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Big Ten stacked with quarterbacks

[ 2 ] October 21, 2010 |

Ricky Stanzi

Ricky Stanzi is the nation's third-best quarterback in terms of passing efficiency.

It’s enough to make a defensive back do a double take.

No football conference in the nation can surpass the Big Ten when it comes to quarterback efficiency, depth and variety.

“Some guys can run the ball. Some guys can throw the ball. Some guys can do a little bit of both,” Iowa safety Tyler Sash said. “I don’t think I remember there being this many good quarterbacks all at one time.”

The Big Ten features seven of the NCAA’s top 19 rated passers, including the Hawkeyes’ Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien, who will showcase their skills in a Saturday showdown at Kinnick Stadium.

“I think the Big Ten can stay in there with any conference in the county and make the argument that they have the best group of quarterbacks,” said ESPN’s Sean McDonough. “And they probably do.”

The numbers reflect a statistical shift in a conference that once embraced the mantra “Three yards and a cloud of dust.”

Now, the potential of a quick strike keeps defenders on edge.

“It’s a challenge,” Sash said. “It’s nice to know you’re going to have to be on top of your game each and every week, because you never know when the quarterback is going to let one go downfield.”

Each of Iowa’s next five opponents — Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Northwestern and Ohio State — features a quarterback who is completing better than 65 percent of their passes.

“When I was playing, if you were at 60 percent, that was pretty good,” said Paul Burmeister, an Iowa quarterback from 1990-93. “Now, if you’re not at 60 percent, then something’s wrong.”

Burmeister, an analyst for the NFL Network, also notices a difference in the type of passes being thrown.

“When I watch the college game, there is so much more of an emphasis on getting the ball out quick and shorter passes,” he said. “I don’t want to characterize this as saying playing quarterback is easier, because it’s not, but there are more high-percentage routes thrown.”

Even traditional run-oriented offenses such as the Hawkeyes, Badgers and Michigan State develop schemes designed to enhance timing and accuracy.

“They play in offenses that make it a priority to run the football. That makes the play-action pass more effective,” McDonough said. “All three of those quarterbacks are adept at that, because it is a key part of their offenses.”

Michigan’s Denard Robinson earned mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate with his elusive running style in the season’s opening month, but Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi ranks third nationally with a passer rating of 180.49.

The senior from Mentor, Ohio, is completing 68.3 percent of his attempts, with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.

“Ricky was a great guy last year, and a very good player,” Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think right now, he’s playing at a higher level.”

Stanzi is most often compared to Wisconsin’s Tolzien (159.29) or the Spartans’ Kirk Cousins (163.39).

“We drop back, we’re under the center a ton,” Stanzi said. “You’re not going to see me, Kirk or Scott doing shotgun reads that often. But you’ll see us doing play-action drop backs, sprints and roll-outs — stuff like that.”

Stanzi, Tolzien and Cousins also benefit from spending multiple seasons as starters.

“There are some guys out there who have played a lot of football,” Burmeister said. “And you would expect some guys who are in their second and third years of playing in a system to be 65-percent, high-efficiency kind of guys.”

How will that translate to the professional level?

“I think they’ll have an opportunity,” Burmeister said. “Playing in the Big Ten is a great teacher. However, what they’re going to be asked to do at the next level is so much more advanced than what they do right now.

“It’s a question of how they handle that.”

Rk Player Pos. Yr. G Att Comp Comp% Int IntPct Yds YPA TD YPC Rating
1 Kellen Moore, Boise St. QB JR 6 151 105 69.54 1 0.66 1567 10.38 16 10.6 190.35
2 Cam Newton, Auburn QB JR 7 122 80 65.57 5 4.1 1278 10.48 13 10.66 180.53
3 Richard Stanzi, Iowa QB SR 6 145 99 68.28 2 1.38 1474 10.17 13 8.97 180.49
4 Dan Persa, Northwestern QB JR 6 177 138 77.97 2 1.13 1663 9.4 10 5.65 173.27
5 Stephen Garcia, South Carolina QB JR 6 133 93 69.92 5 3.76 1326 9.97 10 7.52 170.97
6 Greg McElroy, Alabama QB SR 7 162 116 71.6 3 1.85 1517 9.36 11 6.79 168.97
7 Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB JR 6 191 132 69.11 6 3.14 1844 9.65 14 7.33 168.11
8 Matt Barkley, Southern California QB SO 7 211 138 65.4 4 1.9 1869 8.86 20 9.48 167.3
9 Andrew Luck, Stanford QB SO 6 172 113 65.7 4 2.33 1538 8.94 16 9.3 166.86
10 Zach Collaros, Cincinnati QB JR 6 172 109 63.37 3 1.74 1455 8.46 17 9.88 163.56
11 Kirk Cousins, Michigan St. QB JR 7 169 112 66.27 4 2.37 1617 9.57 11 6.51 163.39
12 Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St. QB JR 6 225 155 68.89 8 3.56 1966 8.74 19 8.44 163.04
13 Bryant Moniz, Hawaii QB JR 7 283 186 65.72 4 1.41 2532 8.95 21 7.42 162.54
14 Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech QB SR 7 149 93 62.42 3 2.01 1322 8.87 12 8.05 159.5
15 Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin QB SR 7 148 105 70.95 3 2.03 1353 9.14 7 4.73 159.29
16 Denard Robinson, Michigan QB SO 7 143 97 67.83 5 3.5 1319 9.22 9 6.29 159.09
17 Terrelle Pryor, Ohio St. QB JR 7 181 118 65.19 4 2.21 1505 8.31 15 8.29 157.97
18 Aaron Murray, Georgia QB FR 7 181 112 61.88 3 1.66 1653 9.13 12 6.63 157.16
19 Ben Chappell, Indiana QB SR 6 230 158 68.7 3 1.3 1858 8.08 16 6.96 156.9

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 15 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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