Big Ten: A.J. Derby

Big Ten lunchtime links

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
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Winter is coming.

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
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So how are your New Year's resolutions faring? Mine was to be more awesome. So far, so good.

Big Ten mailblog

January, 17, 2012
1/17/12
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Bring it.

Nicholas from West Des Moines, Iowa, writes: can we PLEASE get a replacement announced for norm parker already?! ... and why is everyone so concerned with derby leaving? we seem fine at the QB position, shouldn't we be worrying about getting a RB and filling in the gaps left on defense?

Adam Rittenberg: Nicholas, I definitely hear ya on the Norm Parker replacement. Iowa's job posting for an assistant coach expires Jan. 26, so hopefully we'll get an announcement by then. Regarding A.J. Derby's departure, I think the reaction stems more from Iowa losing several players in recent weeks, most notably star running back Marcus Coker. Also, Derby arrived with a ton of hype and immediately became a fan favorite. Fans hate to see highly touted recruits not pan out or transfer, and some see Derby's departure as a sign of a systematic problem at Iowa. But on the whole, I agree that replacing Coker and bolstering the defense, especially the line, are bigger issues for the Hawkeyes right now.


Ed from Rochester Hills, Mich., writes: So the Basketball coach at Iowa throws a chair and Commishioner Delaney's response is "The conference did not ask for, nor did the conference expect, an apology from the coach. The conference is primarily focused on future conduct, not statements of apology." Pat Narduzzi makes a comment about 60 minutes of unnecessary roughness and MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis is required to admonish the MSU coach by the commish.I am detecting a double standard by Delaney.

Adam Rittenberg: Ed, while you make an interesting point, there are some differences with the Narduzzi situation. For starters, it was a quote to media members rather than an outburst during a game. Also, some interpreted the quote as being directed toward an opponent, Michigan. McCaffery's chair-throwing was done in front of his own team after an argument with officials. The Hawkeyes' opponent, Michigan State, had nothing to do with it. While we can debate whether Narduzzi's comment was taken out of context, you are usually going to see a stronger response from the league to something someone says or does that's directed toward an opponent. You saw similar responses to player unsportslike conduct violations directed toward opponents.


Samuel from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, to answer your question about coaches, I prefer my coaches have some positive character rather than bad character or zero character. Iowa's Fran McCaffery has not crossed a line in my opinion. Slamming a chair is one thing. Bob Knight style kicking, choking, head butting and throwing chairs onto the court is something different altogether.

Adam Rittenberg: Samuel, thanks for your response. I agree that it's fine for coaches to show some emotion on the sideline. It's an emotional game, and coaches can sometimes light fires under their teams but showing some fire themselves. I don't have a major issue with what McCaffery did. He didn't direct any of it toward Iowa's opponent. But it's something you don't want to see every game or every few games.


Jeff from West Chester, Ohio, writes: Should Purdue fans be concerned that Danny Hope hasn't hired replacements for Emanuel and Elmassian? Signing day is approaching and I fear defensive recruits from the surprisingly good class may waver.

Adam Rittenberg: Jeff, it has been extremely quiet on the Purdue coaching front. The team hasn't officially announced the departures of Gary Emanuel and Phil Elmassian, although neither are listed on the official roster. Although most of Purdue's 2012 class plays offense, recruits always want to know which direction the team is headed on both sides of the ball. Although Purdue didn't have a great year on defense in 2011, Emanuel's ouster is a bit surprising. Danny Hope has a former defensive coordinator, Donn Landholm, still on staff, but he'll be looking to replace two veteran assistants.


Elliot from East Richfield, Minn., writes: With Troy Stoudermire being granted another year for the Minnesota Gophers, the Gophers seem to have their cornerbacks pretty set with Stoudermire and Brock Vereen, among others. However, both safety positions are unsettled.Who do you see emerging at safety for the Gophers? James Manuel and maybe Michael Carter? Maybe some newcomers will get a chance to play?

Adam Rittenberg: Elliot, I really think Minnesota will enter spring practice with most of its starting spots open on defense. We heard some good things about Manuel in 2010, when he started three games, but he played strictly as a reserve in 2011, recording 11 tackles in 12 games. Carter was one of Minnesota's top recruits under former coach Tim Brewster, but he hasn't really panned out. There certainly will be opportunities for players to step up in the defensive backfield, as the Gophers must replace Kim Royston's production at safety. Remember that Minnesota also signed three junior college defensive backs. Those guys weren't brought in to sit on the bench.


Clayton from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: Adam -- Thanks for your article regarding coaches sideline demeanor. It would be fun to see you and Brian have a "blog blow-up" once in a while! All jokes aside, I get tired of hearing people rant about Bo Pelini's sideline behavior. As a former college football player, I feel strongly that a passionate coach is not uncommon and actually appreciated by the players. Nebraska fans too soon forget how reserved and soft Bill Calhahan was, almost as though he didn't care enough. Bo had his issue at A&M in 2010, had a very professional apology, and has sense cleaned up his act. Can we put it to bed or are we going to keep talking about this? "cue TV panning to BO getting all red faced and mad on the sideline, chomping his gum"

Adam Rittenberg: Clayton, thanks for your perspective. It's always interesting to ask how a coach's sideline behavior affects his team. Sometimes it certainly seems to fire up players in the right way. Other times, it seems like a coach who seems out of control leads to a team playing a bit recklessly. While I see your point about Pelini's issue at A&M being in the past, I don't think he'll be able to avoid the cameras on the sideline. No coach really escapes them these days, and TV folks are looking for reactions. I think Bo seemed calmer for the most part this season, although he was none too pleased, for obvious reasons, in the Capital One Bowl loss. While I don't believe a coach has to stomp around and scream at officials to show he cares more, I think players want to see some response from the man leading them.


Alan from Evansville, Ind., writes: Hey Adam, What should IU fans make of all the departures from the IU football team, which appears to be a continuing trend with Wright-Baker and Kiel leaving the team this week? Is this a healthy sign that shows Wilson is making sure he has the kids he wants to work with, or is this a sign that something (or many things) are wrong in Bloomington and with this new coaching staff? Additionally, do you think these departures will have a negative impact on the school's ability to recruit going forward?

Adam Rittenberg: Alan, these things can go either way. You always have some attrition after a coaching change, even some delayed attrition like we're seeing with Ed Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel. The offensive direction seems pretty clear with Tre Roberson returning and Seth Littrell coming as as coordinator, and while Wright-Baker and Kiel would have provided some depth, their playing-time options seemed limited, especially with Cameron Coffman coming in from a juco. You see quarterbacks transfer more than those at other positions because of the playing-time issue. Now is Kevin Wilson a tough guy to play for? He's a brutally honest guy. He doesn't sugarcoat anything. His style might not jive with certain players. But I think once he gets his guys in there, he'll be pretty successful at IU.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 17, 2012
1/17/12
12:00
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Tom, we're already late. Now be a man and sit on that girl's lap!

Iowa's A.J. Derby to transfer

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
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More tough news for Iowa, as the team announced Monday that redshirt freshman A.J. Derby will transfer after asking for his release from his scholarship.

Derby, an Iowa City native, came to the Hawkeyes as a heralded quarterback recruit with terrific athleticism. He was one of Iowa's most decorated recruits and instantly became a fan favorite.

He redshirted the 2010 season and entered the 2011 campaign as a quarterback, completing 3 of 6 passes for 30 yards, before moving to linebacker in October. He entered the year as Iowa's No. 2 quarterback but moved to linebacker shortly after serving a two-game suspension following an arrest for fourth-degree criminal mischief and public intoxication.

Although he made the move to linebacker, he seemed to do so a bit reluctantly. Derby's next stop likely will provide him another chance to call signals on offense.
"I would like to thank the University of Iowa and football coaches for the opportunity," Derby said in a statement. "Unfortunately, I don't feel this is the best fit for me personally to reach my goals as a student-athlete. I especially wish my brother [Zach, a junior tight end for Iowa] the best of luck in the coming year. I will miss all of my teammates, family and friends who have supported me here. Good luck to everybody. Once a hawk, always a hawk."

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wished Derby well, calling him "a pleasure to coach."

It would have been interesting to see where Derby's career would have gone at Iowa. The team seems fairly set at quarterback for the next few years, as starter James Vandenberg returns in 2012 and Jake Rudock, a heralded recruit, redshirted the 2011 season.

Without much of a chance to compete for snaps, Derby is likely best served to play elsewhere.

Big Ten lunch links

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
12:00
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I'm the real lucky guy because I married my dad.

Big Ten lunchtime links

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
12:00
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Zooey Deschanel sang the national anthem at a World Series game my Cardinals were playing in. Or did I just dream that?

Big Ten lunchtime links

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
12:00
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Ben Francisco? Really?

Big Ten lunchtime links

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
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Down 4-0 on the road against Cliff Lee? No problem.
  • Jerry Kill is staying the course despite a difficult first season at Minnesota, and he says the rebuilding project will take time.
Iowa has emerged from an embarrassing series of off-field incidents that surfaced between 2007-09, but the bye weekend produced a conduct problem involving a fan favorite.

Backup quarterback A.J. Derby was arrested Saturday night and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and public intoxication after allegedly punching out a window of a bus as he was exiting it.

Iowa on Monday announced Derby has been suspended for two games. The Hawkeyes visit Penn State this week before hosting Northwestern on Oct. 15.

Coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement that Derby's suspension stems "as a result of his poor decisions this past weekend."

From The Iowa City Press-Citizen:
The criminal complaint states that Derby, who turned 20 in September, admitted to punching out the window and said that he would pay for it. The criminal complaint states that Derby had red, watery eyes and slurred speech, and that he smelled of ingested alcohol. Derby submitted to a breath test that showed he had a blood-alcohol concentration of .120. Derby was taken to the Johnson County Jail about 11:35 p.m. was released about an hour later.

Derby, a redshirt freshman, has seen limited action in two games this season, completing 3 of 6 passes for 30 yards. He has been listed as the No. 2 quarterback ahead of junior John Wienke, who moves into that role for the next two weeks.

Big Ten lunchtime links

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
12:00
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Happy Football Eve!
The first Big Ten coaches teleconference of the season took place earlier Tuesday. Given all the news and nuggets of Week 1, we're compiling notebooks for both divisions. We'll try to do these as often as possible on Tuesdays during the season.

Let's get things started with the Legends division.

IOWA

  • Coach Kirk Ferentz said if the Hawkeyes played a game today, A.J. Derby would serve as James Vandenberg's backup at quarterback. Derby, a fan favorite who boasts tremendous athleticism, has clearly made strides during camp to move slightly ahead of John Wienke, who Ferentz said also is improving. After so much talk about where Derby would end up playing, it seems like his future is at quarterback.
  • Ferentz said the biggest change we'll see on Iowa's defense this fall will be a larger rotation up front. Iowa typically went with a 5-man rotation the past few seasons, but after losing three linemen to the NFL draft, the Hawkeyes will rotate 6-8 players and possibly nine up front this season.
  • Jason White will get the next shot at running back behind starter Marcus Coker. Ferentz also said Iowa will use its freshmen tailbacks early in the season to get them accustomed to games. The past two seasons have shown Iowa can't take anything for granted injury-wise at running back.
MICHIGAN
  • Brady Hoke fielded several questions about the defense and not surprisingly spoke mainly about the line. He likes the depth the Wolverines have in the front four but emphasized the need to get off blocks and maintain "gap integrity" when the games begin. Got to love that football lingo.
  • Hoke gave a shout out to his boss, athletic director Dave Brandon, for allowing the Wolverines' kickers to use Michigan Stadium often during camp. The stadium not only provided a more realistic setting for the kickers, but the wind conditions in the Big House are different than on the practice fields. Hoke also praised Brendan Gibbons, who will handle field goals, saying he's "very excited about his progress."
MICHIGAN STATE
  • I asked Spartans coach Dantonio a bit about all the co-starters on his Week 1 depth chart, and he basically said anyone listed in bold will play a lot Friday night against Youngstown State. Not only will Michigan State rotate quite a few defensive ends Friday, but the offensive line rotation also likely will be larger as the Spartans figure out spots like left tackle and center. "How they play in a game situation determines where we go from there," Dantonio said.
  • Despite four consecutive bowl appearances and a Big Ten co-championship in 2010, Michigan State remains a fairly young team. The offense boasts a mix of veterans and youth, while the defense is fairly young entering 2011. "We're a young football team with a blend of experience," Dantonio said. "We have three seniors on defense in our top 22 players, so good things should be around the corner for us."
  • Dantonio began the call by thanking everyone for their support since the passing of his father, Justin, on Sunday. He'll return home to Zanesville, Ohio, in the middle of the week for the funeral and be back for the Youngstown State game.
MINNESOTA
  • Coach Jerry Kill said he has discussed a plan for future nonconference scheduling with the university administration, although he declined to provide details. Don't expect Kill's plan to include many more openers at USC. Said Kill: "Would I like to open up with USC every year? No. I’d like to open up right here at home."
  • Kill's Week 1 depth chart is filled with true freshmen and redshirt freshmen, but he considers his entire roster freshmen because they haven't gone through a season with the coaches. The result will be a more pared down game plan for Saturday. "There's no question we have to keep things simpler," Kill said. "We can't be like we were at Northern Illinois, so we'll have to adjust."
NEBRASKA
  • Coach Bo Pelini wants to see efficiency from his offense Saturday against Chattanooga. He stressed the need to limit penalties and turnovers, and to form sustained scoring drives against the Mocs. "At the end of the day, that's what's going to determine our success, how efficient we can be," Pelini said. You can tell Nebraska's poor finish on offense at the end of the 2010 season still irks Pelini.
  • Like his brother, Carl, the Huskers defensive coordinator, Bo is excited about what the team brings back in the secondary. He singled out the preseason play of cornerback Andrew Green, who likely will start in place of the injured Alfonzo Dennard on Saturday.
NORTHWESTERN
  • Coach Pat Fitzgerald said the competition between running backs Mike Trumpy and Jacob Schmidt will continue through game week. Trumpy has come on strong as of late, while Schmidt's consistency has impressed the coaches. "Both guys are going to play," Fitzgerald said. "If one guy gets hot, he'll take over the role and be the bell cow."
  • Fitzgerald didn't say much about the status of quarterback Dan Persa for Saturday's game. He does, however, know what to expect from Boston College. "They will try to run it down your throats until you stop them," he said.

Iowa releases Week 1 depth chart

August, 26, 2011
8/26/11
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It has been a fairly quiet training camp at Iowa despite some position competition on both sides of the ball.

The Hawkeyes on Friday released their depth chart for the season opener against Tennessee Tech. Not too many surprises here.

A few notes:
  • Only three spots list co-starters: Matt Tobin and Brandon Scherff at left guard, Matt Meyers and Jonathan Gimm at fullback, and Thomas Nardo and Dominic Alvis at defensive tackle. Alvis also is listed as a backup at defensive end behind Lebron Daniel. Fullback Brad Rogers, sidelined before the Insight Bowl with a heart issue, isn't listed on the two-deep.
  • Redshirt freshman quarterback A.J. Derby seems to be stepping up his game, as he's listed as a co-backup with junior John Wienke.
  • After starting last season at cornerback, Micah Hyde is listed as Iowa's starting free safety, ahead of Tanner Miller. Hyde also is a backup cornerback behind Greg Castillo. Junior Collin Sleeper is listed as the starting strong safety, while Jordan Bernstine is a backup at both strong safety and cornerback. There's not a ton of depth in the Iowa secondary, which could be a problem.
  • Junior Jason White is listed as the backup running back behind Marcus Coker.
  • Sophomore Christian Kirksey is listed as the starting weak-side linebacker ahead of classmate Anthony Hitchens.
  • Iowa's return men for both kickoffs and punts are to be determined.

Big Ten mailblog

July, 19, 2011
7/19/11
6:00
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Mail time.

No mailblog Friday as I'll be off, but get those emails in for next week as we approach Big Ten media days.

Keygan from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Adam. I feel like the only one who thinks this whole "pay-for-play" idea is utterly ridiculous, so it'd be nice to hear your thoughts on it. I'm a music education major AND in the marching band at Nebraska. I support the school. I spend roughly 15 hours a week in rehearsal for the upcoming games. I only get 1 credit hour. I'm just as much a student as the athletes so why shouldn't I be entitled to a stipend if they are? I understand why it's being discussed and I LOVE sports as much as the next guy, but come on, let's not cut the rest of us students short.

Adam Rittenberg: Keygan, while I respect what you do and know Huskers fans appreciate your work with the band, you don't bring in the same kind of money as football players do. Not even close. No students do. Does that entitle football players to more resources? A full-blown pay-for-play system for athletes seems very tough to regulate, but going to a cost of attendance model for scholarships makes sense. It would apply to all athletes on full scholarships. While not every FBS program could afford this, the division between the haves and the have-nots is already there in areas like facilities. I don't think certain schools going to a cost-of-attendance model changes things too much. If Big Ten schools can improve the lives of their student-athletes, especially those from low-income backgrounds, I'm for it.

What I'd ultimately like to see is more flexibility for student-athletes to get jobs and paid internships. I filled my three college summers with two paid internships -- one at ESPN.com, which helped me land my current gig -- and a job back home. I also was able to earn money during the school year. I wish student-athletes had more time to get this type of work and didn't have to be so tethered to the athletic building year-round. These types of jobs and internship opportunities also prepare student-athletes for life after sports.


Eric from Waco, Texas, writes: Adam, in your post "Recapping Big Ten position rankings" you Nebraska and Penn State both got the same average score yet Nebraska is "in that top mix" while Penn State was grouped with the wild cards. Penn State also had one more player in your "Top10/Top5" list totals. I'll always be a die hard Penn State fan but I'm not going to forecast a national championship this season. I find it interesting to see that Penn State's "numbers" match up to may analysts preseason favorite, Nebraska, yet they're not getting as much hype. If the numbers are the same, what factors in your opinion would put Nebraska over a Penn State, Ohio State, or Wisconsin?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Eric. You bring up a point I wanted to make about the position rankings. It's a little dangerous to look at the averages and say these two teams are definitely equal, or Team X is definitely superior or inferior to Team Y. When it comes to Nebraska and Penn State, the rankings suggest Nebraska's defense will be better than Penn State's offense or defense. Nebraska's defense very well could be the best single unit in the Big Ten this year. The Blackshirts are the biggest reason why Nebraska is considered a potential Big Ten favorite. Penn State, meanwhile, has no truly bad units, but questionable areas on both sides of the ball. I'm talking mainly about the lines. If Penn State's D-line addresses some questions, the overall defense could be very, very good. Same goes with the offensive line and the offense as a whole. But there are fewer certainties with PSU. When you put these teams next to one another entering the season, I'd give an edge to the squad (Nebraska) with a truly complete unit (the defense).


Sam from Jump Town, Wis., writes: Adam, I've noticed that many of the preseason watch lists have included james white instead of montee ball. I feel like the general consensus around campus is that Montee Ball is the man for the starting job this fall. Ball fits the Wisconsin mold moreso than White and will arguably get the majority of the touchdowns as he is going to be the goal-line back. Is there a reason White is getting more love than Ball other than the fact that he was such a freshman phenom?

Adam Rittenberg: Sam, this is a really interesting question. Montee Ball honestly looked more like Wisconsin's featured back down the stretch of the 2010 than James White did. White, meanwhile, is getting more hype because he won Big Ten Freshman of the Year and played more meaningful snaps than Ball. I agree that Ball fits the Wisconsin mold as a bigger back, and he really came on strong down the stretch as injuries cropped up for John Clay. Still, I wouldn't dismiss White as a potential featured back. Sure, he doesn't fit the traditional Wisconsin mold, but that's not a bad thing. Former running backs coach John Settle told me several times how White provides a new element to the Badgers' rushing attack. The interesting thing is both backs worked on their bodies during the offseason, as Ball slimmed down and White strengthened his lower body. They both want to be complete backs and Wisconsin should benefit from having both in the fold.


Tyler from Fort Dodge, Iowa, writes: First off love the blog. This is the only place that suffices during the off season. I have the utmost faith in James Vandenberg and believe he will have 2 great years wearing a Hawkeye uniform. But with Jack Rudock on his way to town is there any way he will compete for the starting job in 2012? Could the whole Christensen/Stanzi scenerio come into play if Vandenberg isn't up to snuff?

Adam Rittenberg: Tyler, it would take a pretty disappointing performance from Vandenberg and a lack of development from John Wienke and A.J. Derby for Jake Rudock to be in the mix for a starting job in 2012. Iowa coaches and players are extremely confident in Vandenberg, who showed a lot in 2009 after being placed in an extremely difficult situation. Their assessment would have to be pretty far off for a Stanzi/Christensen redux to occur. That said, Rudock very well could be Iowa's quarterback of the future. And by future, I'm thinking 2013 and beyond.


Mike C. from St. Paul, Minn., writes: Love the blog, BUT someone has to go to bat for the gophers. As a self-loathing gopher fan with an eternal inferiority complex... I sat by as the gopher position rankings revealed themselves. I can sit idle no more! A collective 10.3?! Lower than Indiana?! (No offense Indiana). This ranking is less logical than Ben Bernanke Congressional testimony. This atrocity is highlighted by an 11th place WR/TE finish. You would think that Biletnikoff and Mackey award candidates (Mcknight, Lair) would allow us lowly gophers to crack the top 10! I would go into detailed arguments on how fallacious some of your other position rankings, but the truth is, there is a line of reasoning used in calculating these rankings that I, and all us gopher (and hoosier) fans must swallow: you tailor you ratings to where you think the teams will finish and NOT the other way around. An honest assessment of talent, and removing the circular reasoning (assuming what you're proving to be true) that comes with best teams (not that they don't deserve it) would leave the position rankings little different. Now, that does not mean I disagree with your team rankings, but come on Adam, a few good position rankings are all we gopher fans have these days. Are you going to take that from us?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, love your passion, your humor and some of your points. But here's what concerns me about fans' assessments of our position rankings. Everyone thinks their team should be higher, which is fine. But very few folks look at the whole picture and explain to me why other teams should be below their team. Yes, some position rankings are based on track record, but I really try to look at all the personnel groupings from every team and evaluate them independently.

OK, let's look at receivers/tight ends. This is an unusual year where the Big Ten boasts terrific depth at these positions. Normally, a Minnesota crew boasting Da'Jon McKnight and Eric Lair would rank higher. But there's very little depth other than those two, and while in hindsight I should have ranked Lair higher individually, I see quite a few teams with more proven options than the Gophers, Indiana being one of them.

From a defensive standpoint, Minnesota has a ton of question marks. Most Gophers fans would admit this. The D-line was terrible in 2010. Could it be better this season? Sure, but we've got to see it on the field. Other than Troy Stoudermire and Kim Royston, who comes off a very serious injury, the secondary is a big mystery. The linebackers, meanwhile, could be very good. It wouldn't surprise me if they rise up the rankings.

Again, my point isn't to rip on Minnesota or its players, several of whom I really like. But tell me why other teams should be below your team, not always why your team should be higher.


(Read full post)

It's time to hop back into our preseason position rankings, and today brings a look at the most visible position on the field: quarterback.

These are our rankings for the entire position group on each team, so depth is usually very important. With quarterback, it's a little different. There's no substitute for an experienced/accomplished starter. So the teams that have one of those plus some backups who have seen some time will get the highest rankings here, while those with unsettled or untested signal-callers will bring up the rear. Later on, we'll rank the individual quarterbacks in the league.

The envelope please ...

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireDenard Robinson is the most dangerous returning starter in the Big Ten.
1. Michigan: If there were such a thing as a half-season Heisman, Denard Robinson would have won it last year. It will be fascinating to see how he adjusts to a new offensive scheme and whether his running will be reined in, but there's no more electric player in college football than "Shoelace" when he's doing his thing. (And he's an underrated passer.) Tate Forcier left town, but Devin Gardner is talented enough to prevent much of a drop-off if Robinson leaves the game. Both must stay healthy, however.

2. Michigan State: Senior Kirk Cousins enters his third year of starting and ranks first all time among Spartans quarterbacks in passing efficiency and completion percentage. He's as steady as it gets. Andrew Maxwell got his feet wet last year as a redshirt freshman and will back up Cousins again. Joe Boisture retired from football for medical reasons, which hurts the depth. But that looks like more of a problem for next year.

3. Northwestern: Dan Persa was the coaches' first-team All-Big Ten quarterback after completing an FBS-best 73.5 percent of his passes and accounting for more than 3,000 yards of offense. Assuming he comes back healthy from his ruptured Achilles' tendon, he'll again stake a claim to being the Big Ten's best quarterback. Backup Evan Watkins gained valuable experience by starting the final three games, including the TicketCity Bowl vs. Texas Tech. But Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian competed with Watkins this spring, and Colter may have the edge for the No. 2 spot.

4. Nebraska: When healthy, sophomore Taylor Martinez is an exciting dual-threat player with game-breaking speed. He set virtually every Nebraska freshman quarterback record last season despite being hobbled down the stretch. Cody Green's transfer dealt a blow to the Cornhuskers' depth and means that if Martinez goes down, redshirt freshman Brion Carnes will have to take over. But Carnes was impressive at times this spring.

5. Illinois: Depth? Not so much here. But starter Nathan Scheelhaase gives the Illini a great place to start. As a freshman, he compiled 22 touchdowns on the ground and through the air, improving greatly as the season went on and had a huge bowl game against Baylor. Another year in Paul Petrino's system should mean big things in 2011. Illinois would be very green if Scheelhaase gets hurt.

6. Iowa: Junior James Vandenberg takes over for the reliable Ricky Stanzi. Vandenberg threw only eight passes in 2010 but started the final two games for an injured Stanzi in the pressure-packed 2009 season. It looks like this is his time. Backups John Wienke and A.J. Derby lack game experience, however.

7. Purdue: The Boilermakers have two quarterbacks who have each played in plenty of games, with incumbent starter Rob Henry and former Miami transfer Robert Marve, who suffered a torn ACL at the beginning of last season. Both players need to improve and find more consistency, though; Henry completed just 53.1 percent of his passes in 2010. Caleb TerBush is back after being ruled academically ineligible in 2010 and adds depth.

8. Penn State: Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden? That has been the question hanging over the Nittany Lions for a while, and transfer rumors followed Bolden after spring practice. The competition and another year in the system should help both guys, but a potential quarterback controversy could hurt the team. Bolden has more natural talent, but can he harness it?

9. Minnesota: MarQueis Gray takes over as the full-time starter after splitting time as a receiver and quarterback last season. The junior has the potential to be a dangerous dual-threat playmaker. He's learning a new system, but coaches liked what they saw from Gray this spring. There's no experience behind him.

10. Ohio State: The Buckeyes would have ranked much closer to the top of the list with Terrelle Pryor, even for half a season. As it stands, they have a muddled quarterback picture, with four candidates vying to take the reins. Senior Joe Bauserman backed up Pryor the past two years and can give the team a steady if unspectacular hand under center. Or Ohio State could go for potential and talent with true freshman Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes are likely to climb these rankings, but for now there's too much uncertainty at the position.

11. Wisconsin: The Badgers must replace rock solid two-year starter Scott Tolzien, and the leading candidate for now is redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr. Though slight of stature, Budmayr has a big arm. He has played in only three career games, however. Wisconsin could rocket up this list if former NC State star Russell Wilson decided to transfer to Madison.

12. Indiana: Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker competed for the starting job this spring, but no clear winner emerged. Between them, they've thrown 29 career passes. New coach Kevin Wilson knows how to teach the quarterback position, and this offense will be friendly for passing stats. But the Hoosiers still have a long way to go.

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