Michigan State has finally settled on a starting quarterback, and it's the same guy who started all 13 games for the Spartans in 2012.
Despite issuing a depth chart that listed four different quarterbacks on the No. 1 line, head coach Mark Dantonio said at his weekly news conference today that senior Andrew Maxwell would get the starting nod on Friday against Western Michigan.
"I told him, here's the keys," Dantonio said. "Bring them back home. It's important we all go forward together."
Dantonio, who has pledged to play more than one quarterback early in the season, also said that sophomore Connor Cook will play on Friday. Cook led the Spartans on their game-winning drive against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Dantonio also said that Tyler O'Connor is "in the mix," though he gave no indication whether O'Connor will see the field in the opener. As for true freshman Damion Terry, who was so impressive in a recent scrimmage that he forced himself into the competition? Dantonio said Terry needs to continue to improve, but he didn't say that Terry would necessarily redshirt.
In fact, Dantonio said he feels like the team has four "big-time" quarterbacks, though he cited Maxwell's understanding of the system as the reason why he will get the first snaps of the season. Maxwell struggled throughout much of last season, completing only 52.5 percent of his passes with a 13-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But Dantonio said he saw improved decision-making and confidence from Maxwell during preseason practice and predicted a big senior year for him.
It's not much of a surprise that Maxwell will start, for a few reasons. One, he's the only veteran, and the team had enough confidence to start him in 13 games last fall. Dantonio has said during most of the offseason that Maxwell was his No. 1 guy, with some caveats. Dantonio also tends to go the conservative route, and picking the redshirt senior over far more unproven commodities definitely qualifies as the safest choice.
"We always felt Andrew was going to be our guy," Dantonio said, "but we wanted to provide that competitive level."
The real question remains whether Maxwell can translate his performance and talent -- and despite what you may think of him, he is an excellent all-around athlete -- to game days. His confidence seemed to ebb last fall, partly a result of dropped balls by receivers and a shaky offensive line, though he also made some poor decisions. Cook emerged in the bowl game and in the offseason as a serious threat, and if he can provide a bigger spark to the offense in the opener and in the first few weeks in general, this competition could be far from over. O'Connor was the hot name early in camp, while Terry generates the most excitement with his potential despite his utter lack of seasoning.
So after a long offseason of quarterback questions, Michigan State is back to where it started, with one major difference. If Maxwell can't get the job done in 2013, Dantonio will have several other options available.