#1-Troy Smith-Senior-Ohio State
#2-Drew Stanton-Senior-Michigan State
#7-Anthony Morelli-Junior-Penn State
Also Watch For
Justin Zwick, Ohio State
CJ Bacher, Northwestern
Isiah Williams, Illinois
Ohio State’s Troy Smith tops this list, and with good reason. The Buckeye
signal caller is a threat with both his arm and legs. On the ground smith rushed
for 611 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2005. Through the air he showed great improvement
in his decision making, having completed 149 of 237 passes for 2,282 yards with
16 touchdowns to only four interceptions. Ohio State return a plethora of talent
for the senior to work with and he should cement himself in Buckeye history
with another solid season of work.
Number two is virtually a tie between two Drews; Michigan State's Drew Stanton
and Iowa's Drew Tate. Not much separates these two dual threat quarterbacks
statistically., Stanton was 236 of 354 for 3,077 yards and 22 touchdowns to
only 12 interceptions while Tate was 219 of 352 for 2,828 yards with 22 touchdowns
with only seven interceptions. Neither one has great arm strength and both have
maxed their potential out. Still, you cannot argue with their production on
the college level despite not having great targets to throw to.
While Tate and Stanton aren’t the strongest pro prospects, Michigan’s
Chad Henne certainly will be down the road. Henne made some very good strides
in the spring after struggling to match his freshman fire last year. When experience
catches up to his cannon of an arm, the young man will be special. If the receivers
can step up, expect Henne to jump up the list.
Minnesota’s Bryan Cupito returns more targets than Wisconsin’s
John Stocco, but Stocco is the more talented quarterback. The Badgers leading
returning receiver, Marcus Randle El, has a whooping one catch However, I still
expect Stocco to be a leader as the passing game reloads. He may not match his
production of 2,920 yards and 21 touchdowns in 205, but he will be better than
expected. Cupito, on the other hand, has most of last season's top receiving
targets still at his disposal. He'll need all the help he can get because he
will be counted on heavily this year with the loss of Gary Russell, Laurence Maroney and three starting lineman from the running game. If tailback Amir Pinnix
can’t carry the load, the Gophers will rely on Cupito even more to better
last season's production of 176 of 297 for 2,530 yards and 19 touchdowns to
only nine interceptions.
Penn State’s Anthony Morelli will take over the reins of the Nittany
Lion offense, and could quickly rise to be one of the leagues better passers.
Morelli has a very live arm and did see some limited action last year completing
12 of 20 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. One thing he also has going for
him is the playmaking abilities of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood.
Despite a rough season last year, expect Curtis Painter to be a much improved
player this year for the Boilermakers. Painter was 89 of 170 attempts for 932
yards in 2005, but his mistakes occurred more often than big plays did. Painter
finished the year with three passing touchdowns and five interceptions, but
he did run the option well, rushing for 251 yards and four touchdowns while
averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Painter has a capable arm and after a great spring
in which he displayed much better decision making, expect him to take full advantage
of the targets he has at wide receiver.
The last two spots go to the quarterbacks of the bottom two teams in the league,
Indiana and Illinois. The Hoosiers' Blake Powers comes in at number nine after
a subpar 2005. Powers was 212 of 376 for 2,305 yards but his season was wrought
with mental lapses. He finished the year with a league high 16 interceptions
but rang in with 22 touchdowns as well. A big part of the Hoosier passing game
will depend on the availability of stud receiver James Hardy after having legal
trouble in the off season.
Tim Brasic has the starting quarterback job for the Illini, but he'll feel
the heat from freshman Isiah Williams if he continues to play like he did last
season. Brasic was a mediocre 206 of 337 for 1,979 yards (9.6 average) with
11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.