Let's Rank 2012's Big Ten Backup QBs

On one hand, he’s often the most popular player on campus. On the other hand, you may not even know his name. He’s the backup quarterback. If he’s pressed into duty, it usually means one of two things: 1. The starter got hurt. 2. The starter was, ahem, ineffective. Knowing all this, it’s time for you to get to know your school’s No. 2 signal-caller. Here’s is how I rank ‘em.

It’s the latest of my Big Ten off-season rankings. We’re having fun with these and the fans are giving me an earful. Come back Friday when I rank the starting quarterbacks, too. More positions to come.

1. Robert Marve, Purdue. Honestly, this guy could be the starter, but that job belongs to Caleb TerBush. Regardless, Marve will play. A lot. His career has largely been about unmet expectations since arriving from Miami (Fla.) with a fat high school scrapbook and oodles of promise. A pair of knee injuries have hampered his development, but the former Florida Mr. Football looks fully functional and primed for a big send off after being granted a sixth year of eligibility.

2. Devin Gardner, Michigan. How much do we know about the 6-4, 205-pound junior? Not much for a guy who was rated the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com coming out of Inkster High in Detroit. Being stuck behind Denard Robinson has kept Gardner largely cloaked in mystery. He appeared in three games in 2010 and nine last season. But he is just 18-of-33 for 261 yards with two touchdowns and a pick to go along with 32 carries for 74 yards and two scores. Could he play some wideout this fall? Hmmm. Like last season, count on Gardner again being used from time to time in concert with Robinson.

3. Rob Bolden, Penn State. New coach Bill O’Brien says he knows who will start but isn’t saying. But my hunch is it will be (kinda) steady Matt McGloin, a senior who has battled Bolden the past two years. Bolden looked like the future when he became the first true freshman to ever start at quarterback at Penn State in 2010. But the 6-3, 214-pound junior from Orchard Lake, Mich.—who has thrown for 2,045 career yards but completed only 50.3 percent of his passes with 14 picks and seven touchdowns–hasn’t developed. In fact, some think Paul Jones, a 6-3, 245 sophomore from McKees Rock, Pa., may be the No. 2 signal-caller. Jones has all the measurables, but he hasn’t taken a snap after redshirting in 2010 and missing 2011 due to academics.

4. Reilly O’Toole, Illinois. New coach Tim Beckman said after spring drills that Nathan Scheelhaase remains No. 1, but this is a new offense and new era. Stay tuned. The two split reps with the first team in the spring game. O’Toole arrived in Champaign amid big hype last year as the top player in the state coming out of Wheaton, Ill. The 6-4, 220-pound O’Toole passes the eyeball test. And he showed flashes last year as a true freshman, hitting 40-of-67 passes for 270 yards with a touchdown and four picks while playing in 10 games.

5. Kenny Guiton, Ohio State. The 6-3, 206-pound Houston, Texas, native is a dual-threat option behind Braxton Miller. And Guiton showed a growing grasp and knowledge of the spread scheme installed by Urban Meyer in the spring. But Guiton remains a largely unknown commodity who has thrown just two passes in his career.

6. Max Shortell, Minnesota. Playing behind MarQueis Gray, Shortell showed promise as a true freshman last season, playing in eight games with two starts. The 6-6, 235-pound Shortell became the first true freshman to start under center at Minnesota since 1984. The Shawnee Mission, Kan., native hit 26-of-54 passes for 309 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.

7. Connor Cook, Michigan State. The redshirt freshman from Hinckley, Ohio, had his moments in the spring game, taking almost all the snaps for both teams with projected starter Andrew Maxwell out with a tweaked knee. The 6-4, 215-pound Connor showed poise and leadership in a game-like setting, throwing for 314 yards and a score.

8. Cameron Coffman, Indiana. Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson has made it abundantly clear that he wants to pass the ball better in 2012, with the quarterbacks hitting 60 percent of their passes. What does that mean for incumbent Tre Roberson? His hold of the top spot may be tenuous. The 6-2, 191-pound Coffman arrived from Arizona Western in time for spring ball and had his moments. A sophomore from Peculiar, Mo., Coffman hit 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,244 yards and 21 touchdowns last year in leading his JC to the national title game. Also, keep an eye on incoming freshman Nate Sudfeld, who could come in and quickly move up the depth chart.

9. Brion Carnes, Nebraska. The 6-1, 200-pound native of Bradenton, Fla., redshirted in 2010 and saw some brief action last season. Carnes played in three games, hitting two-of-two passes for 26 yards and rushing twice for minus-six yards. Needless to say, he’s very much a work-in-progress behind Taylor Martinez.

10. Trevor Siemian, Northwestern. Kain Colter figures to win the job in camp, but Siemian will push him. The 6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman from Windermere, Fla., looked good in the spring, capping his effort by hitting 8-of-14 passes for 119 yards with two touchdowns in the spring game. Siemian has a strong arm and decent running skills to execute the Wildcats’ spread scheme.

11. Joel Stave, Wisconsin. Most assume that Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien will swoop in and win the job upon arrival this summer. And he probably will. But don’t discount Stave, a redshirt freshman who showed promise in the spring. The 6-5 former walk-on from Greenfield, Wis., has a decent arm and an understanding of the offense. If Stave stumbles, Wisconsin will have a number of other options behind O’Brien. But experience for all is scant.

12. Jake Rudock, Iowa. The 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman is all about promise at this stage after arriving from Weston, Fla. If senior James Vandenberg goes down, it could be trouble for the Hawkeyes.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, and all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart. Send questions to his weekly mailbag, subscribe to his RSS feed, and check out his video Q&A.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (18 Comments)
Jeff on 5/10/2012 @ 9:46am EDT Said:

I’m sure the question all Boilermaker fans will ask is “Where would a healthy Rob Henry fall on that list?” I’m guessing he’d be top 5 as well.

Clay on 5/10/2012 @ 12:31pm EDT Said:

Rudock 12th best for backups. Did you wake up late and knock this list out 20 minutes before work?

    BTN.com staff on 5/10/2012 @ 1:27pm EDT Said:

    Clay, we’d love to hear your list. Fire away …

Hawkzilla on 5/10/2012 @ 2:05pm EDT Said:

I agree with Clay. Someone didn’t do their homework. Bookmark this article so you can send it back to the writer after Rudock is the new talk of the BigTen in 2013. Kid has gotten nothing but praise from the Iowa camp and made a Senior QB convert to punter and another 4-star QB transfer. When a Freshman is moving past Seniors on the depth chart you know Ferentz has confidence. If Vandenberg goes down, we could very well see the next Drew Tate… but with a better arm.

    BTN.com staff on 5/10/2012 @ 2:14pm EDT Said:

    Good note. We will definitely revisit these after the season and see what – if anything – shakes out. That’s what makes this fun. Thanks for the comment.

Brandon on 5/10/2012 @ 2:35pm EDT Said:

I believe Kenny Guiton should be listed higher on this list. Many believe that had he gone in after the Braxton Miller injury vs. Nebraska instead of Joe Bauserman, the Buckeyes would have pulled off the upset in Lincoln. Additionally, his dual threat abilities and grasp of the offense to date means that should Braxton go down again there will be only marginal falloff in production.

vaudvillain on 5/10/2012 @ 2:59pm EDT Said:

Trevor Siemian played in 8 games: 16 for 26, 256 yards, 3 TD/1 INT. Rank: 10. Max Shortell played in 8 games: 26 for 54, 309 yards, 2 TD/2 INT. Rank: 6. Brion Carnes played in 3 games: 2 for 2, 26 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, rushed twice for -6 yards. Rank: 9. Seems a little odd.

Josh on 5/10/2012 @ 4:36pm EDT Said:

Defensive comments like “Clay, we’d love to hear your list. Fire away” are classy. The fact is he made a solid point. You don’t have to get defensive about it. Yeesh.

    BTN.com staff on 5/10/2012 @ 5:50pm EDT Said:

    Oh no, Josh. That wasn’t the intent. If it was, then we fumbled it. We really try to let the published comments speak for themselves, but at times try to move the conversation along too. In this case, we were asking really anyone to give their list. Open invitation, that’s all. We’ve being doing work like this this for a long time and we stopped getting defensive about this stuff many, many years ago. Thanks for the comment.

ipsler on 5/10/2012 @ 4:59pm EDT Said:

If you saw the Blue-White game, Bolden is not #2 at Penn State.

Clay on 5/10/2012 @ 6:05pm EDT Said:

My apologies, rude comment. I feel pretty good about the QB situation in Iowa City the next few years. My criticism is that you said, “The 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman is all about promise at this stage…” We’re talking about back-up quarterbacks here. 95% of the time that’s all we have to go on, therefore making that the reason to put him at number 12 doesn’t tell me anything, other than you yourself have no indication of the kids ability.

    BTN.com staff on 5/10/2012 @ 6:10pm EDT Said:

    Clay, no apology needed here. Truly. We’re happy to get the feedback – here and everywhere else you can give it – and we think we show that by publishing most of the comments we get. We ask for it, we accept it. Thanks again.

George Clay on 5/10/2012 @ 7:42pm EDT Said:

I think Hawkzilla hit the nail on the head about Rudock. He had what 70TD passes to about 8 INT’S in high school with a 69% pass completion stat. It is a very bright future in Iowa City At QB!! If you watched the spring scrimmage he made some very impressive passes. I think it is great that BTN interacts on this forum. Did I miss the one hour special this year with a complete team spring breakdown by Jerry & friends like they did last year on all the teams. All I caught was the 4 or 5 hundred times they played the MSU & Wisconsin spring games

    BTN.com staff on 5/11/2012 @ 12:00pm EDT Said:

    George, sorry for the delay. We’re not exactly built to respond to customer service type stuff in the comments here, even though we know we’ll get them. And so when we do, we try to track down answers. For you and anyone else reading, you’re always welcome to drop notes to BTN over on the Contact Us page. Why is that better? because it goes directly to our customer service team. That page (and system) is built to address just about every incoming question or issue. And yes, every note over there gets read.

    In any case, yes, we did re-air the Iowa spring football event. It was actually a 90-minuteevent, not one hour. And it was on TV a total of four times. The BTN TV schedule page is good way to look for upcoming shows – we update it daily and it’s always a two-week window looking forward. We’re also working on adding school-specific schedules to the TV schedule section because they’d be really handy for all of our viewers (ie.e Just TV shows related to Iowa topics) , although those are somewhat of a summer project.

    Hope that helps. Thanks again.

Scott on 5/11/2012 @ 9:24am EDT Said:

Rudock last…..clearly you havent talked to anyone who seen him play. On the other hand I’ve seen Mavre……he is not good, yet number one. Perhaps the title of your list should be backups with the most playing time to date….then it would be closer to reality.

Curtis on 5/14/2012 @ 1:12pm EDT Said:

Ok I am a also a Hawkeye fan and I understand that most of the people upset are in favor of Rudock I as one am too. My problem with this list is on a few of the lists the people rated above him aren’t even locked in as the #2 options. It says they might not even be the #2. That being said does B10 network really think that Rudock would be 3rd string on those teams?

Kraig on 5/31/2012 @ 2:21pm EDT Said:

The funny thing is I think as far as practice goes Jake is our best Q.B here at Iowa. I would not be surprised at all if Jake is presented with a opportunity to hold on to a starting position THIS YEAR at some point in the season! The kid is special and lets not compare him to short little drew Tate who was like 5-3 this kid is 6-3.

Bob Ness on 6/22/2012 @ 2:41pm EDT Said:

Another Hawk wondering where the heck is Tom D’s head is. Really Rudock #12?! Badgers have nothing but some walk on scrud from in State. I live in Madison and Badger fans would tell you they have nothing on the bench. Why do you think they were dancing in the streets when they got their 2012 rent a QB O’Brien signed?!