge numbers but he did lead Minnesota to eight wins. That’s a nice stat and the most important one at that. This is a tough quarterback that will play through just about anything – a broken wrist, dislocated ribs and a sprained knee all in the last year. Leidner is a proven leader who does whatever it takes to win. He has played in 22 career games and started now 16 times. Minnesota is in good hands at this position.

9) Michigan

Projected Starter: Jake Rudock
QB Depth Chart: Rudock, Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, Alex Malzone, Zach Gentry

Shane Morris was the spring starter but he may be just keeping the seat warm for former Iowa starter Jake Rudock, who just transferred to the Wolverines. Rudock was basically a two-year starter for the Hawkeyes, throwing for over 4,800 yards, 34 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions over the last two years. Do you transfer to Michigan to become a back up? I don’t think so. It’s a time of transition in Ann Arbor and Rudock could be a nice find for this proud program this season with new coach Jim Harbaugh. There’s no question Morris has talent but he lacks Rudock’s experience and accuracy.

10) Illinois

Projected Starter: Wes Lunt
QB Depth Chart: Lunt, Chayce Crouch, Jeff George, Jr., Jimmy Fitzgerald

Not many people outside the Big Ten know much about Wes Lunt but he’s a talented signal caller for the Illini. He signed with Oklahoma State but transferred to Champaign and sat out the 2013 season. Last year he threw for 1,763 yards and 14 touchdown passes in eight games after suffering a broken leg early in the 2014 season. There will be a lot thrown at Lunt, as the coaches want him and the offense to be more aggressive and in attack mode this season.

11) Purdue

Projected Starter: Austin Appleby
QB Depth Chart: Appleby, Danny Etling, David Blough, Elijah Sindlear

Austin Appleby and Danny Etling both got significant playing time and starts in 2014. Appleby finished with 1,449 passing yards and 10 scores and 198 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Etling passed for 800 yards and six touchdowns. Both are juniors with plenty of experience. Appleby has the edge today. Keep an eye on red-shirt freshman David Blough and Elijah Sindlear could be healthy (ACL) in time for fall camp. Not only are the Boilermakers looking for a signal caller with more consistency but they also want to be more aggressive down field.

12) Iowa

Projected Starter: C.J. Beathard
QB Depth Chart: Beathard, Tyler Wiegers

Beathard was going to beat out Jake Rudock so Rudock transferred to Michigan. Beathard is more high risk, high reward for this Iowa offense. He doesn’t have the experience as Ruddock but seems to have a knack for big plays. Last season he was 52/92 for 645 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Beathard can move around and make things happen.

13) Maryland

Projected Starter: Caleb Rowe
QB Depth Chart: Rowe, Shane Cockerille, Perry Hills

Rowe missed spring practice as he is still recovering from an ACL injury. He appeared in four games in 2014, throwing for 489 yards, completing 69% of his passes, and accounting for five touchdowns. So a majority of the reps went to Shane Cockerille and Perry Hills. Hills is a red-shirt junior who has experience. He started seven times as a true freshman in 2012. Cockerille hasn’t seen any live game action as a quarterback. Both did some nice things this spring but lacked consistency. This job is Rowe’s unless he has set back with the knee injury.

14) Northwestern

Projected Starter: Zack Oliver
QB Depth Chart: Zack Oliver, Matt Alviti, Clayton Thorson

It’s a three-player race to replace Trevor Siemian. Zack Oliver was the backup who started Northwestern’s final regular season game last season and threw for 221 yards and a score. Alviti, a former four-star signal caller from Park Ridge, Ill., hasn’t played up to his hype at this point. He played in four games in 2014 and was used in an option role. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time for Clayton Thorson to take over the job. He’s got size and athleticism and Thorson can both throw and run. This red-shirt freshman just needs time.

15) Rutgers

Projected Starter: Chris Laviano or Hayden Rettig
QB Depth Chart: Laviano, Hayden Rettig, Giovanni Rescigno

There’s a battle waging at Rutgers to find their starting quarterback for this fall. Chris Laviano is the only signal caller returning with any kind of experience. He was Gary Nova’s backup in 2014. Laviano appeared in five games, completing 11 passes and gaining 81 rushing yards on the season. No, there’s are not lofty numbers but at least Laviano got some live action. Rettig is a transfer from LSU. Both players had solid springs.

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