As Nebraska moves into its second season in the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the quarterback position in the Big Ten heading into 2012.
1. Denard Robinson, Michigan, 6-0, 195, Sr.
This was a pretty easy pick, as senior Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson comes into this season as a top Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the most electric playmakers in the Big Ten conference. Robinson took his game to a new level last year under head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges, throwing for more than 2,100 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 1,176 yards and 16 more scores to lead the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl victory. It's hard to find anyone to argue Robinson isn't only the best quarterback in the Big Ten, but one of the best overall players in the conference.
2. James Vandenberg, Iowa, 6-3, 212, Sr.
He might not be the flashiest quarterback in the Big Ten, but Iowa's fifth-year senior James Vandenberg is definitely one of, if not the most consistent pocket passer in the conference. Vandenberg threw for more than 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in his first year as a starter in 2011, and with a year of experience under his belt, those numbers should only continue to improve. Look for Vandenberg to throw far more often under new Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who joined the staff after 13 seasons at Texas.
3. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska, 6-1, 200, Jr.
As much debate as there may be about Taylor Martinez's ability as a quarterback, the fact remains he's still one of the most experienced signal callers in the conference entering his third year as a starter. His numbers definitely dropped last year after his breakout freshman season in 2010, but maybe the biggest bright side was his improved efficiency as a passer. Rather than forcing bad passes or tucking and running at the first sign of trouble, Martinez learned to use his check-down receivers and had a streak of 125 straight passes without an interception over the final four games of the regular season. With an experienced receiving corps around him this year, NU is hoping Martinez takes the next step in his development.
4. Braxton Miller, Ohio State, 6-2, 200, So.
Ohio State's offense was underwhelming to say the least in 2011 under then true freshman Braxton Miller, but his spot on this list is based almost entirely on potential. There's no denying Miller's athletic ability, and now with some experience and the arrival of new head coach Urban Meyer to Columbus, he could be in for a huge sophomore campaign. Miller needs some receiving weapons to step up, but as long as the Buckeyes can pick up Meyer's spread attack, he could make as big of a jump as anyone in the Big Ten.
5. Kain Colter, Northwestern, 6-0, 190, So.
This will be sophomore Kain Colter's first season as Northwestern's full-time starter, but after what he showed last season while backing up the injury-plagued Dan Persa, there's no reason to think he won't pick up right where he left off. One of the most versatile offensive weapons in the conference last year, Colter fell 34 receiving yards shy of finishing the year with 500 or more passing, rushing and receiving yards, and he led team with 654 yards on the ground. That versatility will give the Wildcats' offense plenty of options in 2012.