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Stanton leads the battle for 'U' No. 1 quarterback

April 28, 2004
Senior quarterback Damon Dowdell at MSU's spring scrimmage at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.

By now, Jeff Smoker is a day away from departing to St. Louis to pursue a career in the NFL.

With Smoker gone, a vacancy has been left in the MSU football team's lineup at quarterback, and three potential starters have submitted their résumés to head coach John L. Smith, hoping to accept the job.

The first candidate for the starting nod is sophomore Drew Stanton, who despite recovering from a knee injury suffered in the Alamo Bowl, still is the quarterback to beat heading into the fall, Smith said.

Next on the list is redshirt freshman Stephen Reaves, who displayed his talents Saturday in the Green-White Spring Scrimmage. In the scrimmage, he completed 15 of 26 passes for 184 yards, while throwing two interceptions.

Reaves' and Stanton's competition throughout the spring has been senior Damon Dowdell. At Saturday's scrimmage, Dowdell went 10-of-22 for 69 yards with an interception. Of the three quarterbacks mentioned, Dowdell is furthest from taking over when the quarterback competition resumes before the fall season.

It's not a lack of ability barring Dowdell from being the Spartans' next starting signal caller, but his efforts in the classroom have kept him a step behind the rest.

"It's expected to be just like it's been," Smith said. "Reaves is going to end up battling Stanton. And if Dowdell shows me some grades, then he'll end up in the mix.

"I try to make a point to these guys: If you're not going to do what you have to off the field, how do you do it on the field? And there's some other guys on that same boat that have to pick it up in the classroom. The better you do, the more snaps you get."

The semester didn't start smoothly for Dowdell grade-wise, but he said his academic performance has improved and he's ready to prove to his coaches that he's the right man for the quarterback job.

"(My goals are to) get my academics tightened up and get into the film room and show the coaches I'm ready to work," Dowdell said.

As of now, Smith said he believes Stanton to be the heir- apparent to Smoker, but admits that the time off from injury could set back the 6-foot-3 quarterback. In order to assess how Stanton will handle the Spartans' high-octane offense, Smith said a few more scrimmages will have to be scheduled in the fall to make sure Stanton is ready to start.

Although Stanton seems to be Smith's top guy right now, the head coach said he's intrigued by the quarterback battle that will assemble this fall.

"Stanton is definitely more at home with what we're doing because he has more experience," Smith said. "It's going to be a good competition, it really is."

For the three candidates vying for the top quarterback slot, the goal is the same - to be No. 1. With that in their minds, no doubt the Stanton-Reaves-Dowdell quarterback battle will be a healthy one that should emerge the Spartans' next leader.

"That's in all three of us guys' minds," Dowdell said. "I really want to be the starting quarterback. Who wouldn't? So that's the plan. That's my attitude going into the fall."


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