The old football saying goes that if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none. But what about when there are four quarterbacks?
With less than two weeks to go before its opener against Western Michigan, that appears to be the case for Michigan State. Instead of narrowing the focus to a couple of contenders, the Spartans are opening things back up, thanks to recent surges by redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor and true freshman Damion Terry. Head coach Mark Dantonio said it's now a true four-man race, with O'Connor and Terry battling incumbent starter Andrew Maxwell and sophomore Connor Cook, who finished off the team's win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Terry was the story of the weekend. It was looking like he might be headed for a redshirt season, since he didn't arrive on campus until this summer. But he went out and threw for 240 yards while rushing for 40 yards against what Dantonio said was mostly the No. 1 defense.
"At the beginning of the scrimmage it was a three-horse race," Dantonio said Monday. "And at the end of the scrimmage, it was a four-horse race.
"Tom Izzo plays a freshman point guard all the time. When that guy asserts himself and takes control of the basketball team, that’s the guy who’s going to play. I don’t care whether he’s a senior, sophomore, junior, redshirt freshman or freshman. That’s the best thing to do. Damion has to prove consistency in performance. The other guys have to move the ball with more consistency and they’ve got to break away from their own three-man race.”
Dantonio said Terry would continue to get some more No. 1 reps in practice. He's a really intriguing option and, if nothing else, could make for an interesting change-of-pace guy this season, though the Spartans will have to weigh whether they can live with some freshman mistakes or will be better off redshirting him.
O'Connor went 11-for-16 for 102 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the scrimmage and has looked good in the preseason.
Dantonio said going into preseason camp that Maxwell remained his No. 1 quarterback. But clearly the senior has not separated himself from the pack. Dantonio also has repeatedly said that he plans to play more than one quarterback early in the season. Hey, why not four? One per quarter sounds about right.
There might be more clarity in the race than the coaches are letting on, as it's possible they want to build as much competition as possible. But eventually someone will have to emerge as the starter, or else the Spartans could find that they have too many quarterbacks and none at the same time.