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Senior Andrew Maxwell will start at quarterback for Michigan State in the Spartans' season opener Friday against Western Michigan, coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday.
Michigan State had a four-man competition at quarterback during preseason camp and even listed all four as co-No. 1s on its first game-week depth chart. But Maxwell, who started all 13 games for the Spartans in 2012, got the nod because of his experience and knowledge of the offense.
"I'm comfortable we have a No. 1 quarterback," Dantonio said Tuesday. "He was the No. 1 quarterback last year. And he gained some experience with that. He had some balls dropped, and we've got to protect him, run the football and do the things that surround him as well.
"But he has great knowledge of our system. I think he's competitive. He has great leadership skill. And like I told him today, 'Here's the keys. Bring it back full.' I think he'll do that."
Dantonio has said he will play at least two quarterbacks early in the season, and backup Connor Cook will see playing time during Friday's opener. The sophomore led Michigan State on its game-winning drive against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in relief of an ineffective Maxwell.
Dantonio also said that redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor was still "in the mix," while true freshman Damion Terry has shown flashes of his potential in preseason practice.
"When I look at our four quarterbacks, they possess big-time ability," Dantonio said. "They have great arm strength. They can make all the throws. But it's the consistency you're looking for."
Maxwell, who served as team captain in 2012, threw for 2,606 yards and 13 touchdowns last season but completed only 52.5 percent of his passes and had nine interceptions. Dantonio said Maxwell has shown improved decision-making and confidence this offseason.
"We always felt Andrew was going to be our guy," Dantonio said, "but we wanted to provide that competitive level."
Speedy junior Jeremy Langford showed enough consistency and big-play potential to earn the start at running back, though he will share the job with redshirt freshman Riley Bullough, a converted linebacker, and perhaps junior Nick Hill or freshman Delton Williams.
Fifth-year senior Kevin Muma earned the first opportunity to be Michigan State's placekicker, edging heralded recruit Michael Geiger. The Spartans missed nine field goals last season and lost five Big Ten games by 13 points.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.