ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines scores a first quarter touchdown during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Positional Breakdown* Defensive Line
* WR / TE
* Running Backs
Since there will be twelve starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten, this will a top 12--not top 10--list this time. Makes sense, right?
12.) Tre Roberson -- Indiana
Entering last season, Indiana's quarterback battle seemed to come down to Dusty Kiel (brother of Gunner) and Edwin Wright-Baker. Both of those guys started games in the first half of the season, but eventually true fresman Tre Roberson won the job and both Kiel and Wright-Baker transferred. Roberson is smaller than your average Big Ten quarterback, but he's a pretty decent runner. He did throw for only three touchdowns and six interceptions, so he'll need to take a big leap forward in 2012 in his first season as the starter in order for the Hoosier offense to start to look like Kevin Wilson's Oklahoma offenses (it won't get all the way there, but the talent in Bloomington doesn't really compare to the talent in Norman, does it?)
11.) Matt McGloin -- Penn State
Ever since the graduation of Daryll Clark, the Penn State quarterback position has been pretty incompetent. With Bill O'Brien at the helm, the Penn State offense will definitely improve by leaps and bounds over the next few years (depending on the talent level after the NCAA sanctions of course), but he doesn't have much to work with this year. McGloin is essentially the starter by default, he's learning a new offense, and his top running back and all of his receivers are gone. Bill O'Brien is unquestionably an offensive upgrade over the previous staff, but it could be a rough year for McGloin, who hasn't been very good over the course of his up-and-down career.
10.) Andrew Maxwell -- Michigan State
Andrew Maxwell is easily the biggest unknown on this entire list -- he only threw 26 passes in garbage time last year with Kirk Cousins taking all of Michigan State's meaningful snaps at quarterback. With Cousins gone, Maxwell--who is in his fourth year in the program--is going to be given every opportunity to excel in the Spartans' offense. Unfortunately he won't enjoy the same caliber of receivers that Cousins had: State's top three receivers (BJ Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, and Keith Nichol) as well as their best tight end (Brian Linthicum) are gone. It will be interesting to see how well State's offense works with Cousins gone, but I'm guessing that they'll be running the ball a lot.
9.) Kain Colter -- Northwestern
Quick, guess who Northwestern's leading rusher was last season? It was Colter -- who was the backup quarterback and receiver last year. When Dan Persa was out with an injury, Colter filled in adequately as the starter, and now that Persa's gone, Colter will be the starter. He's not as good of a passer as Persa was, but he still threw for 673 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception last year. Northwestern's offense might be more run-oriented with Kain Colter at the helm; they have a cast of talented but unproven receivers but Colter is a very good runner and could benefit from a lot of designed runs.
8.) Nathan Scheelhaase -- Illinois
Illinois is shifting to a new spread offense under first-year coach Tim Beckman, so there will be a learning curve for Scheelhaase, a junior who has played most of his career in a more pro-style scheme. Scheelhaase has been a decent quarterback so far in his career at Illinois--he's started every game over the past two years, led the team in rushing last year, and has thrown for thirty touchdowns. It will be interesting to see Scheelhasse, who seems more better suited for Beckman's offense, play in a different scheme, but he's still limited by an unproven receiving corps that is also leaning on the fly. He could have a great year, but expect some growing pains for Scheelhaase, at least right away.
7.) Danny O'Brien -- Wisconsin
After an extremely disappointing year at Maryland, Danny O'Brien decided to use the same graduate transfer rule that brought Russell Wilson to Wisconsin, and wound up at Wisconsin himself. It's too easy to compare transfers from ACC schools, but O'Brien isn't quite as good as Wilson; despite once being the ACC Newcomer of the Year, he struggled mightily last season, only throwing for 1648 yards, seven touchdowns, and ten interceptions. He'll play with a much better offense at Wisconsin--after all, Montee Ball is the best running back in the country--but the Wilson comparisons aren't doing O'Brien any good because he's simply not at the same level that Wilson was.
6.) MarQueis Gray -- Minnesota
MarQueis Gray has had an eventful career at Minnesota -- he started off his career at receiver, moved back to quarterback after the deparrture of four-year starter Adam Weber, and started last year but battled injuries throughout the year. He has great size at 6'4" and is a very solid runner (966 yards and six touchdowns last year), so there's plenty of potential for Gray to have an outstanding senior season, but he's got to stay healthy and improve a bit as a passer. His development as a quarterback was stunted by his stint at receiver, so hopefully some continuity in the offense and the coaches' commitment to having him be the starting quarterback will help Gray have an excellent year.
5.) Caleb TerBush / Rob Henry / Robert Marve -- Purdue
Purdue has a very, very interesting situation at quarterback this year. All three of their quarterbacks--TerBush, Henry, and Marve--have all starting for significant periods of time, and have all missed time due to injury (in Henry and Marve's cases) or academic ineligibility (in TerBush's case). Whoever starts this year--likely TerBush--will have beaten out two other decent quarterbacks: TerBush is probably the best passer, Marve (who transferred in from Miami) is a good dual-threat guy, and Henry is a run-first quarterback. Danny Hope will have plenty of options when picking a quarterback this year, but these injury-prone guys need to stay healthy as well.
4.) Braxton Miller -- Ohio State
Somehow Joe Bauserman started over Miller last year in Columbus, but eventually the true freshman won the starting job and played reasonably well considering the circumstances (namely that he was coached by Jim "Walrusball" Bollman). With Urban Meyer at the helm, it would be a shock if Miller didn't improve by leaps and bounds; he's a gifted runner with a decent--if inconsistent--arm. His completion percentage last year (54%) is reason for concern, but he should thrive in Urban's offense, depending on if there are any receivers that can step up to be the number one guy with the departure of DeVier Posey.
3.) Taylor Martinez -- Nebraska
I'm just going to leave this here. Martinez is not a very good passer, granted, but he's an able runner: 965 rushing yards as a freshman, and 874 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground last year. Martinez's throwing motion is, well, horrible, so I don't think he'll ever be a very good passer, but there's definitely room for improvement after completing 56% of his passes last season. He still threw for over 2,000 yards and threw for 13 touchdowns, so his ability is a little underrated. It's his second year in Tim Beck's offense, so there probably should be some improvement with more familiarity with the system.
2.) James Vandenberg -- Iowa
Vandenberg had the best season of any Big Ten quarterback last year in terms of passing stats: he threw for over 3,000 yards, tossed 25 touchdowns and only threw seven interceptions. Most of the rest of the Hawkeye offense will be relatively unproven this year so those stats might not be repeatable, but Vandenberg possesses a strong arm, ideal size at 6'3", and plenty of experience after spending a season as the full time starter. Vandenberg is very underrated nationally, but he's plenty talented and Iowa should do very well with him at the helm during his senior season.
1.) Denard Robinson -- Michigan
Come on. Who else would be #1?