Unproven QBs stack Big Ten

by By Justin

(U-WIRE) COLUMBUS, Ohio — Optimism and balance were the themes for the 28th Annual Big Ten Conference Kickoff Luncheon held in Chicago last week. Using these ideas, many coaches, players and media are speculating the league could be the strongest all time from top to bottom.
One reason for this is quarterback controversy, and the top four teams all have some hint of doubt who will be starting when the first set of downs is played. Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, picked to finish in that order, are all currently uncertain who will be throwing passes when they take the field for the first time in a few weeks.
With the position still in question of who will be calling the snaps for the opening game, it seems teams with their play-caller back in the huddle have an early season advantage.
Here in Buckeye country, coach John Cooper still hasn’t decided who will start at quarterback against the University of Miami on Aug. 29 at the Meadowlands (N.Y.).
He said he would like to avoid the platoon system of shuffling in both passers.
The main candidates for the job are sophomores Steve Bellisari and Austin Moherman. Both are trying to become the first sophomore starting quarterback since Bobby Hoying in 1993.
Neither one has much collegiate game experience at the position. Between the two of them, only six career passes have been attempted resulting in three completions. In comparison, running back Michael Wiley had almost as many completions last year with two.
“I do not want to play two quarterbacks next year like we did two and three years ago, but if it will help us win football games I am not against that,” Cooper said.
Despite shying from the system, it has been a proven winner for Ohio State. In the 1996 season when Cooper tried the idea, it eventually led the Bucks to a 20-17 Rose Bowl win over Arizona State and a No. 2 national ranking.
However, he did say he might try both quarterbacks in the games at first and then settle on the one who handles the job better.
Bellisari is regarded as the more athletic of the two and played most of the 1998 campaign smothering opposing kickoff returners on special teams. He was in the top 10 for defensive leaders on the team, recording 22 tackles, while having at least one tackle in all 12 games. Bellisari attempted only five passes, all in a win against Toledo, completing three for 24 yards.
Moherman appears the more disciplined classic dropback passer of the pair. With his strong arm and experience gained as a redshirt freshman, he has battled to a stalemate with Bellisari, causing Cooper to make a game day call on who will start.
Moherman saw little action in games last year, playing in only one against Toledo, misfiring on his lone pass attempt.
“Both guys have got a lot of reps in the spring and both of them have gotten better,” Cooper said, addressing the impending controversy. “I cannot tell you which one will be our QB, but whoever plays quarterback for Ohio State is expected to play good.”
Free safety Gary Berry was also unable to predict who might start the first game as the Bucks’ field general.
“We know the same thing everyone else knows. They’re both good. They’re both Division I top grade-A quarterbacks,” he said. “Right now they don’t know who they are going to put in, but both can throw and get the ball in there.”
The starting quarterback position at Wisconsin is also up in the air. Coach Barry Alvarez lost Mike Samuel and now much needs to be decided between Scott Kavanaugh, Brooks Bollinger or two others with no experience.
Penn State and Michigan are in similar situations with quarterback concerns. They are just trying to determine who the best player is to fit the job.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno must choose between the free-wheeling Rashard Casey and the pocket-passer Kevin Thompson, where Michigan coach Lloyd Carr must pick between last year’s starter Tom Brady and up-and-coming star Drew Henson.
Big Ten league play starts Sept. 25.
Maybe then all of the questions will be answered.

This article originally appeared Friday in The Lantern (Ohio State University).