Ranking the Big Ten: Quarterback
With the countdown to kickoff getting closer by the day, HuskerOnline.com will begin our annual "Ranking the Big Ten" series where we take a look at the top players at each position group around the league.
Today we start things off with looking at the quarterback position, where the Big Ten arguably has three of the top NFL draft prospects heading into the 2015 season.
The skinny: You can argue no quarterback has ever had a better three-game run in recent history than Ohio State's Cardale Jones. After losing their top two quarterbacks, Jones stepped in as a third stringer and led the Buckeyes to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and SEC champion Alabama and Pac-12 champion Oregon in the College Football Playoff. Jones' run was so spectacular that he had to make a decision on coming back for his junior season. In those three wins Jones threw for 742 yards and five touchdowns and flashed big time arm strength and timely running ability. It's not known who will start at QB for Ohio State in 2015, but it's hard to bet against Jones at this point.
6-4, 226, Junior
The skinny: In terms of NFL prospects, some think Hackenberg has a chance to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in 2016. What throws a wrench in that argument is the major step back Hackenberg took in 2014. After throwing for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a freshman, Hackenberg statistically took a big step back with just 2,977 yards on 92 to more attempts to go along with 12 touchdowns to 15 interceptions as a sophomore. A lot of that can be blamed on having a coaching change with James Franklin. It will be interesting to see what Hackenberg does under Franklin in year No. 2. There's no question he's as physically gifted as any quarterback in the country.
6-2, 225, Sophomore
The skinny: After starter Braxton Miller went down with a season ending injury in August, a little known freshman by the name of J.T. Barrett stepped in led Ohio State to an 11-1 regular season before going down with a season-ending injury of his own. Barrett was named the Big Ten's quarterback of the year in 2014, while setting 19 Big Ten and school records. Barrett led OSU with 3,772 yards of total offense, passing for 34 touchdowns and rushing for another 11. The biggest questions going forward are will he win his job back over Jones or Miller for that matter, and will he be back at 100 percent? You can argue before the injury and Jones' emergence Barrett easily could be No. 1 or No. 2 quarterback on this ranking going into 2015.
6-1, 220, Junior
The skinny: After the top four quarterbacks in the Big Ten, No. 5 is wide open. Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong gets the nod with his play the last two seasons, going 7-1 as a starter in 2013 and 9-4 in 2014. Armstrong threw for 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2014, to go along with 705 yards rushing. With head coach Mike Riley now at Nebraska, Armstrong is expected to take a step forward when you look at his track record of developing quarterbacks at Oregon State. Riley has also hinted that they will do their best to build this new Husker offense around the strengths of players like Armstrong.
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