Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau talk about the Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio tweets, about MSU feeling snubbed with its bowl choice, and about the teams Michigan and Michigan State will face. Detroit News
Michigan State has its starting quarterback next season in Brian Lewerke, and Brandon Peters at least has a shot to be Michigan’s quarterback next season, though he’s likely to have stiff competition.
But, ESPN and Pro Football Focus on Tuesday took a look at their pro potential, ranking 78 starting quarterbacks playing in bowl games, regardless of class or draft eligibility.
The rankings were topped by the usual suspects, led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, with big names such as USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph also in the top five.
Peters and Lewerke, meanwhile, landed a little lower on the list. Peters checks in at No. 29, while Lewerke is at No. 46. In fact, the highest-ranked quarterback with ties to the state plays at Virginia Tech: Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, a Saline product who is at No. 23.
“ ... Jackson showed great promise before his season tailed off mightily starting in Week 9,” Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus wrote. “He showed some big-play ability with a passer rating of 110.9 on deep passes (30th in the nation), but he must improve upon an adjusted completion percentage of 69.0 percent, which ranked 81st.”
Jackson, who leads the Hokies into the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28 against Oklahoma State, completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,743 yards. He threw 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions, and also rushed for four touchdowns.
Peters, meanwhile, started just three games for the Wolverines after an injury to Wilton Speight and backup John O’Korn’s ineffectiveness, but has yet to throw an interception in 64 pass attempts. He’s thrown for 486 yards and four touchdowns, and will start in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
“With good size and a reasonably strong arm, Peters has a chance to progress after an up-and-down start to his career as a redshirt freshman,” Palazzolo writes. “He has the ability to make plays outside of structure but has to do a better job of making plays within the flow of the offense after ranking 16th in percentage of negatively graded throws.”
Lewerke, meanwhile, has been at the center of the Spartans’ turnaround from last season’s dismal 3-9 effort to a 9-3 record this season and berth in the Holiday Bowl. The sophomore has completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,580 yards and 17 touchdowns (and seven interceptions), and he’s also the team’s second-leading rusher (486 yards, 4.4 yards per carry).
He doesn’t appear to be on the NFL prospect radar quite yet, Palazzolo writes.
“Although he brought an excellent run threat to the Michigan State offense,” he writes, “Lewerke ranked only 91st in the nation with a passing grade of 74.5, a number that must improve in the coming years to warrant prospect status.”
Central Michigan senior Shane Morris, the former Michigan quarterback and Warren De La Salle star, is at No. 55. CMU plays Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22.
“A former top recruit, Morris’ decision-making is a concern — he led the nation in turnover-worthy throws — though he did rank 17th in big-time throw percentage,” Palazzolo writes. “Overall, Morris’ down-to-down production never got to the necessary level after his transfer from Michigan.”