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2020 Northwestern football position previews: Quarterbacks

It’s only up from last year after NU recorded the worst passing offense in FBS.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s officially Northwestern’s summer and time to look ahead to the fall. Despite many uncertainties and potential alterations, the college football powers that be are planning for the 2020 season to start on schedule. We start our summer coverage by previewing every position group on the team. Today, we look at arguably the most inconsistent group from the past year, the quarterbacks.


Returning Starters: Hunter Johnson, Andrew Marty, Aidan Smith

Key losses: None

Returners: TJ Green, Jason Whittaker, Zac Krause,

Newcomers: Peyton Ramsey, Carl Richardson

At this point, everyone knows about last season’s whirlwind of a year at the quarterback position. The story dates back to the preseason and the QB battle between TJ Green and Hunter Johnson. The drama began when Johnson was named starter against Stanford while splitting reps with Green. As Green seemed to be establishing himself as starter, he went down with a devastating season-ending foot injury. Northwestern then proceeded to start three different quarterbacks the rest of the season — Hunter Johnson, Aidan Smith, and Andrew Marty — and played a handful of others as well under center.

Now looking ahead to this year, an already crowded QB room is even more full with the addition of Peyton Ramsey and the return of TJ Green — not to mention Mike Bajakian coming in from Boston College to replace Mick McCall. It is easy to see that the offense will look different. Bajakian does not come in looking to implement a certain style of offense, necessarily, but did institute a run-heavy offense in his stint at BC.

After finishing dead last as a passing offense in the FBS in 2019, the quarterbacks have to rebound, and it is seeming likely that increased competition within the group will push everyone to improve. With four different QBs having started Big Ten games on the roster, there should be significant improvement even in the case of injury.

Key Player

Peyton Ramsey

In what has been declared a wide open competition by OC Mike Bajakian, Ramsey has by far the most accomplished resume out of anyone in the QB room. In his career at Indiana, he passed for 42 touchdowns and 6,581 yards with 2,454 yards, 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 2019 alone.

Obviously, we don’t have any idea who the starter will be come September 5 against Michigan State, but it could very well be Ramsey’s job to lose. With it being his last year of his collegiate eligibility, Ramsey has one final chance to prove himself.

However, beyond his play on the field, Ramsey’s influence on a struggling QB cohort will be invaluable. He is a three-year starter in the Big Ten and led Indiana to it best season in over 20 years. The ‘Cats face adversity now coming off the worst season of the Fitz era, but it seems like Ramsey has the experience necessary to elevate them back into first place of the Big Ten West.

Big Question

How will Peyton Ramsey, or any of the other QBs, fit into Bajakian’s offense?

With a new scheme incoming, it will be interesting to see how quickly the QBs are able to learn the new playbook. What really complicates things is COVID-19 as the signal callers have had extremely limited time to build chemistry with receivers in the new offense. This is extremely concerning for someone like Ramsey who has yet to step foot in Walter Athletic Center.

However, as stay-at-home orders begin to be lifted, Ramsey has had some chances to throw with receivers like Riley Lees and Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowan in an informal, voluntary setting.

There were numerous complaints last year regarding Johnson’s inability to learn the playbook, and we can only hope that is not the case for whoever suits up at QB for the opener.

Depth Chart


Peyton Ramsey
Hunter Johnson
TJ Green
Andrew Marty
Aidan Smith