When Andrew Maxwell made his way to the podium for his weekly press conference, it was the junior quarterback who was on the receiving end of the team’s most recent bit of news.
On Tuesday, the MSU football team’s (3-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) depth chart for Saturday’s game against Indiana (2-2, 0-1) featured freshman Aaron Burbridge as the team’s newest starting receiver, replacing junior Bennie Fowler, the veteran of the group.
“This is the first I’ve actually heard of it officially, so it’s kind of new to me, too,” Maxwell said. “I haven’t been around (Burbridge) for as long as I’ve been around the other guys, but just from the times I have seen him, I think his speed is a big attribute. I think he’s very smooth. I think he’s a good route runner. I think he’s got the ability to make his catch coming out of his break quickly when he’s going through traffic, (and) all of those things are beneficial for him.”
Head coach Mark Dantonio said the decision was spurred by a desire to get the most out of Burbridge this season, since the team decided to waive his ability to redshirt earlier in the year.
Burbridge did not play against Ohio State on Saturday, and Dantonio said the freshman needs a chance to show what he can do.
“I think he needs an opportunity,” Dantonio said. “He catches the ball well, (and he is) still learning some things, (but) has big play potential, (and) we’re going to give him that opportunity. Doesn’t mean it will stick, but that’s going to happen at the beginning of the game, not at the end.”
Despite being the only upperclassman among the Spartans’ receiving corps, Fowler has struggled with dropped passes in the past three games, prompting Dantonio to make a change, one that he stressed doesn’t have to be permanent.
“We’ll see how it goes, depending on practice,” Dantonio said. “I believe things always go in cycles. We provided an opportunity for one, (took) away a little bit from another. In the end, the best players will continue to play and resurface. We’ll see how his practice and everything else goes. (When you) have an opportunity to make a play, you have to make them at some point.”
Fowler has been critical of his own play in recent weeks, saying his dropped passes have been his fault.
It’s that attitude that Maxwell said will help Fowler overcome his recent inconsistency and regain his role as a playmaker.
“Don’t expect this to be the last of Bennie Fowler,” Maxwell said.
“Bennie’s a competitor, and Bennie’s a guy who’s not going to take this lying down. He’s going to come back, he’s going to fight (and) he’s going to do everything that he can do in practice, and that’s what you want to see out of guys. You want to have that constant competition because whether you’re number one or you’re number two … you’re always getting better, and if everybody on our receiving corps is getting better, our team as a whole is getting better.”