NCF Nation: Adam Follett
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Quarterback health in the Big Ten has been strong through the season's first month, as none of 11 opening-day starters is currently sidelined due to injury. Things haven't been so fortunate at places like Oklahoma, South Florida, USC, Baylor and even Florida, where Heisman frontrunner Tim Tebow sustained a concussion last week against Kentucky. The recent injuries serve as a reminder that every team must be prepared to lose the starter at its most important position on the field.
Here's a snapshot of the backup quarterback landscape in the Big Ten:
READY TO ROLL
Eddie McGee, Illinois -- McGee has replaced starter Juice Williams numerous times during the last three seasons, either because of injury or performance. He helped Illinois to its lone victory Sept. 12 against Illinois State and has appeared in 17 games, completing 52 of 94 pass attempts for 714 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Keith Nichol, Michigan State -- The Spartans are still operating in a two-quarterback system, though Kirk Cousins has started all four games and received most of the work. Nichol brings excellent athleticism to the backfield and improved his pocket presence during the offseason, and while his numbers aren't stellar, he led two late scoring drives against Wisconsin.
Curt Phillips, Wisconsin -- At one point in camp, Phillips looked like the frontrunner for the starting job before giving way to Scott Tolzien. His speed and mobility bring a new element to the Badgers' offense, and he has racked up 128 rush yards on eight carries in two games to go along with four completions on six attempts.
Dan Persa, Northwestern -- Persa's athleticism actually earned him some time on special teams last year as he waited for a shot under center. He has had limited action in three games this year, and while his size is a concern, he boasts a strong arm and good feet.
Joe Bauserman, Ohio State -- The former minor league pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization has been at Ohio State for two seasons, moving into the backup role this fall. Bauserman doesn't have a ton of game experience (4-for-9 passing this year), but he's not as raw as some of the other quarterbacks in the league.
HAS THE HYPE
Denard Robinson, Michigan -- "Shoelace" was the talk of the preseason and dropped jaws by wrong-footing several defenders for a 43-yard touchdown run on his first collegiate carry. Robinson's speed and moves will get him on the field in some form or another, but he's still unproven as a passer through the first four games.
MarQueis Gray, Minnesota -- A heralded recruit from Indianapolis, Gray can be a versatile weapon for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. With physical gifts similar to those of Terrelle Pryor, Gray already has a touchdown catch and 50 rush yards on eight carries. But he hasn't attempted a pass, so a few doubts remain there.
Kevin Newsome, Penn State -- Newsome enrolled early and spent spring ball preparing to back up senior Daryll Clark, who has served as his mentor. Despite Penn State's easy opening stretch, the team's offensive struggles limited playing time for Newsome, who has completed 4 of 6 attempts for 32 yards.
James Vandenberg, Iowa -- One of the greatest passers in Iowa high school history, Vandenberg has only one career appearance, completing 2 of 3 attempts for 38 yards. A multi-sport star in high school, he boasts solid credentials but hasn't had a chance to prove himself yet.
Caleb TerBush, Purdue -- Head coach Danny Hope and offensive coordinator Gary Nord have been impressed with TerBush, but the redshirt freshman has yet to attempt a pass in a college game. TerBush has good size (6-5, 222) and a strong arm, but he needs to see action in a game.
Edward Wright-Baker, Indiana -- Wright-Baker did some impressive things in preseason camp, but Hoosiers head coach Bill Lynch is still deciding whether or not to redshirt the talented true freshman. Though Wright-Baker remains listed as Ben Chappell's backup on the depth chart, Indiana used Adam Follett in garbage time Sept. 19 at Akron.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A team is often only as good as its backup quarterback, a fact that held true throughout the Big Ten in 2008.
Pat Devlin scored arguably the biggest touchdown of Penn State's season at Ohio State as the Nittany Lions rallied for a 13-6 win. Mike Kafka's record-setting rushing performance against Minnesota helped Northwestern to a huge win after injuries had hit several important positions. Several Big Ten squads also had backups emerge into starters, such as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.
Several Big Ten backups haven't played a down in a college game, so it's tough to pass judgment on them. But here's my stab at ranking the league's backup signal callers coming out of spring ball.
1. Michigan State -- The competition for the starting job between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol remains too close to call, and that's not a bad thing. Both players performed very well during spring ball and particularly during the spring game. Whoever doesn't win the top job provides head coach Mark Dantonio with a solid No. 2 option. Cousins already held the role last fall and performed well.
2. Minnesota -- Head coach Tim Brewster reiterated throughout the spring that Adam Weber is his starter, but he also acknowledged that talented freshman MarQueis Gray will get on the field a lot this fall. Gray lived up to the hype in spring ball, and the Gophers likely will use a special package of plays to feature him in games. Should Weber go down, Minnesota should be fine with Gray.
3. Illinois -- The Illini boast the Big Ten's most experienced signal caller in Juice Williams, and they also have the league's most seasoned backup in Eddie McGee. McGee appeared in 12 games in 2007 and came up big against Missouri, Wisconsin and Penn State. The coaches have even used McGee on a series or two when Williams gets into trouble. Redshirt freshman Jacob Charest provides another solid option.
4. Ohio State -- Overall depth at quarterback is the only reason the Buckeyes aren't higher on the list. The coaches have confidence that Joe Bauserman can step in if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury. Bauserman boasts a strong arm and good knowledge of the scheme. It remains to be seen what Ohio State gets out of third-stringer Kenny Guiton, a late signee in February.
5. Wisconsin -- The starting job is not set in stone, though senior Dustin Sherer remains the frontrunner heading into the summer. Curt Phillips' push toward the end of spring should ease offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's concerns about the position. Phillips brings speed and athleticism to the backfield, and junior Scott Tolzien is a smart player who has been in the system for some time.
6. Michigan -- True freshman Tate Forcier emerged from a solid spring as the frontrunner at quarterback, though he'll still be pushed by Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson in August. Sheridan has been in the fire and showed some good signs during spring ball before breaking his leg. But he might not be as strong of a fit as Robinson, who boasts track-star speed and, like Forcier, provides the improvisation skills needed to run this offense.
7. Northwestern -- Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are fully prepared to play a second quarterback at times this season. The nature of Northwestern's spread offense elevates the injury risk for quarterbacks, and Dan Persa likely will see the field, much like Kafka did in 2008. Persa's size (6-1, 200) is a bit of a concern, though he brings above-average mobility to the pocket. Incoming freshman Evan Watkins likely will redshirt this fall, but he's considered the team's quarterback of the future.
8. Purdue -- The Boilers would have been much better off with Justin Siller still in the fold, but the coaches liked what they saw from redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush this spring. Career backup Joey Elliott will get the first shot under center this fall, but TerBush is a big kid (6-5, 222) who can step in if things go south. The problem here is depth, as Purdue can't play Robert Marve until 2010.
9. Penn State -- Devlin's decision to transfer really stings Penn State, which can't afford to lose Daryll Clark and keep its Big Ten title hopes afloat. True freshman Kevin Newsome did some nice things this spring, but he's got a long way to go before leading the Spread HD offense in a Big Ten game. Matt McGloin provides the Nittany Lions with another option under center, but Penn State should take every precaution to keep Clark healthy.
10. Indiana -- The coaches' decision to move Kellen Lewis to wide receiver not only reaffirmed their faith in starter Ben Chappell, but also the men behind him. Teddy Schell came to Indiana as a decorated high school quarterback in Illinois and should finally get a chance to showcase himself. But Schell is unproven on the college level, and the same goes for promising redshirt freshman Adam Follett.
11. Iowa -- Nothing against James Vandenberg or John Wienke, but the college canvas is pretty blank on both redshirt freshmen right now. Despite all the Jake Christensen hatred, many level-headed Hawkeyes fans wouldn't mind having him around this season to back up Ricky Stanzi. An injury to Stanzi could derail Iowa's Big Ten title hopes, particularly with four very difficult conference road games (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State).