MSU's Dantonio still in Maxwell's corner

Former Michigan State offensive coordinator Dan Roushar undoubtedly absorbed the brunt of the criticism for the unit's struggles in 2012.

But starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell wasn't far behind.

Seemingly the perfect successor to Kirk Cousins, both in skill set and personality, Maxwell traveled a bumpy road in his first season at the controls. He finished fourth in the Big Ten in passing (200.5 yards per game) but completed just 52.5 percent of his passes with 13 touchdown strikes and nine interceptions. His quarterback rating of 107.1 didn't rank among the top 100 passers nationally.

Although the junior started all 13 games for the Spartans, he was replaced by Connor Cook in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl win against TCU. When Michigan State revamped the offensive staff following Roushar's departure to the New Orleans Saints, a quarterback competition this spring would seem to be a logical step as the unit tries to get back on track.

There will be competition, head coach Mark Dantonio told ESPN.com on Thursday, but Maxwell will enter spring practice, which kicks off Tuesday, as the starter. One other thing: Dantonio remains very much in Maxwell's corner.

"He's our No. 1 quarterback based on his leadership, based on his experience," Dantonio said. "He's a proven commodity in terms of his value as a person. His leadership value, getting us into the right play, knowledge of the system. He needs to just create more when things break down. That's the next step. But he's a great person.

"We're all going to have some storms we've got to beat and work through."

Maxwell will compete with Cook and Tyler O'Connor this spring. Highly touted incoming freshman Damion Terry arrives this summer for preseason camp.

Getting the quarterbacks more help is a priority this spring as Michigan State loses its top two offensive weapons -- running back Le'Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims -- to the NFL draft. Three players will compete this spring at running back -- Nick Hill, Jeremy Langford and Nick Tompkins -- and Michigan State returns its entire receiving corps, an oft-criticized group in 2012. Dantonio also is excited about the potential of the offensive line, calling it "one of the strengths of our team."

The coach reiterated that while quarterbacks take the brunt of the blame when things don't go well, there are other factors involved.

"Obviously, we need to get better," he said. "But I'll stand beside [Maxwell]."