Michigan State and coach Mark Dantonio no doubt hoped that the Spartans' season opener against Western Michigan would provide some much-needed clarity to a murky quarterbacking situation. But after a lackluster performance, the only thing clairified seems to be that the situation is murkier than ever.
That reality was reflected in the comments of center Travis Jackson, who told mlive.com after Tuesday's practice that all four Spartan quarterback candidates -- senior Andrew Maxwell, redshirt sophomore Connor Cook, redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor, and true freshman Damion Terry -- had taken snaps with the first team during practice.
Maxwell and Cook shared the position against the Broncos and remained atop the depth chart issued by Dantonio Tuesday, but Jackson said it wouldn't surprise him if one or both freshmen saw playing time over the Spartans' next two games.
"Damion Terry came out and played like a senior in the second [fall camp] scrimmage, and Tyler O'Connor has these great flashes of being a huge playmaker, so they are guys that are still in the competition, still taking reps with the ones and twos, so I think it's really anybody's game back there," Jackson said.
The Spartans take on South Florida at home this Saturday, then face FCS Youngstown State the folllowing week. Dantonio declined to comment on the specifics of the quarterback situation ahead of the meeting with the Bulls, only saying any decisions would be made "internally" and "near the end of the week," per the Detroit Free Press.
The good news for Dantonio and the Spartans is that they seem to still have two solid weeks to settle the issue. USF will arrive in East Lansing in full-fledged crisis mode, having been humiliated 53-21 by FCS McNeese State in Week 1, and the FCS Penguins are, well, an FCS team (albeit one that upset Pitt in Week 1 of the 2012 season).
But regardless of the opposition, the Spartans seem destined to have hard time of it if they don't get better quarterback play than they did against Western Michigan, when the MSU defense accounted for 14 of the Spartans' 26 points. Facing 2012's 73rd-ranked defense in opponent QB rating, Maxwell and Cook combined to hit 17-of-37 for a miserable 116 yards (3.1 an attempt!) and no touchdowns.
While the drop-happy Spartan wideouts share some of the blame for those numbers (and have seen their own depth chart shaken up), there's zero doubt they will have to improve dramatically if the Spartans want to compete for a Big Ten title ... which goes a long way to explaining why Dantonio isn't yet ruling out any of his four options under center.