EAST LANSING, Mich. – Josiah Price understands where the media questions are coming from this week. The Michigan State fifth-year senior realizes why there is so much speculation as to who will be starting at quarterback for the Spartans on Saturday against Northwestern.
“If it was a tight end shuffle right now, I don’t think you guys would be asking every leader on the team about it because it’s just the tight end and it’s whatever,” said Price as he sat on a bench, encircled by an inquiring group. “But because it’s the quarterback and it’s the face of your franchise and your offense, yeah, it’s a little bigger deal.”
There will be no bigger story line leading up to Saturday afternoon than which quarterback head coach Mark Dantonio will choose to start. Will it be fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor, who has started the first five games? Will it be fourth-year junior Damion Terry, who took over for O’Connor in the fourth quarter of a 31-14 loss to BYU last Saturday? Perhaps it will be redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke?
The depth chart listed in the Michigan State weekly media game notes lists all three in bold lettering to signify a starter. It reads Tyler O’Connor OR Damion Terry OR Brian Lewerke.
Quarterback is not the only position to have the word “OR” capitalized next to a player’s name. The lettering shows up in 10 spots, including at tight end next to Price’s name. It’s Josiah Price OR Jamal Lyles. It’s at the tailback position. L.J. Scott OR Gerald Holmes OR Madre London.
Dantonio has been saying all along during his team’s current three-game losing streak that the problem doesn’t rest on one person or one position. There are multiple problem spots. This depth chart illustrates his point.
“I would say we’ve got to look to make sure that people we put in the game have opportunities,” said Dantonio on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “What I’m saying is it’s going to be him or him. You’ve got to play better. There is a chain of events that happens. You got play-calling. You got execution. In some cases, other guys they’re just close. We played them before.”
Dantonio is not making the three quarterback contenders available to the media this week prior to the game on Saturday. He wants them focused solely on preparation. There was a smaller group of players than normal made available to speak to the media after Tuesday’s practice. Teams going through tough stretches like this close ranks.
The ranks are tightening at Michigan State.
“For me, we’ve had all of our talks. We’ve said all that needs to be said. It’s time we start doing it,” said junior offensive lineman Brian Allen. He and fifth-year senior Benny McGowan are listed at center and right guard in bold with “OR” separating their names.
“Ultimately if we don’t win we’re not doing what we’re saying so it doesn’t matter what we say. It’s good to have those meetings but at one point or another we’ve got to start doing that and stop talking about it.”
Holmes got the start at tailback ahead of Scott last Saturday, his first start of the season, and saw the most action of any of the running back trio. The coaches informed Holmes and the team that he would be starting after practice last Thursday. Nothing was said to the media before the game.
It won’t be surprising if the same scenario plays out this week at quarterback. Dantonio may make his decision at any time and then let O’Connor, Terry and Lewerke and the rest of the team know how things are going to play out. One may be starting. All three may be used at some point in the game.
Chances are we’ll all have to wait until Saturday at 3:30 p.m. to find out.
In the meanwhile, practice will go on. There is a three-game losing streak to try and stop.
“It gives the media a lot of things to talk about. It gives everyone a little bit of something to talk about, I guess,” said Price about the quarterbacks. “For us, I think it doesn’t change too much. We just come to practice each and every day. I’ve got great confidence in all three of our quarterbacks in that shuffle that you talked about. I think we’ve got to encourage those guys and show them we have sure and utter confidence in them to make plays and make this offense go and have production.
“I think they all will do a great job. It’s just a matter of who will do the best job on a Saturday and give us the most production. That’s what the coaches are trying to figure out.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo