Dantonio still silent on quarterbacks
State News football reporters Stephen Brooks and Dillon Davis breakdown head coach Mark Dantonio’s Tuesday press conference heading into week two against South Florida. Dantonio was light on details regarding the quarterbacks, and expressed the need to improve overall offensively.
“With opportunity comes opposition.”
Spoken in reference to the role of redshirt freshman running back Riley Bullough, it’s the latest performance-related cliché out of the mouth of football head coach Mark Dantonio. In context, Dantonio was making reference to the team’s running back situation, noting the Spartans (1-0 overall) will determine playing time based on the merit of performance.
Of course, the phrase also relates well to the team’s latest round of quarterback controversy, where senior Andrew Maxwell and sophomore Connor Cook head into the week listed as co-starters on the depth chart. The move would seem to drop redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and freshman Damion Terry from a chance at a starting role by slimming the four-headed quarterback monster down to two.
And after giving the nod to Maxwell in the regular season opener against Western Michigan, Dantonio refused to name the starter for Saturday’s game against South Florida (noon, ESPNU).
“The main focus is what we do internally right now with our quarterback situation,” Dantonio said. “We’re going to look at things as the week progresses and make some decisions near the end of the week.
In a starting role in a 26-13 victory against Western Michigan, Maxwell was 11-of-21 passing for 74 yards. Coming off the bench, Cook had slightly less success through the air going 6-for-16 for 42 yards passing but also showed strong scrambling ability, carrying the ball four times for 35 yards.
Having been asked seven questions relating to the quarterback on Tuesday — not including a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that senior linebacker Jairus Jones take a few snaps — Dantonio remained adamant not to discuss the quarterback position.
Dantonio said the plan is to evaluate each of the potential quarterbacks in practice and make an informed decision later this week.
“We don’t want it to be a media circus every week, first of all,” he said. “But I understand that is the nature of society. But I think the most important thing is we’re going to practice this week, and I’m not going to put the cart before the horse.”
Beyond Maxwell and Cook, O’Connor and Terry were a topic of discussion.
Given the opening week successes of Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a question was raised regarding if the merits of O’Connor and Terry changes considering their athletic skill sets.
Dantonio noted Hackenberg had the benefit of enrolling in school early — a benefit not afforded to Terry this season.
“Our freshman quarterback (Damion Terry) did not have that opportunity to do that, so, you know, he’s learning on the fly a little bit more,” he said. “Obviously, I think those are independent things. Who comes, how they play, all these type of things.”
Another shift in the depth chart comes at the wide receiver position.
After dropping three passes against Western Michigan, senior Bennie Fowler was dropped below starters junior Keith Mumphery and sophomores Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings Jr. on the depth chart.
With an increased emphasis on making explosive plays, which Dantonio defines as a 15-yard run or a 20-yard pass, Dantonio said Kings stood out in fall camp and has earned the opportunity to start.
“Macgarrett’s caught the ball very well throughout the fall camp,” Dantonio said. “I have a lot of confidence in him catching the football, and I believe that’s why he’s there.”
Asked about junior wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett, Dantonio cited a likely “typo” on the depth chart, saying Arnett “still figures into who we are” on offense.