When people talk about Michigan State football right now, no position on the entire team will be under the microscope more than quarterback.
2012 was an interesting time for the Spartan football program and head coach Mark Dantonio, as the legendary Kirk Cousins had graduated and it was time for Andrew Maxwell. Maxwell had been in the waiting period for three seasons behind Cousins and never really got any live action. People weren’t really sure what to expect from him, and in the end it didn’t turn out great.
In defense of Maxwell, he didn’t inherit nearly the caliber of players around him that Cousins had during his time at State. The offensive line was in shambles for the Spartans in 2012, with injuries and player shuffling going on. The wide receivers were the worst they have been in a long time for the Spartans as well, and Le’Veon Bell was the only real offensive threat.
Still, Maxwell’s play wasn’t good and he wasn’t able to elevate the play of his teammates and the offense struggled all year long. When the Spartans got to their bowl game, Maxwell and backup quarterback Connor Cook split reps during the game.
So where does that leave the team going into this season? The Spartans have Maxwell back, along with Connor Cook, Tyler O’Connor and highly touted freshman Damion Terry. According to the coaches, the position is wide open.
With Maxwell, you get a player with an entire year of experience. He understands the offense better than anyone in the program at this point due to his time in East Lansing, and that is a crucial aspect late in college football seasons. Maxwell might not possess the physical traits the others do, but he is a veteran.
The interesting players to watch will be Cook and O’Connor. Cook was very good in his appearances in the bowl game, and he also looked great in the spring game. He is a huge quarterback with an even bigger arm and can move as well.
All reports out of camp so far say that O’Connor is playing great during practices and scrimmages, and that just creates an even more interesting situation. If O’Connor continues to impress in camp, could he make a push for the job?
The last quarterback is Damion Terry, the freshman four-star dual threat quarterback. It was huge news when he announced he would attend Michigan State because he brings new dimensions to the quarterback spot that Mark Dantonio has never had. He can move, he has a big arm, and he creates plays in a variety of ways. Many fans want to see the Spartans throw him in, but Terry would better off taking a redshirt and learning the system.
The coaches have said that they will run a two-quarterback system at least during the start of the season, but in the end I think Maxwell will be the guy, despite the play from last season. Maxwell has experience, all of his receivers returning, and a national championship caliber defense helping him out. All that will be required if Maxwell is to not turn the ball over, convert at least half of their third downs, and be an overall game manager. If this happens, the Spartans should be back to making a push for a Big Ten championship.