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Friday, April 1, 2011
Spartans' Cousins, Roushar keep the faith

By Adam Rittenberg

Kirk Cousins would have a right to be worried, or at least curious, about the state of Michigan State's offense entering his senior season.

When a team appoints a new offensive coordinator, no position is affected more than the quarterback, particularly a multiyear starter. Cousins evolved the past two seasons under Don Treadwell, leading the Spartans to their first Big Ten title since 1990 last fall. But Treadwell left in January to become head coach at Miami (Ohio), and Michigan State promoted line coach Dan Roushar to coordinator.

Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins said he feels "great about the direction" of the offense under new coordinator Dan Roushar.
How did Cousins react to the move? He wasn't concerned nor anxious, not in the least. He didn't meet with Roushar for hours on end discussing the scheme. While he'll miss Treadwell, he has full faith that Roushar will get the job done.

After all, Roushar had faith in Cousins when few others did.

"When I came in, I was a two-star recruit," Cousins told me Thursday, "so I kind of had that feeling, 'Do I belong?' I was a late addition to the recruiting class, so you start to have those doubts. Can I play here? Am I good enough? Am I just a last guy on the roster, a leftover pick? You start to have those thoughts. It doesn't make you work any less harder; if anything, you work harder.

"But you're looking for somebody who believes in you, who sees something in you and who really thinks you can be somebody some day."

For Cousins, Roushar was that person. A former quarterback at Northern Illinois, Roushar coached signal-callers early in his career and had served as an offensive coordinator at several places, including Illinois in 2004.

"He'd come over, whether it was in practice, in a meeting, in the offseason just stopping by his office, and he would just let me know, 'Hey, you did a great job,'" Cousins recalled. "I remember my redshirt freshman year, when I played in backup duty behind Brian [Hoyer], he was very affirming of how I played. Back then, you're really looking for encouragement, for somebody to believe in you.

"That meant a lot at that time, and going forward, I have a lot of respect for him."

If Michigan State had hired a new coordinator from outside the program, Cousins imagines he would have had multiple meetings before the first practice to build a foundation of trust. While he and Roushar talked a bit before spring ball kicked off Tuesday, they already had a bond.

Roushar won't make wide-sweeping changes to the system, and Cousins is confident about the offense's future.

"He's been an offensive coordinator, he's coached just about every offensive position, so he has a wide-sweeping perspective," said Cousins, who completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,825 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2010. "The offensive line coach is a guy a lot of quarterbacks are going to talk to.

"We're definitely on the same page, and I feel great about the direction we're going."