And so it begins, indeed.
— Zachary Duval (@zduval1) March 4, 2019
At the time of this writing, Huskers were probably starting to trickle in to the locker room for the first practice of the spring. Nebraska will practice in the mornings again, with the first media availability––a full-on press conference with Scott Frost, players and assistants––scheduled for Tuesday.
So happy spri . . . checks temperature . . . happy football everyone!
Anyway, the real reason we're here today is to complete the Big Ten quarterback journey begun at the end of last week. Nebraska and Iowa are the two schools in the West Division with a full-time starter returning at quarterback. Good quarterbacks, too, which in combination is a pretty nice edge to have.
What's the QB landscape look like in the East this spring? Here's the lay of the land:
INDIANA: Junior Peyton Ramsey returns, though it seems like he could lose his job again this spring. That was the case last year, but Ramsey but didn't get the memo. He provides a decent level of quarterback play. Over two seasons (21 games) Ramsey has completed 65.8 percent of his passes. That's good. Eighteen interceptions is not. Sophomore Michael Penix Jr. will get his second chance to unseat Ramsey, but the big news is the arrival of Jack Tuttle, a Utah transfer and former Elite 11 quarterback. Tuttle needs a waiver to be eligible right away, but Ramsey provides some security. Overall it's not a bad spot for the Hoosiers, the second-most experienced team in the conference.
MARYLAND: Your guess is as good as mine. Kasim Hill, the blue-chip option and recruiting win that was supposed signal a sea change for the Terps, is coming off a torn ACL in November. Tyrrell Pigrome is back, too, and has been an on-and-off starter. He's an electric runner and a career 55 percent passer. Max Bortenschlager, the guy who took the bulk of the snaps in 2017 after Pigrome and Hill were lost for the season three games in, is back too.
MICHIGAN: Shea Patterson toyed with entering the NFL Draft before deciding to return to Ann Arbor for his senior season. He's the most efficient quarterback returning in the Big Ten based on passer rating (just a step ahead of Adrian Martinez). That's good news for the Wolverines who lose quite a bit on defense.
MICHIGAN STATE: After a breakout 2017 season, Brian Lewerke was expected to power a Michigan State team that started the season at No. 11 in the AP poll. Lewerke's passer rating dropped 20 points and his yards-per-carry was half what it was in 2017. An injury opened the door for Rocky Lombardi midseason and the Spartans bounce back and forth between the two in November. Both are back to battle it out this spring.
OHIO STATE: Justin Fields, the top-rated player in the 2018 recruiting class and former Georgia quarterback, got his waiver for immediate eligibility and is Ohio State's presumed starter almost by default. Tate Martell transferred to Miami once Fields made the decision to come to Columbus. Matthew Baldwin is the other name to know and was sort of hand-selected by new head coach Ryan Day for the 2018 recruiting class. Baldwin was a pro-style QB coming out of high school, and, because this is Ohio State, was a top-15 prospect at his position. As always, the Buckeyes have a big talent edge as a whole over the rest of the conference, but there are a lot of moving pieces here.
PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions have plenty of options to replace Trace McSorley, including a heavy favorite. Tommy Stevens finally gets the spotlight after flashing fan-favorite do-it-all ability the past three seasons. Sean Clifford is next in line, followed by Will Levis. Oh, and Penn State also signed two of the top-15 dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2019 class, Michael Johnson Jr. and Taquan Roberson.
RUTGERS: The Scarlet Knights ripped the bandage off and went with freshman Artur Sitkowski in 2018. He completed 49.1 percent of his passes for 4.2 yards per attempt with four touchdowns and 18 interceptions. (Yeah.) Will all of that 2018 pain be worth it in 2019? We'll see as it appears Sitkowski is again the guy this spring. Jonathan Lewis, an occasional tight end, and Austin Albericci, a redshirt freshman, are also in contention.
Add it all up and you've got five Big Ten teams this year that probably know who their quarterbacks will be and are perfectly happy with it: Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan and Penn State. You've also got two high-profile transfers potentially leading last year's division winners (Northwestern and Ohio State).
The other half of the conference? Those schools either has some sort of uncertainty to sort through this spring or are at least hoping they will.
The Grab Bag
- Greg Smith catches up with defensive end TJ Bollers, a recent visitor to Lincoln.
- Jacob Padilla looks at key position battles on offense and defense for the Huskers.
- Derek Peterson looks at some of the reason behind Nebraska basketball’s struggles.
- Recapping Stanley Morgan Jr.’s combine numbers.
Today’s Song of Today