Michigan State quarterback battle will extend beyond spring

Don't expect to learn anything definitive about Michigan State's search to replace quarterback Connor Cook this spring, or this summer for that matter.

Coach Mark Dantonio said fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor will be the initial leader when the team opens spring practice Tuesday, but he may not give the starting job to anyone until the regular season is well underway.

"O'Connor will go in as the leader in that situation, but that's going to bear out over August camp and really I think over the first couple games," Dantonio said. "We're going to see how everybody performs. We're going to give everybody opportunities."

The last time Michigan State decided to wait until the middle of September to lock in a starter it worked out pretty well. Cook, who amassed a 34-5 record in three seasons leading the offense and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award this past fall, didn't take full control of the job until three or four games into the 2013 season.

Andrew Maxwell started the first game of that season, and he continued to split time with Cook up until the Spartans' 17-13 loss to Notre Dame. Cook took over after the ensuing bye week and Michigan State ran the table, including a Rose Bowl win over Stanford.

O'Connor was in that competition, and then sat behind Cook for the next three seasons. He and senior Damion Terry have played in backup roles, most notably leading the Spartans past undefeated Ohio State last November.

Terry and O'Connor head into the spring with a leg up on newcomers Brian Lewerke and Messiah DeWeaver. Lewerke redshirted last season and impressed his teammates on the scout team. DeWeaver enrolled this January and will get a shot to prove himself this spring. He was rated as the No. 12 quarterback in this year's recruiting class, according to ESPN's rankings.

"Spring is to figure out who is who," Dantonio said. "I think that it's important for guys to get their feet on the ground and let them get their feet on the ground and let us evaluate a little bit."

Dantonio said he hasn't decided if he'll make the quarterbacks open to live contact during the spring, like he did at some points last year with Cook. Letting the defense finish hits against quarterbacks allows the coaching staff to see how they react in more realistic game situations, but it comes with the risk of injury.

Michigan State holds its first spring practice Tuesday and wraps up almost exactly a month later, on April 23.