Ranking the Big Ten Quarterbacks
1. Denard Robinson, Sr. – Michigan

Through two seasons as a starter, Robinson has proven to be an incredibly inconsistent player. One game he may look like a shoe in for the Heisman Trophy, only to struggle to complete 40 percent of his passes just seven days later. In fact, in 2011, he had six games where he completed less than 50 percent of his throws, but seven games where he completed better than 60 percent. It is his combination of his great running skills and sporadic good passing that really give him the edge as the top signal caller in the conference. Last season, Robinson completed 55.0 percent of his passes for 2,173 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. On the ground thought, he added 1,176 more yards and 16 scores. Improved consistency will be the big key towards having a great senior season.
2. James Vandenberg, Sr. – Iowa

Vandenberg made his debut on the scene in 2010, when as a backup he was forced into a starting role in a night game against No. 9 Ohio State. While the Hawkeyes ultimately lost that battle, Vandenberg’s poise and performance on such a big stage put the conference on alert that he would be a force in the future. He didn’t let down as a starter in 2011, completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 3,022 yards, 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Unfortunately for the talented senior, he loses star receiver Marvin McNutt, starting running back Marcus Coker and both starting offensive tackles. Those departures will likely affect his production, which is a factor in the ranking.
3. Braxton Miller, So. – Ohio State

While Miller was somewhat protected within the system last year, attempting just 13 passes per game, he certainly showed the potential that made him such a highly rated prospect in high school. With a year under his belt and a new offense that will make full use of his athleticism, Buckeye fans have reason to be optimistic about his future. Last fall, Miller completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,159 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. While the losing both his starting offensive tackles and center from last fall will present a challenge, his top three leading receivers all return.
4. Nathan Scheelhaase, Jr. – Illinois

After a strong freshman season in 2010, many Illini fans were disappointed by Scheelhaase’s performance last fall, where he saw both his touchdown production and rushing total go into decline. Still, it wasn’t much of a sophomore slump, given the improvements that he made in other areas, most notably his accuracy. He completed 63.2 percent of his passes last season for 2,110 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The biggest thing that could hurt Scheelhaase this fall is the team around him. With receiver A.J. Jenkins and running back Jason Ford no longer on the team, the Illini could struggle to find much offense.
5. Danny O’Brien, Jr. – Wisconsin

The true wildcard in the conference this year, Big Ten followers don’t have any idea what to expect out of the transfer from Maryland. And not just because he’s new to the conference. As a redshirt freshman in 2010, O’Brien shocked the ACC, passing for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He earned conference rookie of the year honors and was named to several freshman All-American lists. His second season as a starter in 2011, however, was not nearly as successful, passing for just 1,648 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Still, by quarterbacking at Wisconsin, all he has to do is manage the game well and hand the ball off a lot. The system and personnel he has in place should set him up for success.
Others to watch
Andrew Maxwell, Jr. – Michigan State

Maxwell saw limited action last fall, playing in just four games behind starter Kirk Cousins. Regardless, he may well be the player with the greatest potential to shoot up the list in the fall due to his skills as a passer. In addition, Michigan State recently received good news that Tennessee wide receiver transfer DeAnthony Arnett has been cleared to play this fall, giving the young signal caller a valuable target to work with. Maxwell injured his knee during spring practice, which held him out of the Spartan’s spring game, but he is expected to be fully healthy for the fall.
Kain Colter, Jr. – Northwestern

While certainly not as complete of a passer as senior Dan Persa last fall, Colter performed surprisingly well for such an inexperienced player and gained valuable experience. On the season, he completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 673 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. In addition, he proved to be a strong threat running the ball, gaining 654 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Northwestern’s system is very good at protecting quarterbacks with short easy throws and a dynamic rushing attack, which should further aide Colter as he becomes the full-time starter.



 
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