Michigan State has its quarterback of the present and immediate future in Brian Lewerke. Michigan hasn’t found its man yet, though it appears to have quality options.
The certainty in East Lansing and uncertainty in Ann Arbor are factors in ESPN’s quarterback future power rankings in college football, released Tuesday. The Spartans are ranked No. 12, while the Wolverines check in at No. 21.
The power rankings, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, judge a program’s quarterback position for the next three seasons, taking into account “whether they bring back quality starters, capable backups and, in some cases, heralded recruits,” while avoiding projections, “prioritizing what players have done at the college level and especially those with multiple years of eligibility left.”
“Teams are selected based on their ability to sustain and thrive,” Rittenberg writes.
Michigan State and Michigan are heading in opposite directions in ESPN’s quarterback rankings, with the Spartans climbing 10 spots from last year’s No. 22 ranking. That’s because of Lewerke, Rittenberg writes.
“A big jump here is warranted after Lewerke emerged as one of the Big Ten’s better quarterbacks,” Rittenberg writes. “He passed for 2,793 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions and added the running ability (559 yards, five touchdowns) that MSU has historically lacked at quarterback. Plus, he has two years of eligibility left and likely will remain for both.”
Rittenberg quotes an unnamed Big Ten coach, who described Lewerke as “athletic, good decision-maker, can make all the throws. The sky is a limit because of his arm talent.”
MSU boasts some potential depth at the position, Rittenberg notes, despite the transfer of Messiah deWeaver. Rocky Lombardi will be redshirt freshman next season, and the Spartans welcome four-star Theo Day from Dearborn Divine Child. They also have a commitment from 2019 quarterback Dwan Mathis of Oak Park, who ranks fifth at ESPN among dual-threat quarterbacks in the class.
Michigan, meanwhile, plummeted 15 places from its 2017 ranking. The Wolverines have added to their quarterback cupboard by adding Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, though his immediate eligibility remains uncertain. He’ll be added at some point to a mix that includes Brandon Peters, who played six games last season as a redshirt freshman, and the highly touted Dylan McCaffrey, who redshirted last season. Michigan also signed four-star Joe Milton out of Florida.
“Despite playing quarterback and developing them as a coach, Jim Harbaugh hasn’t found enough answers under center the past two seasons,” Rittenberg writes. “Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson could solve Michigan’s biggest problem, especially if the NCAA declares he is eligible in 2018. Peters shouldn’t be written off, but he will need to look sharper than he did late last season.”
An unnamed Power 5 head coach tells Rittenberg, “(Peters is) legit, but the Shea Patterson kid is better. I don’t know if he fits what they do, but he’s a better quarterback, no doubt. If they stick with their traditional style, (Peters is) the guy. But you can’t not play Shea Patterson if he’s eligible.”
Rittenberg writes that McCaffrey “should be a factor in the near future.”
Georgia tops ESPN’s quarterback future power rankings.