As spring practices across the country are underway, we are back to talk Big Ten conference football. This time we’ll be starting a series where I’ll outline the top three players from the conference at each position going into 2018. We’ll even throw in one “sleeper” pick for each position. Players dealing with major injuries and eligibility issues will be left out. Pretty simple, right? Well, let’s get to it.
This week we’ll start with quarterbacks of the conference. We can all agree that the Big Ten is known to have some of the most daunting run offenses. However, when it’s time to drop back and toss the pigskin around the conference is also home to some prolific quarterback play. Here are my picks for the top three quarterbacks in the Big Ten for this upcoming season.
1. Trace McSorley Senior Penn State
If you read the introduction you had to know that Trace McSorley would be featured here. Playing Robin to Batman in 2017, McSorley made defenses pay when the attention was focused on star running back Saquon Barkley. The senior signal caller is a true dual-threat quarterback that can get it done with both his arm and legs. McSorley led the Big Ten in passing yardage while tallying 39 total touchdowns (11 on the ground) to just 10 interceptions. Can the Virginia native have the same impact without generational running back Barkley in the fold? That’s to be seen. However, if he can, he’ll be not only the best quarterback in the Big Ten but college football. Think Heisman worthy consideration for McSorley.
2. Brian Lewerke Junior Michigan State
While McSorley is great, he was outgunned by Brian Lewerke during their wet matchup in 2017. In a game that saw a delay due to weather, Lewerke tossed two touchdown passes for a whopping 400 yards with just one interception. Penn State was the second top 10 team to fall at the hands of the Lewerke led Spartans last season. The junior quarterback threw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns while also protecting the ball with just seven interceptions. He was also able to create opportunities with his legs as he added 559 yards on the ground with five touchdowns. Look for Lewerke to grow this coming season as the Spartans are definitely on the up and coming in the Big Ten.
3. Alex Hornibrook Junior Wisconsin
Troy Fumagalli ✔️
Kyle Penniston… ✔️
Believe it or not, this third spot was a hard choice to make. Clayton Thorson and Nathan Stanley were under consideration here, but with the former rehabbing from a torn ACL and Stanley losing to Wisconsin straight up, I had to roll with Alex Hornibrook. Yes, I know, Hornibrook plays in a run-heavy offense where he’s mostly asked to hand the ball off. However, when he’s asked to throw, the junior quarterback delivers. And quite frankly the man led arguably the best team in college football to a stellar season, so he gets the nod. Hornibrook works exclusively as a pocket passer and can really sling the rock. He finished 2017 throwing for 2,644 yards and 25 touchdowns. He needs to protect the ball more, as he threw 15 interceptions, but he has the potential to be the best quarterback in the conference. Look for Hornibrook to improve as the Badgers enter 2018 as one of the top teams in the nation.
Sleeper: Dwayne Haskins RS Sophomore Ohio State
This sleeper pick is going to live or die on if Dwayne Haskins can win the quarterback competition at Ohio State. Haskins looked impressive when entering the game for record breaker J.T. Barrett in 2017, which leads to believe he’s the front-runner for the starting gig. He’ll have to beat out Joe Burrow and the highly touted Tate Martell, but early looks say he gets it done. Haskins threw for 565 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception during his spot duties. He totes a cannon for an arm and can make some things happen with his legs. If Haskins can win the job, he’s a prime candidate to have a break out year in the Buckeyes explosive offense.