Dwayne Haskins was selected with the 15th pick of April’s NFL Draft, becoming the first Big Ten passer taken in the first round since Kerry Collins in 1995.
Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson went in the fifth round and Penn State’s Trace McSorley in the sixth.
While three quarterbacks may not seem like a gold rush, considering the conference had a total of 15 QBs drafted over the previous 11 seasons, it’s practically a windfall.
Nebraska: Adrian Martinez, So.: He started as a true freshman and passed for 2,600 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was Nebraska’s second-leading rusher, adding another 629 yards and eight TDs on the ground. UCF transfer Noah Vedral is the backup.
Iowa: Nate Stanley, Sr.: He doesn’t have the name recognition of Martinez or the starters at Michigan or Ohio State, but Stanley is in his third year as a starter. Last year, he threw for 2,862 yards and 26 touchdowns, although his sub-60 percent completion rate will need to come up for Iowa to succeed. Sophomore Peyton Mansell will be the backup.
Michigan: Shea Patterson, Sr.: He was second in the league in passer rating, after throwing for 2,600 yards and 22 scores. There’s the possibility he might be sharing time with backup Dylan McCaffrey, however. Coach Jim Harbaugh floated the idea at last week’s Big Ten Media Day that the sophomore-a backup last year and younger brother of Carolina Panthers running back Christian-could see time as well in some type of rotation.
Maryland: Josh Jackson, Jr.: The transfer from Virginia Tech was a star in the making as a freshman, passing for 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns and also showing a threat to run. He broke his leg early last year and ended up transferring after the season ended. Juniors Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenshlager will add depth, as will freshman Lance LeGendre.
Ohio State: Justin Fields, So.: The transfer from Georgia has the Buckeyes excited by his potential. He has a higher recruiting ranking than anyone who has ever suited up for OSU, he came out of high school just a shade behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Technically, he still hasn’t won the Buckeyes starting job. He’ll compete with Kentucky transfer Gunner Hoak in preseason. West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov also provides depth.
Wisconsin: Graham Mertz, Fr. or Jack Coan, Jr.:Mertz, a four-star, chose the Badgers over Clemson and Alabama, among others. He’s the quarterback of the future. Wisconsin may choose to go with Coan, a back-up last year, to start out, but Mertz has potential to be a difference maker.
Northwestern: Hunter Johnson, So.: The former five-star was rated higher than Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm when he entered Clemson in 2017. When Trevor Lawrence came along, Johnson’s loss was Northwestern’s gain. Junior TJ Green, son of former NFL passer Trent, is the backup.
Michigan State: Brian Lewerke, Sr.: The last time he was fully healthy, Lewerke passed for nearly 2,800 yards, threw 20 touchdowns and was MVP of the Holiday Bowl. He struggled with shoulder problems last season, missing time and throwing 11 interceptions while playing at less than 100 percent. Sophomore Rocky Lombardi was inconsistent, but he got valuable playing experience with Lewerke on the shelf.
Purdue: Elijah Sindelar, Jr.: The NCAA granted Sindelar an extra year of eligibility during the offseason, due to his history of injuries. He’s hoping not to need it, because his play will earn him an early entry to the NFL. Sindelar passed for more than 2,000 yard and 18 scores in 2017, injuring his ACL late in the year. Problems with the knee limited him to two games last year. Redshirt freshman Jack Plummer is his likely backup, with sophomore Nick Sipe in the mix.
Illinois: Isaiah Williams, Fr. or Matthew Robinson, Fr.: A four-star recruit with offers from all the major programs, including Clemson and Alabama, Williams is the Illini’s quarterback of the future. His commitment encouraged all of Illinois’ experienced passers-MJ Rivers and Cam Thomas-to leave, meaning the other options are redshirt freshmen Matthew Robinson and Coran Taylor. Former Michigan backup Brandon Peters could contribute if he learns the system fast enough.
Penn State: Sean Clifford, So.: Chosen as one of the stars of spring football by Sports Illustrated, Clifford’s passing and running convinced Tommy Stevens-the expected heir apparent in Penn State, to hit the transfer portal. While he showed promise, he’s a pocket passer, not the perfect fit for the RPO the Nittany Lions have used in recent years. Redshirt freshman Will Levis, who also excelled in spring, will also be a factor.
Minnesota: Zack Annexstad, So. or Tanner Morgan, So.: The Gophers once again open camp with uncertainty at quarterback. Zack Annexstad started the first seven games, going 3-4 with a 117.7 rating. When he suffered an injury, Tanner Morgan took over, going 4-2 with a 146.7. Neither did enough to lay claim to the job, so they’ll compete in the preseason. Freshmen Jacob Clark and Cole Kramer will also get a look.
Indiana: Peyton Ramsey, Jr.: Last year’s starter, Ramsey threw for 2,875 yards and 19 scores, both impressive numbers. His 13 interceptions, not so much. Ramsey was also the team’s second-leading rusher and scored five times on the ground. Redshirt freshman Michael Penix went down with an ACL injury last year, and four-star Jack Tuttle left Utah two months into his freshman season last year. Both provide depth behind Ramsey.
Rutgers: Artur Sitkowski, So.: The good news is he has a year of starting experience. The bad-he threw 18 interceptions against just four touchdowns. Texas Tech transfer McLane Carter will give the team some experienced depth, if Sitkowski doesn’t show progress.