Iowa isn’t the only Big Ten football program searching for a starting quarterback this spring.
The Hawkeyes are among four Big Ten teams still working to determine who will start behind center next fall, seeking to find a difference-making leader.
“It’s amazing how confident a young man gets in that position when he’s had on-field success. He affects everyone else on the offense and everyone else on the team because they all believe we can move the ball, score points and win because of the quarterback position,’’ Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said on this week’s Big Ten spring teleconference.
“When you flip that over, it really hurts your confidence, when the offense doesn’t have great belief in what the quarterback can do.’’
Fitzgerald isn’t among coaches searching for a starting quarterback this season — Clayton Thorson is among the league’s returning starters — but coaches elsewhere across the conference are looking for players to earn starting opportunities.
As Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers battle to replace C.J. Beathard at Iowa, there are openings at quarterback at Nebraska, Minnesota and Maryland as well.
Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley is selecting between two quarterbacks who have yet to take a snap for Nebraska, Tulane transfer Tanner Lee and redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien, as a replacement for Tommy Armstrong.
New Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck is comparing and contrasting the abilities of four candidates, Connor Rhoda, Demry Croft, Tanner Morgan and Seth Green. Of the group, Rhoda saw action in three games Mitch Leidner missed last season because of injury.
At Maryland, Terrapins coach D.J. Durkin is looking at three possibilities to replace Perry Hills. Max Bortenschlager, Tyrell Pigrome and North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson continue to compete for the job.
“To me, like any position, if you’ve got two or even three guys competing for the same spot, it makes them all better,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Nebraska hasn’t had a spring battle for the starting quarterback position since 2010, but Riley dealt with several while he was coaching at Oregon State.
“The one thing it does is it kind of keeps an edge going,’’ Riley said. “Some guys always have an edge, but there is an edge you have to keep day to day and this keeps everybody sharp.’’
Like the situation at Iowa, where Stanley and Wiegers are receiving an equal number of snaps in every practice, Riley has worked to give both Cornhuskers an equal chance.
“Because they have not played for us in a game, there was no way to really be fair and say ‘Hey, you’re going to be first string quarterback to get us started,’ so we flipped a coin,’’ Riley said. “They have literally taken turns throughout spring practice and I feel like that has helped both of them keep an edge.’’
Durkin and Fleck continue to sift through possibilities as spring practiceS near an end.
At Maryland, Durkin says “there’s not a ton of difference with those guys’’ at this point, a situation that Fleck is dealing with at Minnesota.
“We’re looking for decisive decision making within the system,’’ Fleck said. “We’re looking for a guy who can manage the game and lead the team in terms of making those decisive choices that need to be made.’’
Those traits have separated returning starters Wilton Speight of Michigan, J.T. Barrett of Ohio State, Trace McSorley of Penn State, Richard Lagow of Indiana, David Blough of Purdue and Alex Hornibrook of Wisconsin from potential competition.
Illinois ended the spring with Chayce Crouch on top of the depth chart, although junior college transfer and one-time Virginia Tech back-up Dwayne Lawson is scheduled to arrive on campus this summer.
Brian Lewerke ended spring at the top of the depth chart at Michigan State and Gio Rescigno is growing into the role at Rutgers, where new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill has helped him progress.