- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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We've examined all the major quarterback competitions around the Big Ten entering spring practice. Now it's time to identify the quarterback who has the most to prove in the spring.
For that, we need your help.
Several Big Ten quarterbacks with starting experience find themselves in the middle of competitions. Some are dealing with new head coaches and/or new coordinators. Two are coming off of major injuries. Who has the most to prove this spring?
Here are the options:
Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State: Maxwell completed just 52.5 percent of his passes in his first season as Michigan State's starting quarterback. He averaged 200 pass yards a game and finished with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but Michigan State's offense struggled to find the end zone or consistently move the ball. Maxwell started all 13 games in 2012, but was replaced by Connor Cook in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU. He has to re-establish himself as Michigan State's top option at quarterback and impress new coordinator Jim Bollman.
Philip Nelson, Minnesota: The Gophers accelerated their future by taking the redshirt off Nelson midway through the 2012 season. He started the final seven games at quarterback following injuries to MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell. Nelson showed some flashes early, struggled mightily down the stretch in Big Ten play, and then had two touchdown strikes in the bowl game against Texas Tech. Another offseason could really help his progress, but he'll face competition this spring from redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner.
Tre Roberson, Indiana: After becoming the first true freshman quarterback to start in team history, Roberson entered 2012 as the Hoosiers' top option and looked good in the first five quarters of the season before suffering a broken leg against Massachusetts. He's fully cleared for spring practice and has looked good in winter workouts, but he has to beat out Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld for the starting job. Coffman started IU's final 10 games after Roberson's injury and finished second in the league in passing average (248.5 ypg), and Sudfeld performed well at times.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois: It's odd to see one of the nation's most experienced quarterbacks (36 career starts) included in this group. But after a solid performance in the 2010 Texas Bowl and a strong start to 2011, Scheelhaase, like his team, has struggled for the past year and a half. Every starter is on notice after Illinois finished 119th nationally in both scoring and total offense last season. Reilly O'Toole could push Scheelhaase this spring, and Scheelhaase has to prove himself to new coordinator Bill Cubit.
Joel Stave, Wisconsin: The Badgers' piano-playing, Train-loving signal caller rejoins a crowded mix at quarterback this spring. Stave entered the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman last season and was making significant strides before suffering a broken collarbone against Michigan State. He showed good accuracy at times despite limited pass-catching options, and grades high in pass efficiency, a hallmark for Wisconsin quarterbacks. But Stave has to win over a new coaching staff and separate himself from a pool of quarterbacks that includes Curt Phillips, Danny O'Brien, Bart Houston and junior-college arrival Tanner McEvoy.
1071dAdam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett