Will 2014 See the 2-Quarterback Trend Die in the Big Ten?

Andrew CoppensContributor IJanuary 24, 2014

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Last season was a year of transition at quarterback in the Big Ten, and for some of those schools it meant playing the two-quarterback dance. At least four schools played multiple quarterbacks on a regular basis this past season, with varying degrees of inconsistency. 

Nebraska rotated Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III, Northwestern played Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian by design, Minnesota played Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson, and even Indiana got in the mix by playing both Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. 

It was a trend born out of necessity or design in some cases, but a trend that most of those schools would have rather not have played. 

The good news is that the trend shouldn't continue in 2014, as different circumstances will see the return of the single quarterback across the Big Ten.

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The 2013 results show just how little two-quarterback systems work. Nebraska was very inconsistent while shuffling between the two until figuring out a regular starter late in the season. 

Indiana's offense had issues with figuring out exactly what its identity was going to be thanks to two quarterbacks worthy of playing time.

And Minnesota's quarterback issues were born out of the inability to get anything consistent out of either Leidner or Nelson. 

Northwestern was a very different case, as its offense was designed around having Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian being on the field together a lot. However, injury issues for Colter exposed how not having the right personnel on hand can doom a team.

It's hard to say Siemian was effective running the style of offense Northwestern wanted most of the year without the threat of Colter in waiting. Siemian ended the year completing 59.7 percent of his passes for 2,149 yards and 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions. 

Those last two numbers were troubling for a quarterback whose strong suit, compared to Colter, was supposed to be in the passing game. 

Heading in to 2014, though, Colter won't be in Evanston anymore and Siemian has a chance to lead this offense on his own. It also means Northwestern has a chance to retool the offense to suit Siemian's strengths more effectively. 

Over in Minneapolis the quarterback controversy settled itself with Nelson announcing his intention to transfer from the Gophers program. It means Leidner is set up to battle early enrollee Dimonic McKinzy for the starter's spot. 

Indiana has the hardest decision ahead of itself because both Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld have played well enough to deserve the starter's job. 

There will also be a new offensive coordinator in place, as Seth Littrell left Bloomington for the same position at North Carolina earlier this week. 

Head coach Kevin Wilson stayed in house to replace Littrell, promoting Kevin Johns from co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/wide receivers coach. So, he is familiar with the quarterbacks vying for the starter's role. 

Nov 9, 2013; Bloomington, IN, USA;  Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) during the second quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

What will be interesting to see is if Johns continues the trend from later in the year, with Sudfeld and Roberson both getting snaps and going with the hot hand, or if he has a different idea and will stick with one starter. 

Based on the results from last season, Johns would be wise to find one quarterback and stick with him for a change. 

About the only place that could be seeing a two-quarterback system heading in to 2014 may be in Lincoln, where Tommy Armstrong Jr. may be battling it out with redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton.

The latter comes in as one of the more highly touted quarterbacks to come to Lincoln in a while, while the former comes in to this campaign having nearly a full season of experience under his belt. 

Playing two quarterbacks didn't work out great, and Nebraska's best games came when it stuck to one player for the majority of the game or entire game. It would be wise to remember those lessons heading into this spring. 

It may also be wise for coaches across the Big Ten to remember that the 2013 season was a bumpy ride at quarterback. Thanks to different circumstances, 2014 is shaping up to be much better for quarterbacks. 

Could it be that 2014 will be the return of top quarterbacks around the league? If these battles get figured out before the season starts, it very well could be. 


Andy Coppens is the Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens