Over the next few weeks, a panel of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be breaking down the conference position-by-position.
Today we look at the quarterback spot, where Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Iowa's C.J. Beathard are clearly the standouts in the conference. Could a guy like Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong or Illinois' Wes Lunt make up ground?
The reporters were asked to rank the top five at the position, with five points going to the No. 1 spot, four to No. 2, three to No. 3, and so on...
1.) J.T. Barrett, Jr., Ohio State: 55 points (11 first-place votes)
The 2014 Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, Barrett heads into the fall for the first time the undeniable leader at the quarterback position for the Buckeyes. Barrett’s numbers drastically fell in 2015 after sharing the quarterback spotlight for much of the season with Cardale Jones. Arguably Barrett’s best two games of the year came to close out the season. With Jones on the sidelines, Barrett led Ohio State to wins over rival Michigan and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. In those two contests, the former Texas prep completed 28-of-46 throws for 324 yards, racking up 235 yards (39 carries) and three touchdowns on the ground.
2015: 93-of-147, 992 passing yards and 11 TDs / 115 rushing att., 682 yards and 22 TDs.
Scout Voter: "I'm not sure there will be a clearer cut No. 1 at any position in the Big Ten. Having seen Barrett up close, I can attest he's the real deal at this level." - Mark Brennan, Fight On State
2.) C.J. Beathard, Sr., Iowa: 42 points
After getting part-time work as a sophomore, Beathard was promoted to full-time starter in 2015 and took advantage of the first-team reps at the quarterback spot. The Tennessee native led the Hawkeyes to a 12-2 record, ultimately proving to be one of safest quarterbacks in the country with the football in his hands. In 362 passing attempts, Beathard only had five interceptions. His best performance of the year might have been against Minnesota. The junior completed 18-of-26 passes for 213 yards and no interceptions in a 40-35 win against one of the Hawkeyes’ rivals. He also rushed 10 times in the contest for 50 yards and two touchdowns against the Gophers.
2015: 223-of-362, 2809 passing yards and 17 TDs / 6 rushing TDs
Scout Voter: "Beathard is not flashy, but neither is the Iowa program. He takes care of the football and doesn’t make costly mistakes. Something tells me the Hawkeyes’ defensive coordinator loves him." – Josh Harvey, Big Red Report
3.) Tommy Armstrong, Sr., Nebraska: 25 points
With a load of offensive weapons at the wide receiver spot, Armstrong struggled to be consistent in 2015 sporting a 22 to 16 touchdown/interception ratio. His first year in Mike Riley’s offense saw him run nearly 50 times less and throw 60 times more than in 2014. Three different times he failed to hit on 50 percent of his passes in a game. Armstrong’s best work came against Michigan State in an upset win over Sparty. The junior quarterback threw for 320 yards (57.6%) and had four total touchdowns.
2015: 222-of-402, 3330 passing yards and 22 TDs / 400 rushing yards and 7 TDs
Scout Voter: "I think Tommy Armstrong is top three in the Big Ten based on talent, but the turnovers and costly end-of-game mistakes make me want nothing to do with him in my personal top five." – Derek Young, Hawkeye Insider
4.) Wes Lunt, Sr., Illinois: 24 points
After a transfer year and an injury riddled 2014 season, Lunt finally was able to play a full season at Illinois. While his numbers were solid, they could have been a lot better. The problem? Illinois wide receivers recorded more than 60 drops. Cut that down by a third and Lunt is pushing 3000 passing yards and has a completion percentage in the 60s. With starters back at both the wide receiver spot and on the offensive line, expect Lunt to improve in new offensive coordinator Garrick McGee’s system.
2015: 270-of-481, 2761 passing yards and 14 touchdowns
5.) Mitch Leidner, Sr., Minnesota: 8 points
No one will ever mistake Leidner for Tom Brady, but his passing numbers have gone up every year and we don’t expect anything different from the eventual four-year starter in 2016. Leidner finished last season strong, throwing for 223 yards and a touchdown against Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl - completing 80 percent of his tosses. Leidner did miss time in the spring with a foot injury, but is expected to be full go by fall camp.
2015: 242-of-407, 2701 passing yards and 14 touchdowns / 6 rushing TDs
Honorable Mention (received votes):
John O'Korn, Michigan: He still hasn't locked up the starting quarterback spot head into the fall, but likely will be the guy after a nice spring game.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern: He took his lumps as a redshirt freshman starter in 2015, but should be better this year because of it.
Tyler O'Connor, Michigan State: A three-year backup, the Sparty senior has big shoes to fill taking over the signal-caller spot after the graduation of Connor Cook.
Panelists: Josh Harvey (Nebraska), Mark Brennan (Penn State), Derek Young (Iowa), Keith Cavanaugh (Maryland), Dave Berk (Michigan State), Ryan Burns (Minnesota), Jeremy Werner (Illinois), Ryan Ginn (Ohio State), Ben Worgull (Wisconsin), Sam Hellman (Rutgers) and Josh Newkirk (Michigan)