Looking At The Quarterback Situations Throughout the Big Ten West Division

By James Grega on May 14, 2018 at 8:35 am
Nate Stanley

On Thursday, following the transfer announcement of Joe Burrow, we took a look at the quarterback situations throughout the Big Ten East division. Now, it is time to look at the other side of the conference. 

The West division has some familiar faces and some that are new to the Big Ten. Ohio State has seen some of the best the West has to offer in recent years, including Alex Hornibrook from Wisconsin and Nate Stanley from Iowa. Since we know the most about them, let's start with some of the lesser-known signal-callers in the West division, starting with Minnesota, which travels to Columbus on Oct. 13. 


The Gophers enter the second year of the P.J. Fleck era without any experienced quarterbacks on the roster. 

You read that right. Not one quarterback on Minnesota's roster has thrown a pass as a Div. I quarterback. 

Last season, Minnesota rotated signal callers Demry Croft and Connor Rhoda. The two combined to throw for just nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions as the Gophers limped to a 5-7 finish in 2017, including losing their last two games by a combined score of 70-0 to Northwestern and Wisconsin. 

This season, the quarterback competition appears to be down to three players – redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan, true freshman Zack Annexstad and sophomore transfer Vic Viramontes – after Rhoda exhausted eligibility and Croft transferred to Tennessee State. The only player to take a snap at quarterback for Minnesota that is still a Gopher is Seth Green, who moved to tight end during the offseason. 

Morgan was a three-star prospect in the 2017 class and redshirted last season. He is considered the early favorite to win the competition, which is expected to carry on through fall camp. Annexstad is a three-star prospect from the 2018 class that enrolled early in January while Viramontes, the No. 1 dual threat JUCO quarterback in this year's cycle according to 247Sports, also enrolled at Minnesota in January. 


The Boilermakers pop up on Ohio State's schedule for the first time since 2013, and the program has a very different look about it. 

Jeff Brohm has breathed new life into a Purdue program that was near the bottom of the FBS just a few years ago. The Boilermakers finished 7-6 last season while utilizing a two-quarterback system, as reps were split between Elijah Sindelar and David Blough. The duo combined to throw for 3,202 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions between them, both missing time at some point due to injury. 

The battle between them is expected to carry into fall camp, and a rotation still appears to be in play. Neither are particularly good runners, although Blough finished 2017 with 103 yards rushing and two scores on the ground. 


The Cornhuskers return to Columbus in 2018, having lost their last two games to Ohio State by a combined score of 118-17. The program seems to have momentum after the hiring of Scott Frost, but Nebraska still has a way to go before returning to the top of the conference. 

Frost's quarterback situation is one that appears to be led by true freshman Adrian Martinez, a four-star quarterback out of California that enrolled early. He impressed during Nebraska's spring game, accumulating four touchdowns and 174 yards of offense. With the Cornhuskers seemingly out of the Joe Burrow sweepstakes, it appears Martinez is going to be around in Lincoln, Neb., for awhile. 

Other quarterbacks on Frost's roster that could be dark horses to win the job include Tristan Gebbia, Andrew Bunch and Noah Vedral. All got extensive reps in the Spring Game, but Martinez seems far ahead of the pack. Vedral, a transfer from UCF, could be ineligible this season if the NCAA does not approve his transfer waiver.


The struggles Illinois has had at quarterback recently are well documented, and last year was perhaps the worst season it has had under center. 

Three quarterbacks combined to throw for eight touchdowns to 19 interceptions. Two of those quarterbacks, Jeff George Jr. and Chayce Crouch, are now gone and the job appears to be Cam Thomas' to lose. 

Thomas appeared in four games last season, completing just 42.5 percent of his passes for zero touchdowns and five interceptions. An athletic player, Thomas was Illinois' third leading rusher in 2017, with 233 yards and a score on the ground. 

He is expected to be pushed in camp by Coran Taylor and MJ Rivers – both three-star commits in the 2018 class – but ultimately, Thomas is the favorite to start for Lovie Smith this season. 


Clayton Thorson returns for his fourth straight season as the Wildcats' starting quarterback and is already appearing on 2019 NFL mock draft boards. 

Thorson has already amassed 7,548 passing yards in three seasons to go along with 44 touchdown passes to 30 interceptions. Last season, he helped the Wildcats end the season on an eight-game winning streak, completing a 10-3 season with a win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. 

Clayton Thorson
Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

A capable runner, Thorson added eight rushing touchdowns last season, but because of sacks, finished the year with just 23 total yards rushing. 

Thorson underwent ACL surgery in January after tearing the ligament in the bowl game. That makes the battle behind him between Andrew Marty, Aidan Smith and TJ Green much more important for the Wildcats. If Thorson is not ready to go by the start of the season, Marty appears to be the early frontrunner despite redshirting last season as a freshman. 


Nate Stanley became Peyton Manning for one game last season, and it came against Ohio State, as the sophomore threw for 226 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-24 win over the Buckeyes in Iowa City. 

Stanley returns as the unquestioned starter for Iowa in 2018 as a junior, and is looking to build on a very successful 2017 campaign in which he threw for 2,437 yards and 26 touchdowns to just six interceptions. 

With emerging weapons at tight end in Noah Fant and the sure hands of senior wide receiver Nick Easley, Stanley could be a dark horse for quarterback of the year in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes avoid Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State from the East this season, with their most difficult game (on paper) coming Oct. 27, when they are set to travel to Penn State. 


The Badgers return Alex Hornibrook for his junior year, and once again appear to be the favorites to emerge from the West to play in Indianapolis in 2018. 

Hornibrook completed 62.3 percent of his passes in his first season as a full-time starter, throwing 25 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. While he doesn't have the strongest arm in the league, his accuracy and poise makes him one of the best in the conference. 

Behind him, sophomore Jack Coan appears to be the No. 2 signal-caller. Coan appeared in six games last season, completing all five of his pass attempts for 36 yards. 

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