Michigan State’s recent lineage of former starting quarterbacks is quite impressive.
Drew Stanton, Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook are all former Michigan State starters to make it to the NFL. Each of these four players have started under center for the Spartans in all but one season since 2005.
Now it’s fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor’s turn.
O’Connor will likely be the guy to replace Cook, who left East Lansing as the program’s winningest quarterback. O’Connor might not have much experience, but he could hold Michigan State’s Big Ten title hopes in his hands.
O’Connor would be no ordinary first-year starter. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ohio native was thrown into the fire on a couple of occasions last season. He subbed for an injured Cook on Nov. 14 against Maryland and held the fort in a sluggish 24-7 victory over the Terrapins.
His first collegiate start came against mighty Ohio State in Columbus. Not only did O’Connor hold his own, but he and junior quarterback Damion Terry played well enough to help the Spartans steal an incredible 17-14 win over the Buckeyes. Without that victory, Michigan State probably wouldn’t have made it into the Big Ten championship game, let alone the College Football Playoff.
O’Connor managed the game properly against the Buckeyes, completing 7 of 12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He also showed off his running ability by scampering eight times for 25 yards. O’Connor split snaps with Terry, but the scrambling QB only attempted four passes against the Buckeyes and was mainly used as a runner.
On the season, O’Connor completed 13 of 24 passes for 133 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It certainly isn’t an enormous sample size, but O’Connor has more experience thanks to his victory in the Horseshoe than most first-year starters entering 2016.
Terry adds a wrinkle to the quarterback situation. He has the legs to see the field as a change of pace player, perhaps in a wildcat formation. But Terry hasn’t proven he has the throwing ability to be anything more than that, and likely doesn’t have much of a chance in the still-open competition.
That’s because O’Connor proved he was ahead of Terry and the rest of the quarterbacks during MSU’s spring game. O’Connor went 10-for-16 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown and proved himself as the best quarterback on the team. It just hasn’t been made official yet.
Coach Mark Dantonio said after the spring game that he wouldn’t tab a starting quarterback until fall practice to keep the pressure off of whoever was chosen.
It’s a nice thought, but it won’t matter once O’Connor is formally declared the starter. The pressure will be placed on the not-so ordinary first-year starter immediately to keep Michigan State in the thick of the Big Ten race.