Big Ten Incoming Class of Quarterbacks Will Reshape Conference Landscape

By David Wertheim on May 28, 2019 at 10:10 am
Sean clifford

The Big Ten had a pretty solid season last year, despite not getting a team in the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive campaign. The conference went 5-4 in bowl play despite receiving several extremely tough matchups. Things could be looking up for the conference this year, with many new elite quarterbacks expected to take over starting roles. Let's take a look at a few of them.

We will start in Evanston, where the Northwestern Wildcats will roll with former five-star and Clemson gunslinger Hunter Johnson. At one time, when Johnson signed with the Tigers, he was rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in his class.

After one season at Clemson, where he threw for 234 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, Johnson elected to transfer due to the Tigers already having Kelly Bryant on their roster and bringing in Trevor Lawrence, who went on to beat out Bryant midseason and lead the Tigers to a national championship.

The potential is there with Johnson. A 6-foot-2, big-bodied quarterback, he has the physical attributes and intangibles to be a very intriguing player, and is one of the most elite recruits that Northwestern has ever landed in its history. For a team that reached the Big Ten Championship Game last season, adding a player like Johnson is absolutely huge to their potential to take the next step and become a top team in the conference.

Another new starter (albeit not a transfer) comes in State College, Pennsylvania, where Sean Clifford will enter his first season as a starting quarterback for Penn State.

Clifford, a Cincinnati native, beat out redshirt senior-to-be Tommy Stevens, who decided to transfer and play for his former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who will now be his head coach at Mississippi State.

Clifford has waited his turn. After winning a state championship at St. Xavier, he migrated to Pennsylvania, and received limited playing time behind Trace McSorley (and Stevens). Now, he is the quarterback who will be under center on opening day for the Nittany Lions, and he gives James Franklin a hell of a weapon that he will desperately need after losing McSorley (and Miles Sanders).

Transitioning to Madison, Wisconsin, the Badgers will be breaking in a new quarterback following the transfer of Alex Hornibrook (who ended up at Florida State). The name to watch right now is true freshman Graham Mertz, a four-star from Kansas whom Ohio State also targeted.

Mertz will battle it out with Jack Coan, but indications so far seem to be that Mertz has the upper hand. This will be interesting for Paul Chryst: do you let the true freshman try to start right away in the Big Ten? It will be interesting to see whether Chryst throws his young talented prospect into the fire right away. If he does, though, Wisconsin may be better for it.

Ohio State will add Justin Fields, of course, who represents another very intriguing weapon. We have talked immensely about Fields on this #site, however, so I will refrain from doing so once again here.

If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is that the Big Ten is going to be absolutely stacked at the quarterback position this season, and it will be very fun to watch.

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