CHICAGO — The quarterback competition at Michigan State, which involves Lima Central Catholic’s Tyler O’Connor, is not a closed issue but it’s not like the door has been left wide open, either, the Spartans coach Mark Dantonio indicated Wednesday at the Big Ten Football Media Days.
The Spartans have a returning starter in senior Andrew Maxwell, who completed only 52 percent of his passes last season in his first year as the No. 1 QB in a year when Michigan State’s receivers and offensive line struggled at times.
Connor Cook, a sophomore, led two scoring drives in Michigan State’s win in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and added a new dimension to the offense with his scrambling ability.
O’Connor is coming off a redshirt freshman season and Damion Terry, a highly rated dual threat quarterback from Erie, Pa., is a true freshman who will probably be redshirted this fall.
Maxwell will begin practice in August as the No. 1 quarterback, Dantonio said.
“It’s his to lose,” the MSU coach said. “But our mentality now is that we’re going to play two quarterbacks. Somebody is going to have to get some experience because we’re not going to have a situation in 2014 where we don’t have a quarterback with any experience.”
Cook would appear to be the first option to be the other quarterback since Dantonio said game time experience can’t be replicated.
“He (Cook) has game experience. There’s no substitute for experience. It’s not the same when you put two minutes up on the scoreboard in practice and say, ‘Let’s run a two-minute drill.’
“They (quarterbacks) are shaped by their experiences. But I like our other quarterbacks too,” he said. “Every quarterback we have has the physical ability to be very, very good,” Dantonio said.
O’Connor was intercepted twice in the Spartans’ spring game in his first time on a semi-big stage at Michigan State. But Dantonio said that didn’t reflect O’Connor’s overall body of work.
“It was disappointing for him because he had played very well during the spring. But it didn’t shake him. I don’t think it was indicative of his play. He had a lot of reps (practice repetitions) in the spring,” he said.
— JUST ONCE, HE’S O.K. WITH MICHIGAN LOSING: When Michigan coach Brady Hoke was asked about the national attention Grant Reed, a 12-year Ohio boy, got for naming his brain tumor “Michigan” because, he said, Ohio State always beats Michigan, Hoke said he empathized as a parent first.
“We were excited for that young man. Being a father, our children are so important. You try to put yourself in what that family has gone through. So, beating Michigan in this context, we were all for it. Our daughter was five months in the hospital when she was born. So you just imagine what that family was going through.”
Hoke spoke to Reed and his family by phone last week and offered them four tickets for the Ohio State-Michigan game at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 30.
— HAZELL TALKS ABOUT TRESSEL: First-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell was an assistant at Ohio State for seven years under Jim Tressel and says the former Buckeyes coach was “a big influence on me and the way I do things today.”
“There are a lot of great values and just his demeanor through the course of my time there was something you can take from and the great decisions he made on game day. When those bullets are flying, it’s a chaotic moment. I learned a lot from Jim Tressel in my seven years at Ohio State.”
Hazell is also the first Purdue coach without a mustache in the last 16 years, following the mustachioed Danny Hope and Joe Tiller.
— WISCONSIN COACH, MEYER FRIENDS: Things were frosty from the beginning between former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer when Bielema took exception to Meyer recruiting players who had given verbal commitments to other Big Ten schools.
But the feelings between Meyer and the coach in charge of Wisconsin’s program did a 180 when Gary Anderson took over after Bielema departed for Arizona.
Meyer hired Anderson as an assistant coach at Utah and the two still talk. Meyer even recommended Anderson for the Badgers job when Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez asked his opinion.
“We’re very good friends, he’s somebody I reach out to when I have questions about things,” Anderson said. “I think there’s a mutual respect there.”
Meyer joked that he always buys when he and Anderson get together for a meal. “I always buy. He’s down about seven, at least. I used to take him to breakfast every Friday. I remind him of that,” he said.
— HAUNTED HOUSE?: The last time Ohio State and Northwestern played in prime time at Ryan Field in 2004, the Wildcats pulled off a 33-27 upset of the Buckeyes.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald will probably remind his team of that a few times between now and Oct. 5, when the two teams play under the lights in Evanston. He already was talking about it on Wednesday.
Fitzgerald, a former Northwestern linebacker, was an assistant coach for the late Randy Walker in 2004.
“I think the last time we played each other at night was a pretty unique environment at our place. Obviously, we were successful, so that’s a fond memory in my mind,” he said.