The Michigan State Spartans struggled to a disappointing 7-6 record in 2012 and will have to shake things up next season to turn it around. They lose their most productive offensive player from a year ago, running back Le’Veon Bell, and with unproven running backs trying to replace him, the Spartans could turn to their quarterback more in 2013. As spring practice opens, Andrew Maxwell sits at the top of the depth chart but will he stay there for next fall?
Maxwell took over the starting job last season as a junior and had some up and down performances as he tried to find his rhythm. He finished the year completing just over half his passes for 2,606 yards with 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He struggled down the stretch, failing to complete more than 50 percent of his passes in Michigan State’s final four games, as the Spartans finished with the No. 85 rated passing offense in college football.
Head coach Mark Dantonio continues to put his faith in Maxwell, however, which is why he’s put him at the top of the spring depth chart. Dantonio feels that Maxwell has earned it as the only quarterback with starting experience who has faced “live bullets” and can act as a senior leader for the offense. But he won’t let Maxwell sit on the job with a pair of younger quarterbacks pushing for playing time.
Connor Cook saw sporadic playing time during his freshman season as the backup to Maxwell, completing nine of 17 passes for 94 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Dantonio liked what he saw from him in their bowl game, but needs him to be more consistent before he can take the reins as the starter full time. Right behind him is redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor, who Dantonio says will be “exciting to watch in the spring.”
Maxwell has a leg up on Cook and O’Connor thanks to his experience and knowledge of the system, but at the end of the day, Dantonio knows that whoever starts at quarterback has to be able to create more offense. When things have broken down, Maxwell has struggled to create. If one of the other quarterbacks, who will get every opportunity to show what they can do this spring, displays that playmaking ability, they could sneak in and steal the starting job for next fall.
The quarterback position will take on greater importance in East Lansing next season, so Mark Dantonio has to make sure he finds the best playmaker to plug in there next spring. For now, that’s Maxwell, but the door is open for Cook or O’Connor to stake their claim.