While college football teams are now getting ready to begin fall camp, headlines were made all spring and summer about the number of players who used the now-relaxed rules regarding transfers to their advantage. Quarterbacks especially lit up the NCAA Transfer Portal this year. Now, these signal-callers must prepare for their new teams, schools, playbooks, and everything that comes with getting a fresh start. The Big Ten has quite a few of these high-profile transfers and these players are certain to elevate the conference's profile on a national stage. Here are questions that these Big Ten transfer quarterbacks need to answer.
Can Justin Fields make a name for himself at Ohio State?
The Georgia transfer may now be out of Jake Fromm's shadow, but he hasn't escaped the national spotlight. Fields is tasked with not only helping to keep the Buckeyes offense efficient in the post-Dwayne Haskins era, but he also must lead the charge to start the Ryan Day era. Day himself has the challenge of replacing Urban Meyer as head coach of one of the premier programs in the country. Day needs Fields to be a quick study and show why he was one of the top recruits coming out of high school.
In his limited action in a Bulldogs uniform, Fields compiled 328 passing yards, 266 rushing yards, and was responsible for eight total touchdowns. At Ohio State, Fields has the unenviable task of replacing Haskins after he rewrote school and Big Ten records in his one season as a starter. Haskins finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after leading the nation in passing yards (4,831) and touchdowns (50). As a result, the Buckeyes finished second in the FBS in total offense (535.6 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (42.4 ppg). Unless the defense takes a major step forward under the new coaching staff, Day and Fields will need to do their part to keep the Ohio State offense rolling.
Does Hunter Johnson keep the train rolling at Northwestern?
Johnson started his career as Kelly Bryant's backup at Clemson. He transferred to Northwestern last summer when Trevor Lawrence arrived on campus. Johnson showed potential in his limited action, completing 21-of-27 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns in 2017, but he realized playing time would remain sparse with the Tigers. Now in Evanston, Johnson is set to serve as the Wildcats' starter in the post-Clayton Thorson era.
Thorson finished his career as Northwestern's all-time leading passer (10,731 yards, 61 TDs), and one of the winningest players in program history (36-17 record). Thorson also is credited with much of the school's recent success. NU played in its first-ever Big Ten title game last season and have plenty of expectations heading into the 2019 campaign. Johnson's experience at Clemson should help him acclimate to Northwestern's system, but how he performs will go a long way in deciding whether or not the Wildcats return to Indianapolis.
Can Josh Jackson accelerate Maryland's rebuild?
Last year the Terrapins used three different quarterbacks, who combined to throw for 1,660 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions while completing 51 percent of their attempts. It's not surprising that new head coach Mike Locksley would make fixing the position one of his top priorities, which is where Jackson comes in. The graduate transfer from Virginia Tech is expected to assume the starting job at Maryland after throwing for 3,566 yards and 25 touchdowns to go along with 385 rushing yards and seven scores in his two seasons with the Hokies.
Jackson's 2018 season was ended by a leg injury in the third game, but if healthy he could be the shot in the arm the Terps' offense needs. Locksley spent the past two seasons as Alabama's offensive coordinator where he worked with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. If Jackson adapts to the new system and playbook and Locksley is able to fully utilize his new quarterback's skill set, Maryland could surprise a few teams in 2019.
Is Brandon Peters the answer for Illinois?
Since Lovie Smith became the head coach for the Fighting Illini back in 2016 the team has used six different starting quarterbacks. The most recent ones, A.J. Bush and M.J. Rivers II, have been among the more productive signal-callers in the Smith era. Bush has exhausted his eligibility while Rivers transferred despite being viewed as the front-runner for the job. While Illinois does have some young quarterbacks on the roster, it appears that Smith intends to hand the offensive reins over to someone with a little more experience.
Peters decided to transfer to Illinois after spending three seasons at Michigan. A top-five recruit in the 2016 class, Peters appeared in eight games for the Wolverines, completing 52 percent of his passes for 680 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Similar to his peers mentioned above, Peters' playing outlook changed when Shea Patterson announced he was transferring from Ole Miss and was granted immediate eligibility prior to last season.
Based on experience alone, many are expecting Peters to be named the Illini's starting quarterback. And if that's the case he'll be tasked with improving an offense that despite ranking 12th nationally in rushing (243 ypg), struggled to throw the ball (165.7 passing ypg, 10 TDs, 14 INTs) and averaged 26.0 points per game (11th in the Big Ten in both categories).
Will McLane Carter solve Rutgers' woes under center?
Since joining the Big Ten back in 2014, it's been a struggle for the Scarlet Knights. They have gone 19-42 overall during that stretch with just one winning record (8-5 in 2014) and are just 7-36 in Big Ten play. Quarterback play has been a constant issue during this span, a problem highlighted by last season's woeful production. Four different players (two quarterbacks, two running backs) attempted at least one pass for Rutgers. Collectively, this quartet completed less than half of their attempts for 1,586 yards, five touchdowns and 22 interceptions. To put it simply, it didn't matter who was throwing the ball for the Scarlet Knights last season.
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash has a new option in Carter, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech. Carter started last season as the Red Raiders man under center but suffered an ankle injury in the opener and never was able to reclaim the job. In 10 games over two seasons Carter completed 53 percent of his passes for 677 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. After getting passed by others on the depth chart in Lubbock, Carter decided to transfer to Rutgers where he will battle with sophomore Artur Sitkowski (4 TDs, 18 INTs in 2018) for the starting job. Ash will go with whichever signal-caller he thinks gives him the best chance of winning games, something he hasn't done much of (7-29 in three seasons) in his Scarlet Knights tenure.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)