Spring football is on the horizon, and one of the most intriguing match ups over the next few weeks will be between the potential leaders of the 2013 Michigan State offense. The quarterback position.
Last season, junior Andrew Maxwell took a lot of heat in his first year as a starter. He came in to the season heralded as a better and more mobile version of ex-Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins. Granted, that was much more hype than he deserved and he was destined to fall short of those expectations. That’s still no excuse for his awful quarterback presence and lack of leadership on the team last year. MSU finished 97th in the FBS in total offense (41 spots lower than their 2011 ranking) and was the main reason MSU had a disappointing record. Although Maxwell took a lot of heat for his sub-par performance, he remained the team’s starter until the second half of MSU’s bowl game against TCU, where redshirt freshman Connor Cook came in and led the Spartans to victory, thus beginning the quarterback battle.
While the two front-runners are definitely Cook and Maxwell, redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and true freshman scrambler Damion Terry* are also in the mix for starting quarterback. Let’s take a closer look at each of these players and see what they bring to the table.
*Damion Terry cannot participate in spring football because he has not enrolled yet.
In his first year starting, quarterback Andrew Maxwell was disappointing at best. He came into the year as an exciting player with a great arm and above-average mobility. Except that wasn’t very true. In games, we could see he had a skill set that was pretty good, but it was drowned out in his hesitant play. He never looked very comfortable in the pocket, never had great composure, was very inaccurate and did not really use his mobility to his advantage. He had a 52.5% completion rate (0.8% lower than Denard Robinson, for those of you that are wondering) coupled with 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. There were a lot of issues with the receiving core early in the year, but once they got their problems solved Maxwell had no one to blame but himself.
So far in spring ball, coaches are saying he’s “outstanding”. That’s a good sign, but that’s what people said about his development early in his MSU career, so I’m not sure how much I believe that.
Outlook: Maxwell will be the starter, most likely, but we can’t write it off already.
Cook is a 6’4″ sophomore quarterback, and he’s probably the biggest threat to Maxwell this spring. He almostkindofbasicallydid take Maxwell’s starting job in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last year and led the Spartans to victory. His stats didn’t show it (4-11, 47 yards), but he had so much more confidence and composure behind center than Andrew Maxwell did.
Cook is a big quarterback who has decent speed and an arm, and he uses that to his advantage. When you get a player that is big and is able to run around and make plays out of the pocket, you have a threat. He’s not great at decision making and is still adapting to Dantonio’s offense, but that’s not a huge setback. Maxwell’s decision making hasn’t been too great, either.
Outlook: Look for Cook to give Maxwell a run for his money this spring. I don’t think he’ll beat out Maxwell but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting in the fall.
As we move towards the younger bunch, we hit Tyler O’Connor. O’Connor’s first year on campus was last season. He got redshirted, so eligibility wise is still a freshman.
O’Connor is one of the most talented quarterbacks on this MSU team. He reportedly ran a 4.7 40-yard dash and ran over a defender in line drills earlier this week. The kid’s a hard worker who wants to play. Bad. I know that sounds cliche, but he’s made comments all spring about what he brings to the team instead of Cook and Maxwell, and made a comment about how he’s playing to be starter He has a really bright future ahead of him, but his biggest disadvantage is his inexperience. Since he was still in high school last spring, this is his first season of spring ball. He’s still learning how to run plays, but he is the team leader that this MSU offense needs. I’m really excited for his future here in East Lansing.
Outlook: Unfortunately, O’Connor’s inexperience coupled with the reputation of Cook & Maxwell leave him out of contention for the starting job. I would like to see him wait another year before he becomes he Spartans’ guy.
With in the next few days, I’ll be posting more of the spring football match ups. Stay tuned!