Swirl of questions surround shared QB position
The biggest mystery surrounding MSU football the past eight months has been rooted in one question: Who is going to start at quarterback in 2013?
Spring practice couldn’t settle it. Fall camp couldn’t settle it.
Head coach Mark Dantonio finally ended the speculation Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
Senior Andrew Maxwell, who started all 13 games last season, will start under center in Friday’s season-opener against Western Michigan.
However, MSU’s week one depth chart, released minutes before Dantonio took the podium, lists Maxwell, sophomore Connor Cook, redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and freshman Damion Terry as co-starters with “or” next to their name on the starting line.
“I’m comfortable we have a No. 1 quarterback,” Dantonio said. “(Maxwell’s) got great knowledge of our system. I think he’s competitive. Got great leadership skills.
“Like I told him today, ‘Here are the keys, bring it back full.’ I think he’ll do that.”
Cook also will get his share of action under the lights against the Broncos, Dantonio said, while the two younger passers remain in the mix.
The decision to give Maxwell the first shot at keeping his job ends months of speculation that he was the frontrunner throughout the off-season. The move was a collaborative decision from the coaching staff as the senior started to separate himself from his peers during the last week of camp, Dantonio said.
Dantonio’s announcement temporarily suspends a quarterback competition dating back to the Spartans’ win in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at the end of last season.
“You have to keep pushing, you have to have confidence in yourself,” said Maxwell, adding there was never a point he didn’t consider himself the starter.
“As soon as you start to have those kind of thoughts creep into your mind, subconsciously maybe you start to wave the white flag. So that was something that I wouldn’t allow myself to do. I had to keep pushing.”
Whether Maxwell can keep his job or if he’s outplayed by a competitor remains to be seen. Dantonio said he wouldn’t count out any of the four quarterbacks when asked if there’s an ongoing competition heading into the season.
“Giving the keys to the car to somebody — they’ve got to bring it back full,” Dantonio said. “What that means is you have to move the football, move our football team. We need to be successful.”
Cook said he wasn’t surprised the coaches opted to start the more experienced Maxwell, but that he’s still moving forward with ambition of overtaking the senior.
“When I have the opportunities in the games to showcase what I have, I’m going to try and do that — I’m going to try and win the job,” Cook said.
Joining Maxwell in the starting backfield on Friday will be junior running back Jeremy Langford, who is listed as a co-starter with redshirt freshman Riley Bullough on the depth chart. Third is junior Nick Hill followed by freshmen Delton Williams and Gerald Holmes, who share the No. 4 spot.
“He can make you miss, go the distance any time he gets the ball,” Dantonio said of Langford.
Along the offensive line, Dantonio said sophomore Donavon Clark and redshirt freshman Jack Conklin will start at the offensive tackle spots. Senior Fou Fonoti, the usual starter at right tackle, shares the top line with Conklin and has been battling an injury, but he could play on Friday, Dantonio said.
“I think all Spartans out there need to recognize, as we go forward, it’s important we all go forward together,” Dantonio said.