Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
We continue to take a look at Indiana’s 2018 opponents as we draw closer to the start of the season on September 1st in Miami against Florida International. Today we are looking at the quarterbacks who will be directing the offenses IU will face. There will be a few new signal callers and some who seem to have been around forever. So here is how we would rank them heading into the 2018 season.
1. Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens, Penn State-
McSorley is the clear cut starting and will hold the job unless he gets hurt. I include Stevens here because he will play in some shape or form. Franklin has used Stevens at quarterback, receiver and as a tight end in the past. Stevens was a candidate to transfer, but decided to say on with the Nittany Lions, so one would think he’ll get some more reps behind center. With both of these quarterbacks on the roster, it gives Penn State the deepest and most talented QB room in the conference.
McSorley threw for 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns while also running for 491 yards and 11 scores in 2017. 2018 might be a little different as all-world running back Saquon Barkley is now with the New York Giants in the NFL and his offensive coordinator, Joe Moorehead, is head coach at Mississippi State. Before Moorehead came aboard in State College the Penn State offense was inconsistent at best. We’ll see if they can keep up their explosiveness with Ricky Rahne at the reigns. If McSorley doesn’t suffer an early-season injury he should pass Christian Hackenberg as Penn State’s all-time leading passer. He needs just 1,088 yards to take over the top spot at 8,457 yards.
2. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State-
Lewerke righted the ship for the Spartans last season after a brutal three-win campaign in 2016. In leading MSU to a 10-win campaign Lewerke threw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns while also being the team’s second leading rusher with 559 yards and five more scores. He is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback who is very solid throwing and running, which is why he lands in the number two spot.
Heading into 2018 Lewerke, now a junior, has to live up to the hype and he has the weapons to do that. Lewerke’s favorite target, Felton Davis III returns along with a couple other top-end wide outs. He should have a run game to take the pressure off of him throwing the ball with the return of L.J. Scott.
However, Lewerke needs to improve in a few areas if he wants to take his game to the next level. He needs to work on his accuracy as he completed just 59-percent of his passes and consistency from game-to-game. Too many times last season Lewerke struggled against the elite teams in the Big Ten.
3. Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell, Ohio State-
It remains to be seen who will actually get the nod for the Buckeyes in 2018, but all signs point to redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins being the starter. Haskins is a big-bodied QB at six-foot-two and 212 pounds and is more of a pocket passer than Martell (think Cardale Jones).
Haskins has the best arm of the bunch and has gotten his feet wet in relief of J.T. Barret during the 2017 season. He completed 40-of-57 passes (70.2%) for 565 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception. His best game came in a come-from-behind victory at Michigan when he replaced a banged-up Barrett and completed six-of-seven passes for 94 yards. Haskins can run a little bit, but does not have the explosiveness that Martell has netting just 86 yards on 24 carries.
Martell is a former Gatorade National Player of the Year and reminds many in the college football world of Johnny Manziel as he stands just five-foot-11. He can run and throw well and would give the Ohio State the dual-threat QB that would give their offense an added dimension. I would not be shocked if Meyer and the offensive coaches give Martell a special package or even switch off series depending on how their opponents match-up.
4. Shea Patterson, Michigan-
Four may be seen as a little low for Patterson, but I am just not sold on Michigan until they prove themselves against the elite competition. Patterson is a transfer from Ole Miss, who will be eligible immediately for the Wolverines. His addition gives Michigan the potential to be a factor in the Big Ten East (again they have to prove it).
Patterson was an elite recruit, but has only played in 10 games in his first two seasons at Ole Miss. In order for him to have the impact that many expect on the Michigan offense he has to stay on the field. He tore his PCL last year in mid-year. When he is on the field, he is a difference maker. As a true sophomore, Patterson completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns. Not bad for just seven games of work. However, he does have the propensity to throw interceptions. He threw nine last season and three in three games as a freshman. Also, Patterson works better out of the spread offense and may take some time to adjust to Michigan’s more old-school offense.
5. David Blough and Elijah Sindelar, Purdue-
Purdue certainly could have been higher on the list heading into 2018. I really like what David Blough and Elijah Sindelar bring to the table, however both are coming off major surgery and staying healthy could be a little bit of a concern.
Last season saw Blough, now entering his final year at Purdue, lose the opening day starting job to Sindelar due to a shoulder injury suffered in fall, but he would bounce back to start five games and played in nine games before breaking his ankle in a win against Illinois. Up until Blough got hurt, Purdue used the two-quarterback system pretty much the entire first two-thirds of the season. Through those nine game Blough completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards and nine touchdowns. More importantly for him and the Boilermakers, Blough cut down on his interceptions by throwing just four after tossing a whopping 21 in 2016.
Along-side Blough is Sindelar, just a junior, who showed supreme toughness after playing the final three-plus games on a torn-up knee which required surgery after the season. Blough played in all 13 games and really took off after becoming the full-time starter. Over the final four games, including a Foster Farms Bowl win, Blough threw for 1,160 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Assuming both are healthy and ready to go, there is no reason why Brohm and the Boilermakers would not continue to use both quarterbacks as Blough gives them more of a running threat than Sindelar.
6. Nate Stanley, Iowa-
Coming in at number six is Iowa’s Nate Stanley after putting together an impressive sophomore campaign. He led Iowa to a shocking blow out win over then-No. 5 Ohio State. A game in which he threw five touchdowns. Overall Iowa won eight games and Stanley threw for 2,437 yards and 26 touchdowns. He is not much of a running threat as he netted minus-115 yards rushing. In order to move up the list of Big Ten quarterbacks Stanley will have to improve his throwing accuracy, he completed just 55.8 percent of his passes. With the departure of Iowa’s top two running backs, more pressure will be on Stanley to perform if Iowa wants to be a contender in the West.
7. Kasim Hill, Tyrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager, Maryland-
Maryland comes in at seven mainly due to health reasons. The Terps started the year hot with Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill lighting up Texas and Towson before injuries hit. Pigrome tore his ACL in the win at Texas after throwing for 175 yards and two scores and running for 64 more yards and another score. His back-up Kasim Hill threw for 44 yards in relief at Texas and 163 yards and two scores against Towson before tearing his ACL in week three against UCF. Both were awarded medical redshirt years.
Max Bortenschlager was handed the reigns next and survived the rest of the 2017 season as Maryland’s season came to a disappointing 4-8 end. Bortenschlager did lead Maryland to two Big Ten wins, a 31-24 victory on the road at Minnesota and a shocking come. From behind win against the Hoosiers at home. He didn’t light up the world, which is expected from a player who was supposed to ride the bench, but he was serviceable in completing 51.9 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards and 10 touchdowns.
If healthy, either Pigrome or Hill will start. However, with Maryland coming to Bloomington in mid-November, it could be any one of the three given Maryland’s bad injury luck over the past few seasons.
8. Riley Neal, Ball State-
Ball State’s Riley Neal comes in at eighth and after him the final four quarterbacks are way at the back of the pack in terms of talent and production. Neal was hurt most of 2017 as he played in just three games, but he did throw for 659 yards and six touchdowns. If he was healthy the entire season that projects out to 2,636 yards and 24 TDs. Neal has had a stellar career at Ball State including big freshman and sophomore campaigns as he combined for 4,817 yards and 29 touchdowns. He did get a redshirt season back after last year so Hoosier fans will get to be familiar with his name as IU and Ball State play this season and again in 2019.
9. Bryce Perkins, Virginia-
We talked about Perkins in our First Glance at Virginia. He is a JUCO transfer that was at Arizona State before suffering a scary neck injury. He has not played at the Division I level yet. He has the speed and elusiveness that head coach Bronco Mendenhall wants at the quarterback position. In his lone season in Yuma, AZ he completed 83.3 percent of his passes for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns while running for 353 yards and four touchdowns on 69 carries.
10. Tanner Morgan and Zach Annexstad, Minnesota-
We don’t know much about the Minnesota quarterbacks other than the Golden Gophers will be starting a freshman (either true or red shirt) in 2018. Minnesota had brought in JUCO transfer Victor Viramontes, but he left the program and headed back to JUCO after an uninspiring spring.
Tanner Morgan is the lead candidate now and should have first crack at the job. He’s a six-foot-two 215-pound QB pro-style quarterback. He came over with Fleck from Western Michigan. The other candidate is true freshman Zach Annexstad, another pro-style quarterback. Minnesota has not named a starter and this battle should go well into fall camp.
11. Giovanni Rescigno and Artur Sitkowski, Rutgers-
Rutgers has an interesting decision to make heading into the 2018 season. Do they start the year playing a senior in Rescigno before giving the offense over to Artur Sitkowski a true freshman or do they roll the dice with youth and deal with the growing pains? Rescigno has played in 16 games over two years at Rutgers and amassed 1,406 passing yards and seven touchdowns. If he struggles though, Chris Ash could have a quick hook and go with the highly-touted freshman.
Sitkowski was a top-400 recruit coming out of high school according to 247 Sports Composite. He enrolled early, which will help him get a grasp of the offense and had a pretty good spring game so don’t be shocked if he is directing the offense when IU heads to Jersey in late September.
12. James Morgan, FIU-
After four years of Alex McGough, the Panthers will have a new face at quarterback in graduate transfer James Morgan who will have two years of eligibility after starting his career at Bowling Green. Morgan lost his starting job during a lack luster 2017 season in which he appeared in seven games and completed only 45.3 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Morgan did have a really good freshman season for the Falcons playing in all 12 games and tossing for 2,082 yards. However if Morgan hasn’t figured out his issues with turnovers (22 interceptions on 538 passes).
The Hoosiers kick off the 2018 season on the road against FIU on September 1st at 7pm