Monday, October 3, 2022

QB team helps U

Quarterbacks Van Dyke, Smoker compete for key starting position this fall

August 23, 2001
Senior quarterback Ryan Van Dyke (3) attempts to run past Iowa defensive lineman Aaron Kampman (54) during a football game Oct. 7 in Iowa City, Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans 21-16. Van Dyke will share quarterback duties with teammate Jeff Smoker this season. —

Despite their friendship and respect for each other’s abilities, senior Ryan Van Dyke and sophomore Jeff Smoker are two men competing for the same prize - being the Spartans’ No. 1 quarterback for the upcoming football season.

Head coach Bobby Williams has maintained he’ll employ a two-quarterback system if neither contender outshines the other.

However, for some MSU fans, a two-quarterback system isn’t their game plan of choice.

“Smoker is younger, quicker and has more potential than Van Dyke,” telecommunication junior Mark Nosek said. “We should try to develop him into one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

“Smoker should be the starter since he played better last year and proved he can be good. We should build a team with a younger player.”

Van Dyke suffered a deep bruise to his right thumb early last season, which opened the door, perhaps prematurely, for true freshman Smoker. Yet Smoker guided the Spartans to a 3-1 start and showed flashes of excellent play.

Van Dyke eventually returned to the lineup, only to see the team lose four straight games. Smoker stepped back in for Van Dyke against Illinois on Oct. 28, led MSU to victory in that game and started every contest thereafter.

Williams said Smoker finished spring drills as the No. 1 quarterback, but the coach has vowed to give Van Dyke a shot at winning back the starting spot.

Using two quarterbacks has proved to be effective in the past for some teams. Michigan had success with Tom Brady and Drew Henson at quarterback in the 1999 season.

But the dual-headed quarterback system has also been hurtful for some teams. Team unity and chemistry can be affected if players favor one quarterback over the other.

Ohio State used a two-quarterback system in 1996 when Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine split time at the position. The system seemed to work - with the Buckeyes winning their first 10 games - until Ohio State lost its regular-season finale to U-M. The loss has widely been blamed on former Ohio State coach John Cooper’s decision to start Germaine against U-M after starting Jackson in the first 10 games.

“It’s a tough decision,” recent MSU graduate Brian West said. “(Smoker’s) on the same skill level as Van Dyke, but he doesn’t have the experience. Plus, it’s Van Dyke’s last year.

“If they were both used, that’d be fine. Whatever is best for the team.”

While Nosek would rather see Smoker take the snaps, he doesn’t believe Van Dyke is “a lost cause.”

“He’s as good as Smoker, but he’s injury-prone,” Nosek said. “He’d be a good backup because he has experience and he can teach Smoker.”

Van Dyke’s been on both sides of supposed “quarterback controversies.” While Bill Burke was the starter a few years ago, fans cried for Van Dyke to be given a chance - particularly after Burke had a bad game.

When Van Dyke got the starting nod at the beginning of the 2000 season, the hype surrounding blue-chip recruit Smoker put even more pressure on Van Dyke, from the fans and coaches.

Now more than ever, Spartan fans are asking for Van Dyke to be holding the clipboard while Smoker runs the offense. But, such is the life of a quarterback. Thick skin is a must, especially when playing for a high-profile team like MSU.

For fans such as mechanical engineering junior Steve Rundell, it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback.

“I think our offense is so good that either one of them could play,” Rundell said. “I think we’ll be kind of like the Rams of college football.

“The offense will run smoothly no matter who the quarterback is.”

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