Way-too-early Big Ten quarterback rankings: Can Drew Allar claim the top spot?

Even with an influx of talent to the Big Ten, Drew Allar is still one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and could improve his NFL draft stock with a run to the College Football Playoff in 2024.
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15)
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has four new additions, UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Washington and that means new contenders for the conference title and the top of the QB power rankings. Miller Moss, Dillon Gabriel, and Will Rogers will all claim top spots in the way-too-early rankings and after getting comfortable in a new offense and conference, all three could continue to climb the ladder throughout the year. 

To prepare for the influx of talent, Ohio State loaded up its roster and brought in Will Howard to replace Kyle McCord after its offense was underwhelming in 2023. Penn State stuck with Drew Allar and gave him a new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, but James Franklin didn’t do enough at wide receiver to help his former five-star. 

Big Ten football will always be about defense and running the ball, but the Pac-12 influence could make the quarterback position even more important, so to handicap the league going forward, we’ll start with the most impactful position on the field. 

489. . player. ryan. Redshirt Senior+. 6'4" 230 lbs. . Ryan Hilinski. Ryan Hilinski. 18

Back in 2019, Ryan Hilinski began his college career as a promising freshman at South Carolina, but in 2020 he lost the starting job to Spencer Rattler, who transferred to Columbia from Oklahoma. So, Hilinski went to Northwestern to play for Pat Fitzgerald. 

In 2022, Hilinski completed 55.8% of his 258 pass attempts, his most in three seasons with the Wildcats and finished with six touchdowns to seven interceptions. This offseason, Ben Bryant and Brendan Sullivan both transferred away from David Braun’s program, which he inherited from Fitzgerald, and coming off a year in which he attempted just four passes, Hilinski projects as QB1. 

Athan Kaliakmanis. 452. Athan Kaliakmanis. . . 6'4" 215 lbs. Senior. 17. Athan Kaliakmanis. player

The Iowa offense was under fire all of 2023, especially after losing Cade McNamara, but the Minnesota offense wasn’t much better, even with Athan Kaliakmanis starting the entire year. Under the 6-foot-4 rocket-armed sophomore, the Golden Gophers finished 126th in passing yards per game and 120th in yards per play at 4.8. 

Rutgers was one of the few offenses with fewer passing yards per game, ranking 127th with dual-threat Gavin Wimsatt at quarterback. Kaliakmanis transferred to Rutgers this offseason and beat out Wimsatt for the starting job so the latter left for his home state of Kentucky. Greg Schiano seems to think Kaliakmanis is an upgrade, but it’s hard to say. 

M.J. Morris. player. . 16. M.J. Morris. 6'1" 209 lbs. M.J. Morris. 439. . Redshirt Sophomore

No he wasn’t his brother, but replacing Taulia Tagovailoa won’t be easy in College Park. After shopping in the transfer portal, the Terrapins went with M.J. Morris, who last year backed up Brennan Armstrong at North Carolina State. 

Mike Locksley should be excited about the potential of Morris who as a freshman completed 52 of his 86 pass attempts for an average of 7.5 yards per attempt with seven touchdowns to one interception. However, in his sophomore year, Morris took a step back, completing 55.8% of his throws with seven touchdowns to five picks, though he was hampered by the fifth highest drop rate in the country. 

Cade McNamara. player. 483. 6'1" 205 lbs. . . Senior+. Cade McNamara. Cade McNamara. 15

In his third season at Michigan, McNamara lost his starting job to J.J. McCarthy and transferred to Iowa. He attempted just 90 passes for the Hawkeyes before missing the rest of the season with a torn ACL, so Iowa’s offense struggled mightily under Deacon Hill. 

Even with the excuse of a quarterback injury, Iowa moved on from offensive coordiantor Brian Ferentz (I wonder how he got the job) and this offseason gave the gig to Tim Lester. Unlike Deacon Hill, McNamara will provide Iowa with a functional offense, but the Hawkeyes will still need to beat teams 10-9. 

. Hudson Card. . Redshirt Senior. 14. 492. Hudson Card. 6'3" 210 lbs. Hudson Card. player

Hudson Card struggled to get on the field at Texas, but last season was QB1 for Purdue and the Boilermakers got mixed results. Card threw for 2,387 yards and 15 touchdowns, but completed just 58.9% of his passes and held onto the ball for 3.11 seconds per throw which led to 21 sacks. 

Card is a mobile quarterback, but he posted the second lowest rushing EPA of a Big Ten starting quarterback last season and his 50.6 ESPN total QBR ranked 11th out of 14. Card needs to be better this year, but it won’t help that Deion Burks, his top target, transferred to Oklahoma. 

. Redshirt Senior. Ethan Garbers. 13. player. 518. Ethan Garbers. . 6'3" 210 lbs. Ethan Garbers

The plan at UCLA was for Chip Kelly to develop 2023 five-star Dante Moore into the quarterback of the future as the two ushered the team into the Big Ten. Instead, both left for Big Ten rivals, Kelly to become the offensive coordinator at Ohio State and Moore to backup Dillon Gabriel at Oregon. So, DeShaun Foster and OC Eric Bienemy after left handing the keys of the offense to Ethan Garbers, a redshirt senior who started six games in 2023. 

Garbers was solid, playing his best in the LA Bowl against Boise State, in relief of Collin Schlee, who has since transferred to Virginia Tech. Garbers went 9/12 for 152 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos, which could provide some momentum heading into 2024 and the Big Ten. 

Luke Altmyer. player. 481. luke Altmyer. . Luke Altmyer. 12. . 6'2" 200 lbs. Junior

Illinois had a chaotic season, especially once it was revealed that Bret Bielema’s defense was not nearly on par with previous years. Early in the year, Altmyer struggled against Penn State, throwing four interceptions, but down the stretch he was much better. 

If Altmyer can eliminate the sacks and turnovers, he’ll be a successful starting quarterback. The advanced numbers favor him quite a bit. Last season, Altmyer posted a passing EPA of 31.9 which was fifth in the conference, just ahead of Purdue’s Hudson Card. He also posted the third-best rushing EPA among Big Ten quarterbacks. 

When kept clean, Altmyer averaged 7.4 yards per attempt with a 75.1% completion rate and got the ball out of his hands in a staggeringly quick 2.38 seconds, but pressure caused problems. If Illinois can keep him upright, the Fighting Illini could produce an above average offense. 

Senior+. Max Brosmer. 6'2" 210 lbs. player. . . Max Brosmer. 11. Max Brosmer. 487

Max Brosmer has dominated at the FCS level, leading the New Hampshire Wildcats with back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons with 27 and 29 passing touchdowns in each of the last two years. In 2023, Brosmer even carried the back 56 times for 127 yards and five touchdowns. 

It’s impossible to know how well Brosmer’s game will translate from a lower level, but he has plenty of experience and is a creative playmaker who pushed the ball downfield. Minnesota upgraded from Kaliakmanis, but it may not be enough for P.J. Fleck to take the Golden Gophers back to a bowl game for the fourth straight year. 

. 6'3" 236 lbs. Alex Orji. 10. 485. orji. Junior. Alex Orji. . player

As a sophomore, Orji attempted just one pass and completed it for five yards. He’s a massive unknown, but Sherrone Moore will be able to unlock his athleticism with a run-heavy offense. Orji had a package of gadget plays last year when he rushed for 86 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. 

It’s unclear what Orji will develop into as a passer, but after seeing his mobility on display last year, he has to climb into the top 10 with a lackluster group of quarterbacks behind him. 

Kurtis Rourke. Kurtis Rourke. 482. . Redshirt Senior. player. . 6'5" 222 lbs. 9. Kurtis Rourke

Kurtis Rourke isn’t the only quarterback on this list to have begun his collegiate career back in 2019. Rourke spent five seasons at Ohio and has played in 35 career games with a total of 7.651 passing yards and 50 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. 

At 6-foot-5 Rourke is a big physical quarterback who will be able to withstand the rigors of Big Ten play for the Hoosiers and new head coach Curt Cignetti. Cignetti’s offense will also likely take advantage of Rourke’s athleticism, the veteran having run for over 200 yards in each of the past three seasons. 

Last year at Ohio, Rourke was hamstrung by a 10.1% drop rate by his receivers the the 36th highest among the 178 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks last year. 

. Tyler Van Dyke. . 6'4" 230 lbs. 493. Redshirt Senior. Tyler Van Dyke. player. tyler van dyke. 8

Tyler Van Dyke has had an interesting college football career. Coming into 2022, his true junior season, he was talked about as a potential first-round NFL Draft pick, but underwhelmed and dealt with injuries for two years before transferring to Wisconsin this offseason. 

Now, finally healthy again, Van Dyke will look to rebuild his draft stock in Phil Longo’s air raid system, but his lack of mobility will still plague him. Van Dyke didn't get sacked much last season and was an accurate passer from the pocket, but it’s hard to go all-in on a guy who averaged 5.6 yards per attempt when pressured with a 43.1% completion percentage and scrambled just nine times last year. 

Dylan Raiola. Dylan Raiola. . Freshman. 7. 488. . 6'3" 220 lbs. Dylan Raiola. player

In Nebraska’s spring game, Raiola put up 239 yards and two touchdowns on 16 of 22 passing while quarterbacking both the Red and White teams for stretches. The talent was obvious in that outing, but the other thing that jumped out was his tendency to tuck the ball and run if his first read wasn’t there. Raiola will need to learn to work through his progression without letting his eyes come down because he’s not an elite runner. 

As a true freshman, Raiola should be Nebraska’s starting quarterback, that’s why he flipped his commitment from Georgia. However, there will be some pretty serious limitations to his game if he doesn’t become more patient in the pocket. 

Miller Moss. . 6'1" 205 lbs. Miller Moss. Miller Moss. player. 519. . Redshirt Junior. 6

Caleb Williams was the third quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy in a Lincoln Riley offense, but with Miller Moss, Riley is getting back to a Baker Mayfield type to operate his air-raid system. Williams and Kyler Murray were both improvisers, but Miller, like Mayfield, is a dropback passer who wants to get the ball out of his hands quickly and to his playmakers in space. An RPO-heavy offense will be excellent for Moss. 

In the Holiday Bowl against Louisville, Moss, a sophomore, threw for 372 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception on 23 of 33 passing. Riley needs to fix the offensive line at USC, but a quick decision-maker like Moss could paper over some of those issues. The question that remains is if Moss is accurate enough to excel with the lack of horsepower on his ball. 

. 5. Aidan Chiles. . Sophomore. Aidan Chiles. player. 486. 6'3" 213 lbs. Aidan Chiles

Last year at Oregon State, buried behind D.J. Uiagalelei, Chiles only attempted 35 passes and completed 24 for 309 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He was excellent in limited action and is one of four top 10 quarterback recruits from the loaded 2023 high school class who will be a Power 4 starter this season. 

At 6-foot-3 200 pounds, Chiles is a big-arm thrower who pushes the ball downfield and has plus mobility. The biggest issue in his limited reps was a 40% pressure-to-sack ratio last season and if that continues, he could put Michigan State behind the sticks too often. Jonathan Smith will build the Spartans into a winner and will do it with Chiles, but it will likely take until 2025. 

Senior+. Will Rogers. 4. . . Will Rogers. 521. player. Will Rogers. 6'2" 204 lbs

When Kalen DeBoer originally recruited Will Rogers to replace Michael Penix Jr. it didn’t seem like a good fit. Penix Jr. excelled in Ryan Grubb’s offense because of his willingness to push the ball down the field, which is not a characteristic of Rogers, who began his career in Mike Leach’s air-raid system. Rogers is highly accurate but doesn’t have a big arm, which will work for Washington’s new head coach Jedd Fisch. 

Washington lost gobs of talent on its way into the Big Ten, so the team could struggle to get its footing in Fisch’s first season, but Rogers will keep the offense functional and is used to difficult circumstances from his time at Mississippi State. Last season was a struggle for Rogers in a new offense, but he’s still only a few years removed from throwing for 4,697 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2021. 

Will Howard. . 6'4" 237 lbs. 3. . Redshirt Senior. Will Howard. player. 490. Will Howard

In 2023, Ohio State had one of the best defensive units in the country, but the Buckeyes were held back by the mediocre quarterback play of Kyle McCord. Howard will keep the Ohio State offense on schedule much more, excels in play action, and is better against pressure than McCord was, though not by much. 

Last season at Kansas State, Howard threw for 2,643 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 351 and nine scores. His mobility will be an added element that the Buckeyes did not have with McCord and could help to offset that loss of Marvin Harrison Jr. from the receiving corps. 

Ryan Day has amassed an elite group of skill players around Howard so all he needs to do is get the ball in the hands of TreVeyon Henderson, Quinshon Judkins, Emeka Egbuka, and five-star freshman Jeremiah Smith. 

. 6'5" 243 lbs. Junior. Drew Allar. . player. 491. Drew Allar. Drew Allar. 2

Last season, his first as a starter at Penn State, the former five-star finished fourth in the conference in total QBR and expected points added according to ESPN. He was reluctant to push the ball downfield in an offense with limited wide receiver talent and questionable play-calling under former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. 

That lack of production, coupled with Allar’s recruiting pedigree, brought the quarterback under fire for much of the year, but with new OC Andy Kotelnicki’s fresh and innovative offense, Allar should excel as a true junior and could climb up NFL draft boards. 

Redshirt Senior. 1. Dillon Gabriel. . player. 5'11" 204 lbs. Dillon Gabriel. . Dillon Gabriel. 515

Dillon Gabriel has been in college football since 2019 and has started 49 career games. There isn’t a player in the country with more experience than Gabriel and he’s coming off a year at Oklahoma with 30 touchdowns to six interceptions and an average of 9.5 yards per attempt. 

While Oklahoma didn’t reach the College Football Playoff in either of his seasons in Norman, Gabriel nearly single-handedly knocked off last year’s Texas Longhorns team that gave Washington a scare in the CFP semifinal. In that one, Gabriel went 23/38 for 285 yards with one touchdown and ran for 113 yards and a score on 14 attempts. 

Bo Nix couldn’t get Dan Lanning’s team over the hump in the Pac-12 last season, but with Gabriel, the Ducks are one of the favorites to win the Big Ten.

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