The Michigan State quarterback competition has taken
yet another twist, with true freshman (and already fan favorite) Damion Terry getting a strong look this week in practice.
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, who has played three quarterbacks in two games without settling on a No. 1 guy, said on Tuesday that sophomore Connor Cook would go into practice as the starter. He started last week vs. South Florida and completed 6-of-11 passes for 32 yards and shared time with Tyler O'Connor and Andrew Maxwell.
The twist is that Terry will enter practice as Cook's backup, putting him in line to see his first collegiate action against Youngstown State on Saturday. Dantonio said Terry likely would have gotten this opportunity last week, but he was dealing with a case of strep throat and a bruised hand.
"I do think, based on Damion's performance in the summer in the one practice, his performance as of late, he deserves an opportunity to show what he can do in practice," Dantonio said.
However, Dantonio said the "situation still needs to be managed delicately," because he is hesitant to burn Terry's redshirt unless he's sure the youngster is ready. Asked what Terry needs to show this week to prove that, Dantonio said, "Really, we've just got to see an absence of mistakes. The elementary mistakes. Can he control the offense, playcalling, getting in and out of certain checks? We have a system for him that's pared down a little bit, but we have to see hm operate and function successfully in practice."
Why is Cook still the starter despite numbers that were not appreciably different than Maxwell or O'Connor?
"He has shown the ability to run a little bit," Dantonio said. "He hit a big play to [Aaron] Burbridge on third‑and‑20. Runs for the first down. He's run a couple other times for first downs. I'm not saying it's perfect. But I think he's the guy right now."
Dantonio also said that Maxwell, a fifth-year senior, is so experienced that he doesn't need that many reps in practice to be ready to play, while Cook and Terry need as many practice as they can get. O'Connor, who seemed like the candidate du jour just a week ago, has apparently fallen behind. He moved the offense fairly well on his series against USF but nearly threw an interception into the end zone.
"We' can't make the very basic of mistakes," said Dantonio, who noted that O'Connor has also made mental blunders in practice.
The Spartans' QB derby has become a weekly sideshow, and Dantonio knows it needs to get fixed. Michigan State is last out of 123 FBS teams in passing yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and is among the bottom in just about every other passing statistic. The team has produced just two offensive touchdowns in two games.
Dantonio said he realizes the process of settling on a quarterback is taking longer than fans want. But he also said it's a big decision that he wants to make sure he gets right. He's waiting for one player to "seize the moment."
"We've got to find a rhythm," he said. "I also believe that it will turn when we do. There will be a momentum surge, not just for the offense but for our entire football team. That will re-energize this football team to its capacity. That's what we've got to look to do."