Dienhart: It's been a tough year for Big Ten quarterbacks
It has been a tough year for quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Be it injury or spotty play, the position has taken some hits.
Through six weeks of the season, five schools already have started more than one quarterback. Maryland already has started three signal-callers, and may start a fourth this week. And Rutgers could join this multiple starting quarterback club this week, as the staff has declared the job open.
Here is a look at the schools that have started more than one signal-caller this season.
This offense has a lot of issues. It all begins up front, where the line has been constantly shuffled and now starts three true freshmen. Quarterback is another concern for a program that has played a national-high 20 true freshmen and started a national-high 13. After four games of junior Chayce Crouch under center to start games, the staff had seen enough: sophomore Jeff George, Jr. made his first start of 2017 last week in a 45-16 loss at Iowa. The results were mixed, as George hit 22-of-45 passes for 246 yards with three picks and a lost fumble. He remains the man for a Fighting Illini offense that is last in the Big Ten.
Former JC transfer Richard Lagow was back to reprise his role as the starter as a senior. And he looked good in an opening loss to Ohio State, throwing 65 passes for 410 yards and three TDs. But his skill-set isn’t in line with what Tom Allen wants to do. Enter redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey, who showed his potential when he came off the bench in a win at Virginia back in September, hitting 16-of-20 passes for 173 yards and two scores and 32 yards rushing with a TD. Ramsey’s running threat is an added dimension for defenses to deal with. And Allen likes that. Ramsey took over the starting job last week and looked good in a win vs. FCS Charleston Southern, hitting 32-of-41 passes for 321 yards with two TDs and a pick while leading the squad with 54 yards rushing on 15 totes with a score.
No school has been hit harder than Maryland, as the Terrapins have seen three quarterbacks go down with injury. For the third straight year and fourth time in six years, Maryland will have started at least three quarterbacks in a season. First, sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome suffered an ACL injury in opener at Texas. Out for the season. Then, true freshman Kasim Hill was hit with an ACL injury suffered vs. Central Florida in the third game. Out for the season. Last week, sophomore Max Bortenschlager was knocked out of a game at Ohio State after being targeted. Junior Caleb Henderson, a transfer from North Carolina, finished the Buckeye game, as Maryland endured a forgettable day with just 16 yards passing and 66 total yards for a Terp attack that is No. 12 in the league. It’s not clear who will start this week: Bortenschlager or Henderson.
The injury bug also has hit Michigan, as junior Wilton Speight is out “multiple weeks,” according to Jim Harbaugh, with a back injury suffered at Purdue in the fourth game of 2017. An earlier ESPN report stated that Speight—who is hitting 54 percent of his passes for 581 yards with three TDs and a pick–would miss the rest of the season. With Speight out, senior John O’Korn is the man … at least for now. Will we get a look at touted redshirt freshman Brandon Peters? O’Korn—who began his career at Houston–wasn’t sharp in his first start of 2017 last week, when he hit 16-of-35 passes for 198 yards with three picks in a 14-10 home loss to Michigan State.
Junior David Blough and sophomore Elijah Sindelar have been ping-ponging back and forth between starts. Sindelar started the first two games; Blough has started the last three. Now, it looks like Sindelar may be poised to start again this week at Wisconsin after he excelled in relief of a shaky Blough and led the Boilermakers to a comeback win vs. Minnesota last Saturday. Sindelar has a big arm and is careful with the ball. Blough has loads of experience, is a leader but lacks a strong arm and still too often makes poor decisions for a player of his tenure.
Then there’s Minnesota, Nebraska and Rutgers, teams whose quarterbacks haven’t lived up to expectations.
In fact, Rutgers could join the multiple-QB club above this week. The Scarlet Knights thought they had a solution to their quarterback problems when Louisville grad transfer Kyle Bolin landed on campus. Bolin has started each game this season, but the Rutgers offense has floundered under new coordinator Jerry Kill. Bolin is hitting 55 percent of his passes for 698 yards with three TDs and six interceptions. Hyped true freshman Jonathan Lewis and junior Gio Rescigno have seen action, but neither has been effective. And this week, the school announced the competition was open for an offense that ranks No. 13 in the Big Ten.