Tyler O’Connor vs. Damion Terry. That’s Topic No. 1 on the agenda for Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, offensive coordinator Dave Warner and quarterbacks coach Brad Salem this week.
O’Connor has started all five games for the Spartans this season after the fifth-year senior won the job during preseason camp, but Dantonio pulled him in favor of Terry in the fourth quarter this past Saturday against BYU. The junior had mixed results: he threw an interception that set up a BYU touchdown that pushed a 17-7 deficit to 24-7, but he responded by leading the offense back down the field on a touchdown drive.
So, will it be O’Connor or Terry who gets the start this week against Northwestern when the Spartans again attempt to stop their losing streak, which is now up to three games?
Dantonio isn’t saying.
“We need to keep those decisions right now in-house for the benefit of everybody here,” Dantonio told reporters on a conference call Sunday evening.
Each quarterback candidate has his strengths and weaknesses, his pros and cons to being the starter. We’ll get to those in a bit, but here’s a tale of the tape on O’Connor and Terry:
|Category||Tyler O’Connor||Damion Terry|
|Year||Fifth-year Sr.||Fourth-year Jr.|
|Hometown||Lima, Ohio||Erie, Pa.|
|High School||Lima Central Catholic||Erie Cathedral Prep|
O’Connor has the edge in experience although his six games started is not significant. It’s also a small sample size of his capabilities, so is that a fair enough time to judge him? When the team is 2-3 and in the midst of a losing streak, everyone and everything is fair to be judged.
O’Connor: Yes, he’s started just six games in his career but that’s six more than any other quarterback on the roster. He’s also been in the system for five years. He knows what Dantonio and Warner expect from their quarterback. Dantonio has favored seniors in this position.
Terry: He’s in his fourth season at Michigan State since coming out of high school as a four-star recruit and consensus national top-25 quarterback. He’s played in 17 games, but last Saturday was his most extensive playing time. He set career-highs with 10 pass attempts and 63 yards against BYU.
O’Connor: He still believes he is the No. 1 guy. That’s the way you want any player to think about his position. He lost quarterback battles earlier in his career to Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook. He understands how these things work, but he also isn’t going to back down from the challenge. This may be his best attribute, and it’s one of the reasons he was voted as a captain this season.
Terry: He’s more soft-spoken than O’Connor but no less confident in his abilities, and what he believes he can bring to the field. It would have been easy for him to transfer after O’Connor was named the starter in preseason, but he has rejected that idea.
O’Connor: This is an area where he has been inconsistent. It has often showed up early in games where he misses throws. Some passes have been high and on some deep passes he’s not given his receivers an opportunity for the catch because the ball is out of bounds. To his credit, he has made throws at critical times, such as the final drive in regulation at Indiana as well as the 87-yard touchdown to R.J. Shelton in the first quarter of the same game. He also has been hurt by some bad drops by receivers and an offensive line that doesn’t allow him exceptional time in the pocket.
Terry: His sample size in games is way too small. What he’s like in practice, only the coaches know. Terry made a bad decision throwing for Shelton on his first possession against BYU, a pass that was intercepted and returned into Michigan State territory. He has zip on his throws, as he had displayed with an 11-yard completion to tight end Jamal Lyles three plays before the interception. Lyles was covered tightly, but Terry still found him to set up a fourth-and-1 situation.
O’Connor: You won’t find anyone on this team that is more willing to compete for his position. He has his team’s back, which goes a long way. Plus, he has never been disruptive. He had an opportunity to transfer a couple of years ago but stayed with the program.
Terry: The great unknown. That’s what Terry is for this team. He was banged up earlier in the season, which is why redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke played during mop-up time against Wisconsin, but Terry is healthy now. He could provide a spark for the offense. If a change is going to happen, this would be the best time to do it since Michigan State next plays Northwestern at home and Maryland on the road before Michigan comes to town.
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo