Top QB/RB Tandems In The Big Ten
Backfield mates often get more touches than any other position on the field, so having explosive ones often translate to success on the field. What are the top five QB/RB tandems in the Big Ten?
No. 5 – QB Brian Lewerke/RB L.J. Scott, Michigan State
On sheer numbers alone, this duo wouldn’t cut it, but look for the production to jump in 2017. Lewerke was on his way to wrestling the starting spot away from Tyler O’Connor last year before injury derailed things. And all indications out of practice point to the 6-3, 194 pounder as taking strides toward being the leader the Spartan program is missing.
L.J. Scott showed us all the flash of his potential against Ohio State last year with 236 all-purpose yards. He’s big and strong, but also possesses a second gear to beyond the first level of defenders and out into the open field. He struggled a little with consistency last year, but a year of seasoning and improvement in the passing game should result in him having a break-out year.
No. 4 – QB Alex Hornibrook/RB Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
It’ll be a three-pronged attack at running back for Wisconsin with Chris James and Taiwan Deal also in the mix, but the majority of the carries will be for sophomore Bradrick Shaw. The sophomore out of Birmingham uses his blend of speed and athleticism to get into open spaces and make big plays in both the running game and through the air out of the backfield. He might just be the next in a long line of great backs for Wisconsin.
Alex Hornibrook split time with Bart Houston last year, but he’ll be the clear cut guy this year in Madison. He showed poise for a freshman, an accurate arm, and the moxie to go along with it. He should be ready to take the next step towards being a more dangerous threat through the air.
No. 3 – QB Clayton Thorson/RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern
This dynamic duo tore it up last year, and they’ll be looking to build on it in 2017. Jackson’s the type of running back that isn’t great at any one thing, but was fast enough, shifty enough, and strong enough to put it all together last year for over 1,500 yards. He should be around that in 2017. He’s got a skill package many other backs would die for.
Thorson went from being very inconsistent in 2015 to being a dynamic playmaker who threw for almost 3,200 yards last year. He stands tall at 6-4, 220 lbs., and grew tremendously in his understanding of the Northwestern offense. He lost his star receiver Austin Carr, but he’ll be able to get the ball to the right spots on time to help his receivers absorb the loss in production.
No. 2 – QB J.T. Barrett/RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
It seems like Barrett should be working on his doctorate degree in Columbus by now, but it’s just his fourth year under center. He’s a strong leader with running back skills at the quarterback position. He’s got the drive and heart of a champion, and will continue to rewrite Ohio State and Big Ten record books. He has suffered a bit with feeling comfortable enough to play free and loose, but he seems to be ready to let it fly a little more in 2017.
Weber is only the third Ohio State freshman to rush for over 1,000 yards. That’s saying quite a bit at a place known for its collection of historic tailbacks. He’s been hampered a bit by a hamstring injury in fall camp, but when he’s right, he has a low center of gravity that makes him hard to tackle. He hesitated at times in the hole, but look for him to be more confident and decisive running behind a veteran offensive line.
No. 1 – QB Trace McSorley/RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
It’s rare to have two Heisman types in the same backfield, but that’s exactly what you have in Happy Valley. McSorley began to figure things out after the Michigan game last year and began playing much more confidently. He’s a big play waiting to happen in the passing game, but also has the ability to tuck it and gobble up yards on the ground. He has turned into a game changer.
What else is there to say about Barkley? He has an abundance of power, speed, and vision, and can cut on a dime to make defenders grasp at air. He’s the real deal and might just be the best running back in college football this year. As an every down back, he’ll get enough touches to perhaps blow past his over 1,400 yards from last year.
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for College Football News. Get his opinion and analysis all year long. Follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB