Spartans among 4 Big Ten East teams with new starters at QB
There'll be a lot of new voices calling the signals in the Big Ten East.
Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Indiana are getting set to break in new starting quarterbacks, all of whom will be replacing NFL draft picks. Wisconsin is the only West team with a first-year starting quarterback.
Here's a look:
The defending Big Ten champion Spartans are going with fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, who succeeds the program's all-time wins leader in Connor Cook.
O'Connor, who started in a win at Ohio State in the absence of an injured Cook, won the job over junior Damion Terry. O'Connor has appeared in 14 games, completing 34 of 54 passes for 374 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions.
''He's got the ability to move and he understands our offense very, very well. Scale of one to 10, probably 10,'' coach Mark Dantonio said. ''He's a competitor and he's prepared himself for this moment and he's got a great supporting cast around him.''
Wilton Speight or John O'Korn? Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh has kept the choice secret to people outside the team. Everyone will know Saturday when No. 7 Michigan hosts Hawaii.
Speight, a 6-6, 243-pound junior, is best known for taking over for an injured Jake Rudock at Minnesota last year and leading the game-winning touchdown drive. O'Korn, a 6-4, 215-pound senior, was a record-setter at Houston before transferring and sitting out last season.
Senior Shane Morris also was in the competition, but signs point to it being Speight or O'Korn.
''All three of us could start at 120 colleges across the country,'' O'Korn said.
Trace McSorley beat out redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens mostly because of his experience as Christian Hackenberg's top backup. Don't expect the Nittany Lions' offense to look the same.
First-year offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has installed a spread system, and the mobile McSorley looks the part. The 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore appeared in seven games last year. He took over for an injured Hackenberg in the second quarter of the 24-17 loss to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl and was named team MVP for the game.
Junior-college transfer Richard Lagow emerged as the starter early in preseason practice and will be surrounded by one of the most experienced supporting casts in the Big Ten.
Coach Kevin Wilson said the 6-6, 237-pound Lagow actually moves better than his predecessor, the prolific Nate Sudfeld, and has an arm that could be just as good. Lagow threw for 2,285 yards and 21 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions, for Cisco (Texas) Community College and was, according to ESPN, the top-ranked pocket-passing junior-college QB.
The Hoosiers have experience behind Lagow with Zander Diamont, who backed up Sudfeld and started six games two years ago.
Bart Houston was one of the nation's top-rated quarterbacks coming out of high school, and he'll finally make his first start as a 23-year-old, fifth-year senior.
The 6-4, 235-pound Houston appeared in 15 games as Joel Stave's backup the last three years. He played in seven games last season, taking over in the Illinois game after Stave sustained a head injury. Houston was 22 for 33 for 232 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, against the Illini.
Houston is fairly mobile for his size, which should help a Badgers team that is young on the offensive line.
Interesting fact: his parents named him after Packers' great Bart Starr. Houston's first start comes Thursday against No. 5 LSU in Starr's old stomping grounds, Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Online: AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org