August 10, 2013

DotCamp: Senior favoritism at QB? Don't bet on it

EAST LANSING - One of the major primaries in the campaign to determine Michigan State's starting quarterback for 2013 will take place today when the Spartans conduct a controlled scrimmage at Spartan Stadium.

Fans and media are not allowed to attend. But golly will we be interested.

When the university releases statistics and quotes from the scrimmage at some point this weekend, it's unlikely that the coaches will single out Andrew Maxwell or Connor Cook as having out-played the other. But within the confines of the Spartan football war room, it's likely that one will edge ahead of the other, based on scrimmage performance.

"It's going to be game-like," said first-year Michigan State co-offensive coordinator and former QBs coach Dave Warner. "Andrew Maxwell has started a lot of football around here and he knows what we've been looking for. He knows that we have been looking for him to create and extend plays and do some things with his legs. And Connor Cook knows what he has been evaluated on, being a little more consistent with his decisions. And Tyler O'Connor is learning, a work in progress, and he's just doing the right things. So time will tell, the plays will tell Saturday afternoon."

O'Connor might get a handful of snaps with the first-string, but Saturday's first-string snaps will almost entirely go to Maxwell and Cook. True freshman Damion Terry is not likely to see snaps with the first string.

"I don't know if you can get them all first-string reps," Warner said. "Coach (Brad) Salem and Coach (Mark) Dantonio put together how they want to see things go, and a couple of guys get first-team reps, but you can't spread it too thin."

Maxwell has earned everyone's respect in the way he has raised his chin and taken on this competition like a good soldier.

"It makes you want to compete," Maxwell said of Cook's status as a legit candidate. "It makes you realize that nothing is given to you. So I've got to try to go earn my green jersey."

The coaches have made a concerted effort to get more mobility and play-making creativity out of the QB position in 2013. Dantonio, a defensive coach first, has gained a growing appreciation for the difficult task of stopping an offense that has a QB that can beat you with his legs, his arm and a creative combination of the two. Last year, MSU went to battle with a QB who sought to get the job done only with his arm, only from the pocket. That might have been enough in yesteryear's football. But in the modern game, a mediocre offense needs a little extra freelance play-making from the QB.

A sweet-passing QB who can also move the chains with his feet? That's a pain in the rear for a defensive coordinator. Just ask Dantonio.

Maxwell was once regarded as a quicker, more agile quarterback than his predecessor, Kirk Cousins. But we didn't see any increased mobility from the position last year - in fact we saw less.

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