Quarterback competitions generally elicit discussions and interest in a way no other position battle in football can. And as Big Ten programs prepare to begin spring football practices, several teams will enter without a clear-cut starter as they try to replace seasoned veterans.
In this roundtable, the Big Ten reporters address which quarterback competition will be most intriguing to watch.
Brian Bennett: Michigan State
Let's see. We have the defending Big Ten champions attempting to replace the winningest quarterback in school history this spring in a competition that includes some veterans who are still somewhat unknown. So, yeah, I'd call this an interesting situation to watch. The Spartans haven't had question marks at quarterback since early 2013, which is not so coincidentally when Connor Cook seized the job and the program zoomed toward elite status.
Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry split reps in place of an injured Cook to lead the team to last year's win at Ohio State, but neither was asked to do much more than manage the game. The fifth-year senior O'Connor has the inside track for the job but will have to show he's more than simply the most experienced guy. Terry has dual-threat abilities that can give the offense a new look. Throw in redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and incoming signee Messiah deWeaver as wild-card options, and this competition should be fascinating to follow all the way up to the team's opener -- and perhaps beyond.
Jesse Temple: Indiana
OK, so the Hoosiers' program doesn't carry the same clout as the Michigan States of the world. But Indiana has been steadily building under coach Kevin Wilson, and the Hoosiers experienced a breakthrough last season by reaching their first bowl game since 2007. Now, the most accomplished quarterback in school history is gone and Indiana must figure out how to keep the train chugging along.
Nate Sudfeld left the program as the all-time leader in passing touchdowns and passing yardage. And when he didn't play -- like at Penn State after he suffered an injury -- the entire offense came to a screeching halt. At this point, the most intriguing candidate to replace Sudfeld is junior-college transfer Richard Lagow, who signed with UConn, transferred to Oklahoma State and wound up at Cisco Junior College in Texas. He threw for 4,496 yards with 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in two seasons there. At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, he has the frame to be a Big Ten quarterback. And Lagow, who is enrolled for spring semester, could be the closest thing to Sudfeld on Indiana's current roster.
Zander Diamont and Danny Cameron also will compete for the starting quarterback spot, as will Austin King. Diamont played in two games last season and completed 15 of 31 passes. Cameron played in one game, completing 6 of 16 passes for 65 yards with one interception while splitting reps with Diamont in the game against Penn State when Sudfeld was injured. Wilson will no doubt share the reps this spring as he tries to sort through his quarterback pecking order.
Mitch Sherman: Wisconsin
The candidates are Bart Houston, soon to be a fifth-year senior, and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. Based on experience, this competition is one-sided. Hornibrook, after all, has not played in a college game after enrolling in Madison last winter. Houston played a limited role in 2013 and 2012 before appearing in six games last season.
He led Wisconsin to victory last October at Illinois in place of the injured Joel Stave, completing 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards. Some who follow the Badgers called for Houston to take over. Of course, Stave returned and completed his career with a school-record 31 victories as a starting QB.
But the battle to fill Stave's shoes is more complex than it appears.
Hornibrook offers the promise of youth and the potential to start for several years if he can stay ahead of Kare' Lyles, a true freshman who arrived on campus in January and will participate in spring practice.
Last spring as questions lingered around Stave after his difficult junior season, Hornibrook earned solid reviews and showed impressive maturity, outshining Houston at times. The rookie's emergence contributed to the shift of D.J. Gillins to receiver and the transfer of fellow 2015 signee Austin Kafentzis to Nevada.
Hornibrook will push Houston, though it remains to be seen this spring just how much. If Houston, a former Elite 11 finalist alongside the likes of Jameis Winston, Gunner Kiel and Chad Kelly, capitalizes on his experience and plays again like the QB from the win against Illinois, he'll be tough to overtake.