Friday, August 31, 2012
Q&A: Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell
By Adam Rittenberg
Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell has waited more than two years for this night. After understudying for Kirk Cousins, Maxwell finally will lead the Spartans' offense as MSU opens the season tonight against No. 24 Boise State. Many have dubbed Michigan State the preseason Big Ten favorite, including both Big Ten bloggers. The main doubt about the squad concerns Maxwell and his wide receivers. All are unproven entering the season, as Maxwell has just 51 pass attempts in nine games. Preparing for this moment is one thing; delivering is another. But his chance is here.
ESPN.com caught up with Maxwell for the first of the Friday Q&As this season.
You've waited more than two years for this chance. What's going through your head now that it's finally here?
QB Andrew Maxwell takes over the starting job after learning under Kirk Cousins for three seasons.
Andrew Maxwell: I'm excited more than anything. I'm anxious to get out there, and all this work that we put in through the offseason, not only for myself but the whole team. We want to get out there and get this show on the road.
What were your primary objectives in camp, and how close are you to reaching those?
AM: I just wanted to improve every day. I tried to pick a little something every practice to work on. For me, the biggest thing was taking the next step in the offense with protections and with blitz recognitions and throw recognitions, just making sure we've got the right plan, got the right protection on and that we're not going to have to be scrambling around. That's the second-tier stuff in the offense. Once you master the basic things, you put yourself in good positions to get that stuff down.
How do you strike the right balance between managing the game and being aggressive against Boise State?
AM: In our meeting room, we talk about taking calculated risks. That's realizing the situation, realizing what it calls for. Can you afford to take a risk and fit one in there, or are you in field goal range and you just can check one down and settle for points? That's something you've got to get a feel for as the game goes on. Our coaches do a great job preparing the whole team for what those situations call for.
When you hear people say Michigan State will take a step back because of you or the wideouts, how do you respond?
AM: We're not worried about it. That's talk on the outside that we're not worried about. We have players producing at wide receiver, and we have depth at offensive line and depth at running back that's going to help us have a great running game and will set up and help us have a great passing game.
Who stood out at wide receiver and tight end in camp?
AM: Bennie Fowler had a great camp. He finally was healthy, which is something I'm really happy to see. He came in with my recruiting class, and unfortunately, he's battled some injuries his whole time here. He's running as well as I've ever seen him run. And Dion Sims at tight end had a great camp, too. His size and his speed and his moves, he's a great weapon for us.
What do you think will be out there in the game that you haven't prepared for?
AM: It's just the speed of the game, real live game situations that you can't duplicate or simulate in practice. That's something you really need game experience for. But we've done a great job this whole camp of making every period and every scenario as game-like as possible. Going against a defense like ours and bringing that kind of intensity to practice every day is definitely going to help with that learning curve.
You haven't lost a home game since 2009. How much is that on your mind with a big game like this?
AM: It's definitely important for us. This is our home stadium, and we want to protect our turf. We've had a great run the last two years, we went 7-0 at home, so that's something definitely in our mind. It's a focus for us this year.
What type of tone will this game set for you personally and for the team?
AM: We want to come out and establish our identity. We want to execute everything we've been working on throughout this fall camp. We don't want to come flat, we don't want to come out with unforced errors. We want to establish our identity as a tough team, a team that can run the football and a team that's not going to be worn out.
How beneficial is it for you to have Le'Veon Bell in the backfield along with the other backs?
AM: It makes my job a lot easier when you have a backfield like that and an offensive line like we do, with seven guys who have starting experience. Coach [Dan] Roushar always says that to be effective in one, you've got to be effective in both, so to be effective in the passing game, we've got to have an effective run game. We definitely have the players and the bodies to do that.
Do you look at this as having to prove anything personally?
AM: I don't know if I look at it as trying to prove anything. This is what I've been waiting for. This is what I've prepared the past three years for, and now it's finally here. Like our team, I want to come out and execute. Don't come out flat. Don't come out with mental errors. Don't let the situation get the best of you. At the end of the day, it's a game I've been playing since I was 8 years old. It's a game that I'm playing with 105 of my best friends. If I can take that approach to it and just relax and be calm out there, I think I'll be fine.
A new-look defense from Boise State this year. What do you expect from that group?
AM: It's tough to say. You look at the film and they're so multiple with their fronts and with their coverages and with their blitzes. That's something they were able to do last year, largely because they had a lot of older players, a lot of seniors on that defense. They'd been playing for a long time, and they were able to really work together. That's what I've seen on film -- they really play well together. With the new guys stepping in, it's hard to say if they will be as multiple, but I'm sure their coaches will have them ready, and they'll have a lot to throw at us.
Have you talked to Kirk [Cousins] at all this month?
AM: I have. I talked to him a couple times the past couple weeks.
What has he told you about preparing for your first start?
AM: He just said, 'Good luck. Be yourself.' He just reassured me that I'm ready and that the team's ready, and that we'll be fine out there.