Michigan Football: 5 Best QBs Wolverines Will Face in 2014
Michigan will spend a lot of time devising game plans for its quarterback Devin Gardner.
Conversely, the Wolverines will also clock several hours developing strategies to combat opposing signal-callers.
With a schedule that features road tests at Michigan State and Ohio State, Team 135 will not only face two of the Big Ten's best, but they'll square off against two of the country's best: The Buckeyes' Braxton Miller is considered one of the game's most athletic, while Connor Cook, the Spartans' Rose Bowl MVP, has been name-dropped in Heisman chatter (h/t Tom Dienhart of BTN.com).
Of course, Connor and Miller aren't the only ones that Greg Mattison's defense must defend against. Notre Dame and Penn State also have talented signal-callers who could pose problems come game day.
This slideshow will highlight, analyze and rank the five best arms that the Wolverines will battle in 2014.
5. Kameron Bryant, Appalachian State
No, this isn't a joke.
If Michigan wants to start the season right and really forget 2007's loss to Appalachian State, it better treat Mountaineers quarterback Kameron Bryant like he's Joe Montana. Or, at the very least, Armanti Edwards.
Due to being first up, Bryant will be the best the Wolverines face as of Week 1. Putting Bryant in the top five is definitely up for debate. But Michigan can't afford to underestimate the player nor the team.
Not this time.
Bryant, a 6'1", 205-pound junior, doesn't have any collegiate stats, per ESPN. But there is evidence on Twitter that suggests otherwise:
Appalachian State beats Georgian Southern 38-14: Kameron Bryant was 27 of 33 for 381 yards with four total... http://t.co/ijN85P1MyP— Lake Norman Buzz (@LakeNormanBuzz) October 27, 2013
Opening the season against a player who's relatively unknown is always a task. Being unaware of his strengths and weaknesses certainly can make it difficult to X-and-O a game plan. You can bet that Greg Mattison's defense is scouring the Web for Bryant footage at this very moment.
4. Everett Golson, Notre Dame
If not for being suspended due to academic issues, Everett Golson would have made the 2013 version of this list.
Ready for redemption this fall, the Notre Dame senior should be the man under center when his Irish close out their series with Michigan during Week 2 in South Bend. As noted by Tom Loy of 247Sports, Golson has sharpened his skill set and has reached a high level of focus.
It's also important to mention Golson's work with George Whitfield, the quarterback guru of all quarterback gurus. He's molded QBs at all levels, and his touch should pay dividends for Golson this fall.
Notre Dame and Michigan have a long history, but Golson and Michigan do not. Chalk up another tally in the "element of surprise" column. In 2012, he completed three of eight attempts—well, five if we count the two picks—during the Irish's 13-6 victory.
Obviously, he's much better than those numbers suggest.
The mobile, 6'1", 200-pound righty finished 2012 with 2,405 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions (187 for 318 attempts).
3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
In 2013, Michigan learned that Christian Hackenberg, then just a mere freshman, had little to no fear. He lit up the Wolverines for 305 yards and three touchdowns during his team's 43-40 quadruple-overtime thriller at Happy Valley.
Now the Penn State star is a sophomore, and he's only getting better. That's great news for the Nittany Lions; it's the opposite for Hoke, who saw the game slip away a year ago thanks to Hackenberg's Hail Mary to Allen Robinson, who added insult to injury by simply being from Michigan.
It takes a special kind of player to lead a sanctioned team to a winning record. Throwing for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns was a jumping-off point for Hackenberg, who was considered the best quarterback of the 2013 haul.
The 6'4", 234-pounder can chuck it. And he's accurate, evidenced by his 58.9 completion percentage. Again, he was a true freshman playing for a team reeling in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Imagine the level of mental focus necessary to do that and play at a high level. There probably aren't many upperclassmen who could have pulled that move, let alone a kid.
Now with coach James Franklin, the only way is up for Hackenberg, who gets a crack at Michigan—Round 2, if you will—in Week 7 at The Big House. It'll be a night game at one of the sport's treasured venues. Big-time players come to play in big-time events, so the Wolverines might want to double-up on strategy.
Athlon Sports, among many other media outlets, likes Hackenberg. Is that enough to put Hoke on alert?
Christian Hackenberg or Braxton Miller? Tough call on the All-Big Ten team: http://t.co/wElUKnVPot— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) June 12, 2014
2. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Braxton Miller is rehabbing from surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder. However, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer believes that Miller will boost his skills to that of an NFL QB while leading the Buckeyes this fall, per Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.
That's hefty praise for the 6'2", 215-pound senior, no less. So why isn't he No. 1? Well, there's plenty of reason for that, which will be addressed in the No. 1 player's slide.
Until then, catch up on Miller's history versus Michigan.
As a freshman, he threw for 235 yards with two touchdowns and a pick during a 40-34 loss. As a sophomore, he efficiently completed 14 of 18 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown during a 26-21 victory. As a junior, he threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns during a 42-41 win.
Of course, none of that accounts for what he's done on the ground, which is probably more impressive. He rushed for three touchdowns versus Hoke in 2013 and one in 2011. There's no telling what he can do when properly motivated behind a rock-solid O-line. Dangerous with his feet, Miller should take the Wolverines to the limits during the final Saturday of November.
Athletically speaking, Miller could be named as the top quarterback on Michigan's 2014 docket. He almost was. But he's certainly the top-rated smack-talking QB on this countdown:
1. Connor Cook, Michigan State
Cook went from nothing to something in a hurry, which makes him a compelling candidate for No. 1. If he led his school to its first Rose Bowl since 1988 as a newbie to the rotation, imagine what he'll be able to do with a little development.
Big Ten Network's Mike Hall referenced Cook's ascent after the Spartans topped Stanford, 24-20 in Pasadena.
As late as week 4 this season Connor Cook was pulled at the end of the game. Now? BigTen Title game MVP and Rose Bowl MVP— Mike Hall (@BTNMikeHall) January 2, 2014
With that game, Cook, then a sophomore, became a Michigan State folk hero. The 6'4", 219-pounder was praised by Big Ten athletes during the conference's media days this past week in Chicago.
This past season, Cook threw for 252 yards and a touchdown during the Spartans' 29-6 thrashing of the Wolverines. He also rushed for a score.
Skill set-wise, he's no Braxton Miller. Cook won't wow you with his feet, either. And really, he won't wow you with his arm.
So why is he No. 1?
He's 1-0 versus Michigan, he's more confident than ever and he's part of a recent stretch of effective game-managing quarterbacks who just win rivalry games. That's a dangerous combination. Just ask the Wolverines who played against Kirk Cousins, who never lost as a starter in the rivalry.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81