Few Big Ten players have bigger shoes to fill than Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell. Then again, few Big Ten players have been groomed for a bigger role as well as Maxwell has with the Spartans. After redshirting in 2009 and backing up Kirk Cousins in 2010 and 2011, Maxwell is poised to step in as the Spartans' starter this fall. He's pegged to replace Cousins, a three-year starter and three-time captain who guided Michigan State to consecutive 11-win seasons. Cousins' presence and leadership impressed people both at Michigan State and around the Big Ten, but Maxwell sounds ready to take the reins.
ESPN.com recently caught up with Maxwell, and here's what he had to say.
What has it been like going through this offseason, knowing what's at stake for you coming up?
Andrew Maxwell: I definitely think it's a different tone. You interact with people differently, you go about your business differently knowing that next year, hopefully I'm going to be the guy. I definitely have to take some strides in leadership, the way I carry myself and the way I start to lead this team.
How long have you been preparing for this opportunity?
AM: You've got to start preparing for it the day you step on campus, knowing that at some point, hopefully you're going to be the guy. You've got to start building relationships with people, starting to lead, so that when it actually becomes your time, like it is now, I don't have to become this person that I'm not and really go way out of my way and take this totally different approach. I feel like if I've put in the work and started building bridges and started to lead in the past, it makes it for an easy transition now.
And how are you doing that?
AM: In the past, if we're going to do extra stuff like 7-on-7s or one-on-ones, usually Kirk would set that up. But now, obviously, that responsibility falls to me. It makes it my job to talk to guys, see what their schedule is, see what the best time would be to get the most people together to work. So that's a part of it, and the way you interact with people, trying to build relationships with everybody on the team, so when you have to interact with them and lead them, it makes it a little bit easier.
What are some of the things you took away from working under Kirk the past few years?
AM: I think how he was inclusive of everybody, how he built a bridge and built a relationship with everybody on the team so he could relate to everybody in their own special way. That's a quality of a leader -- you've got to be versatile in how you lead. I don't think you can have one stye of leadership and expect that to carry over and affect the whole team. You've got to know what works for some guys and what works for other guys, and appeal to that when you're trying to reach them and affect them.
Did he leave you with any final messages?
AM: There really wasn't a big, 'Alright, here's the keys. It's your time now.' We stay in contact, I've been talking to him. We've built our relationship and our friendship so that if I have questions or just want to talk down the road, I can just pick up the phone and give him a call.
What will people notice about you when you get out there more in games?
AM: I never want to let the situation be too big for me. I always want to be a guy who, no matter what the situation is, I have to control it. I have to be able to handle everything, and when things get tough, when we get in some adverse situations, I can be someone whose looked to. I just want to be a steady presence, a solid presence people can look to and know that I'm not going to waver, and I'm not going to let this team waver. We can make it through any situation together.
How is your comfort level with the offense and what needs to be improved going forward as you take on a bigger role?
AM: As far as knowing the playbook, it's something I've had down for a few years now. I feel like I have a good grasp. Now it's just the reps in live-game action because you can get all the reps you want in practice, but when it's live action, it makes it a little different. Just being on the field and getting more reps and getting more comfortable, things will become second nature and become a little easier.
You return a lot on defense, but how big is your role in keeping the continuity going on offense after you lose some key pieces there?
AM: On paper, you can look at our team and say we might be scrambling to find guys to fill spots. But our young receivers have got all the talent in the world. We've got a bunch of guys who are going to compete for spots, and we're going to have a lot of good players who aren't going to be able to get on the field because we don't have enough spots for them. You look at the competition we're going to have on the O-line. We had some injuries this year from guys who started, and we've got them coming back, so we're going to have a solid offensive line. And then we've got three really good backs who are still here. Obviously, losing Edwin [Baker] hurts, but with Le'Veon [Bell] and Larry [Caper] and Nick [Hill], I think our running game will be OK. That helps take a lot of pressure off me, that we have that talent, we have that continuity.
Personality-wise, are you and Kirk similar? You sound a lot like him.
AM: Yeah, more people would say we're similar than not. We've got some of the same personality characteristics. We're not completely clones, but for the most part, we're pretty similar.
How anxious are you to get there and play games?
AM: I'm definitely excited, definitely anxious. It's the reason why you come to a place like this, to have a chance to be a starting quarterback and lead the team. Obviously, there's a lot of work to be done. We've got a long offseason ahead of us. I've got a lot of work to do to build chemistry with the new wide receivers, to really build chemistry with the whole first unit on offense. But it's definitely exciting. This is what we've been waiting for, and it's finally time.