In last week’s press conference, Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio refused to address or discuss any questions that had anything to do with the quarterback situation. But Dantonio had a change of heart this week, and openly discussed any question the media threw at him, even if it was a quarterback question.
And the majority of those question stem off of the fact that on Saturday, in Michigan State’s 21-6 victory over South Florida, the Spartans, looking for something different, turned to red shirt sophomore Connor Cook to start the game. However, after his less than stellar play and failure to move the offense up and down the field, Dantonio inserted both red shirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and senior Andrew Maxwell into the game to see what they could do.
The result: not so pretty, as none of the three guys were able to do much to distance themselves from each other.
And that brings us to where we are today: The exact same place we were last week…..and the week before that. Who really knows who is going to be the guy at quarterback to lead this sputtering Michigan State offense this year?
Thus, here is a case-by-case basis for each one of the members of the so called “quadraback” that has taken East Lansing by storm this season.
The case for….
Career Stats: 21-44 (47.7 comp%), 168 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
Cook, the redshirt sophomore from Hinckley, Ohio, got his first start of his college career on Saturday against South Florida. However, his lackluster play led to him splitting reps with both redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and senior Andrew Maxwell.
Apparently though, Cook has done enough for Dantonio up until this point because as of now he will be the guy getting the No. 1 reps in practice.
“Connor Cook has shown the ability to run a little bit,” Dantonio said. “He hit a big play to Burbridge on third‑and‑20. Runs for the first down. He’s run a couple other times for first downs. I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I think he’s the guy right now, I don’t want to say the driver’s seat, but he’s the guy that put himself in this position that he’s in right now to be the number one….on Tuesday.”
And let’s keep that in mind: that Cook is the No. 1 guy…on Tuesday. Because while Cook does bring another element to the game with his feet and has at times, moved the ball better than the rest of the guys, there is newcomer right on his heels that also brings some of his own athleticism to the game.
Career Stats: N/A
Here you go guys. This guy has been the source for the most speculation in years from the Michigan State football program. The question that has been lingering on everyone’s minds: Should they play Terry or not?
There are several arguments for and against this debate but Dantonio, who seemingly may be running out of options, has acknowledged that Terry has done enough to at least earn himself a shot, entering this week as the No. 2 guy in practice.
“Based on Damion’s performance in the summer in the one practice, his performance as of late, he deserves an opportunity to show what he can do in practice,” Dantonio said.
Those opposed to Terry playing argue that he is too young and too inexperienced to play and don’t want to see Michigan State burn his redshirt. However, with the other three quarterback failing to move the offense, Terry could be the guy Michigan State is looking for.
“If we take the red shirt off of him, it means he had a great week of practice and he’s ready to play,” Dantonio said. “We can’t play him one game and not play him again. That’s not fair to him, not when you’re a true freshman.”
So will Dantonio be willing to play Terry this coming week?
“Yeah, I’m willing to do that because of what I saw out in practice and what I see,” Dantonio said. “His ability to run, his ability to throw, he’s poised in the pocket. That’s a positive thing. We have to see where he’s at. The only way to find that out is to practice him.”
It remains to be seen, but it sounds like if Damion Terry is going to play at all during the course of this season, this is going to be the week.
Career Stats: 2-4, 22 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
O’Connor saw his first college football action last Saturday at South Florida and actually played pretty well when given the opportunity. In one of his very few drives when he was out there in the 2nd quarter, O’Connor moved the Michigan State offense well, the first time it had done so all day.
However, when Michigan State got down to the 3 yard line, O’Connor made some questionable decisions in the red zone. Thus, causing the drive to stall, where Kevin Muma was brought on to attempt a 25 yard field goal, which he then proceeded to miss.
“For the most part, we moved the ball and everything, but in the red zone, that’s where quarterbacks are judged on how many points they put on the scoreboard. In the end, I didn’t do my job,” O’Connor said after the game on Saturday. “I forced that ball at the end, made a poor decision on the run off to the left. Things will improve, but it’s nice to get that first game experience.”
With his limited action in last Saturdays game, O’Connor definitely still deserves a second look. Another guy that can do some things with his legs, expect to see the red shirt freshman get another chance before season’s end.
Career Stats: 278-547 (50.8 comp%), 3014 yards, 14 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
It was never going to be easy for Andrew Maxwell. When Maxwell started the season opener last year against Boise State, he did so having to fill the shoes of arguably the greatest Michigan State quarterback in school history, in Kirk Cousins. And after the inexperienced Maxwell tried his best last year with an inexperienced core of receivers, it just wasn’t good enough, as the Spartans sputtered their way to disappointing 7-6 season.
And now, a year later, it appears Dantonio is looking elsewhere than his senior veteran Maxwell. Maxwell, who started every game last year and this years’ season opener, was benched last week, only to play a couple series in the second half when the offense continued to struggle.
Nevertheless, if the next couple of weeks go by and Cook, O’Connor, and Terry continue to struggle, expect to see Maxwell back in as full time starter before the end of the year. He is definitely the safest bet in terms of knowledge and experience and has been praised by Dantonio for the way that he has handled himself through this whole ordeal.
At the end of the day, there is no question that the Michigan State football program won’t be able to survive long with this continued question at the quarterback position. After all, quarterback is the most important position on the field and in some ways the identity of a football team. So if Michigan State doesn’t find out who they are, and who they are fast, they could find themselves in the midst of another lost season.
“We want to find the one guy. We want the one guy to emerge,” Dantonio said of the quarterbacks. “I’m waiting for someone to seize the moment and establish them self. ”
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandaryan