Hello CFBZ readers.
Before giving you a breakdown of the best (and worst) skill position players in the B1G, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Jeff, and I currently reside in the wonderful city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Even though I live in basketball country (and believe me, it pains me everyday to deal with it) I spent 18 years of my life in the Midwest, mainly in Pennsylvania and in Michigan. My earliest football memories were watching Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State battling it out for Rose Bowl berths on national television.
With that in mind, I brought my writing talents here to this wonderful blog, not only to talk about my favorite conference, but all college football in general. It's almost that time of year!
This is the first part of a three-part series on the skill position players in the Big 10.
Big Ten Skill Position Breakdown: Part 1 - Quarterbacks
In 2011 the B1G will be home to a number of great players under center, including a slew of dual-threat quarterbacks. Denard Robinson, Dan Persa, Nathan Scheelhase, and Russell Wilson headline the group, but there are a number of talented quarterbacks in the league, many of whom will showcase their skills for the first time this year.
1. Michigan, Jr. Denard Robinson
Last season Denard Robinson emerged last fall as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in not only the B1G, but in the nation. His early season performances against Notre Dame, Connecticut, and Indiana immediately threw his name into heisman consideration. But once the Big 10 schedule came along Robinson was slowed down by injury and stronger defenses. Still, the talented Floridian accumulated over 2,500 passing yards at a 62% clip, with 18 TD's, along with 1,702 rushing yards. Robinson was the first player in NCAA history to throw for 2,500+ yards and to run for 1,500 yards.
But Robinson put up massive numbers in Rich Rodriguez's offense, who is now no longer the coach at Michigan. Al Borges has arrived from San Diego State with Brady Hoke, where he oversaw one of the most balanced offense in the nation. Borges will adjust his scheme to Denard's talents, but wants to limit Robinson's rushes to prevent injury.
2. Northwestern, Sr. Dan Persa
Persa was the master of Northwestern's spread offense, passing for 2,581 yards and 15 TD's to go with 519 yards and 9 TD's on the ground. Unfortunately, when Persa went down with a torn Achilles, so did Northwestern's season.
Persa is not tall, or particularly fast, but he's extremely slippery, and has terrific accuracy as well. He's an intelligent leader who will win games for Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, and Northwestern needs him to be 100% when fall camp rolls around in the coming weeks.
3. Michigan State, Sr. Kirk Cousins
This will be Cousins third year starting in the fall, with Kirk amassing over 2,800 yards and 20 TD's last season with just 10 interceptions. Cousins is your typical pro-style quarterback, with good size, vision, and a very good arm to boot. Michigan State will look to return to the top of the Big 10, and with Cousins at the helm, three extremely talented backs behind him and talented receivers on the outside , it could very well happen.
By next April, expect to hear Cousins named being called pretty early in the draft.
4. Wisconsin, Sr. Russell Wilson
Russel Wilson has yet to play a game for the Badgers, after transferring in from North Carolina State. In three years of starting for the Wolfpack, Wilson amassed over 8,500 yards and 76 touchdowns in the air to go along with another 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Wilson is limited by his size, and doesn't possess a great arm, but he's a very good quarterback who will instantly make Wisconsin a legit BIG title contender. He needs to cut down on his mistakes, as interceptions cost NC State a number of games, but Wilson is a very good athlete who will have a great offensive line and supporting cast to help him.
5. Nebraska, Soph. Taylor Martinez
Martinez, like Robinson, was guilty of extreme early-season hype by the media after amassing almost 700 yards rushing and 800 yards passing in the Cornhuskers first five games. But Martinez stumbled down the stretch, missing games due to injury and reportedly transferring after an argument with Head Coach Bo Pelini.
OC Shawn Watson will call a new offense for Martinez this fall, and the talented youngster will look to improve on his 59% passer rating from last season. He's an extremely talented player though, with a good arm and terrific scrambling ability.
6. Iowa, Jr. James Vandenberg
Iowa folk-hero Ricky Stanzi has graduated on to the NFL, and it is Vandenberg's turn to lead the Hawkeyes. A heady player with good size at 6"3, 210, Vandenberg has seen game experience filling in for Stanzi in the past. He's got a solid arm and some mobility to boot, and with Iowa returning a strong offensive line along with a very good running back and receiving corp, Vandenberg should have no problem in having a very solid first season starting.
After Iowa a number of Big 10 teams are looking for their own quarterback stars to emerge. In Minnesota, former WR Marquise Gray will try his hand running Jerry Kill's offense. Gray has great size at 6"3, 200+ lbs, a strong arm, and obvious speed. He'll need to transition well to QB again after playing receiver, but should perform well. At Indiana, new Head Coach Kevin Wilson has yet to name a starting QB, though Dusty Kiel and Edwin-Wright Baker will both have a legitimate shot in the fall.
With former QB Terrelle Pryor moving onto the NFL, and Jim Tressel out as Head Coach, new HC Luke Fickell will have to pick a starter out of Sr. Joe Bauserman, and youngsters Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham, and Braxton Miller. Guiton is a dual-threat from Texas, while Graham is a pocket passer with NFL roots. Miller is a top 100 recruit with a laser arm and speed to kill, but needs to learn the playbook better.
Penn State has a two-way QB battle with co-starters Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin battling for the starting job. Bolden performed well in the start of 2010 but was injured and nearly transferred. McGloin is a former-walkon who performed well at times but struggled immensely down the stretch.
Purdue's coaching staff is in a similar position, with former Miami transfer Robert Marve healthy, along with 2010 starter Rob Henry, who has improved much since the end of the season. There may be a rotation in order until the coaches can settle on one player.