Iowa isn’t the only Big Ten football program searching for a quarterback at the onset of fall camp.
As Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard took the practice field Monday morning for the first time at the Hawkeyes' camp, they are at a position that is unsettled at six conference programs.
There are exceptions.
Braxton Miller at Ohio State, Taylor Martinez at Nebraska, Devin Gardner at Michigan, Nathan Scheelhaase at Illinois and Philip Nelson at Minnesota seemingly have strong holds at the position and Northwestern will continue the rotation of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian.
“Ideally you go into camp with depth established, but that doesn’t always happen,’’ Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.
In some cases, increased competition is the reason.
Andrew Maxwell has started 13 games for Michigan State, but Connor Cook led the Spartans on a drive that led to a bowl victory. Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and true freshman Damion Terry also will get a look in camp as the Spartans look to improve on a 7-6 record.
“Our quarterback position is much stronger than it was last year,’’ Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Last year, we had a couple of really young players. Now, we have a group of guys that all go about 220 and around 6-foot-3. What they do collectively in August will really determine things as we move forward.’’
Like Iowa, Indiana has three quarterbacks in the mix. Unlike Iowa, the Hoosiers have some experience at the position.
Tre Roberson opened the season behind center a year ago, but was injured. That led to playing time for Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld and competition that will carry into August.
“We’re unsettled at quarterback, three guys in a dead heat, but it’s not because I don’t think we’ve got a good player,’’ Wilson said. “We’ve got three unique guys who are capable of managing our team. I’d love to see one of them emerge, but we’re not there yet.’’
At Wisconsin and Purdue, first-year coaches are still studying their personnel.
Curt Phillips and Joel Stave held the top spots at Wisconsin at the end of spring drills but junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy will get a look this fall after throwing for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns last season at Arizona Western Community College.
“We recruited Tanner, brought him in and he will compete,’’ Badger coach Gary Andersen said. “He deserves that opportunity because he’s a junior college player with only three years to play … It will be a three-man race and I have no timeline. We may jog out there for the first play of the first game with two quarterbacks and see what happens from there.’’
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell will select between a veteran and a true freshman who arrived on campus in January wanting to compete for the starting spot. Rob Henry has experience, starting seven games in 2010, but Hazell also likes what he has seen from 6-3, 205-pound Danny Etling, who threw for 1,505 yards despite coping with a season-long ankle sprain last fall at Terre Haute (Ind.) South.
“We’ll make a decision about two weeks into practice,'' Hazell said. "We’re looking for a guy who can take care of the football, get us to the right place and be tough enough to stand in there on third-and-five and take a shot.’’
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is looking for the same abilities and like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, he is comparing quarterbacks who have yet to take a snap in the Big Ten.
The battle is between Tyler Ferguson, a 6-3 transfer from the College of the Sequoias, and heralded 6-4 freshman Christian Hackenberg, a five-star recruit from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.
“The exciting thing about working with young quarterbacks is that you get a chance to really mold and really teach that quarterback,’’ O’Brien said.