YOUNGSTOWN - It's unknown if former Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel will flip a coin to decide who will start at quarterback for Michigan State on Saturday against Youngstown State, as he did in 2007 for Cleveland, but the Spartans might be getting close to using such measures.
Four players are listed as the "starter" on Michigan State's weekly depth chart, and Spartan coach Mark Dantonio admits no one has stepped up to earn the right to be named the No. 1 quarterback.
"That's what you're trying to figure out," said Dantonio during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "You want to get to the one."
It could be a while if they continue to perform like they did in the first two games.
Michigan State (2-0) has the worst passing game in the nation, statistically, and the Spartans have yet to throw a touchdown pass. Three quarterbacks have combined to complete 29 of 61 passes, 47.5 percent, for 210 yards, and their longest pass play went for 26 yards - thanks mainly to a good run after the catch. Granted, the Spartans have yet to throw an interception, but the lack of a passing attack has made the offense one-dimensional.
Sophomore Connor Cook, a Walsh Jesuit High School product, started last week's game against South Florida, but he was ineffective (6 of 11 for 32 yards). Incumbent starter Andrew Maxwell, a senior, was under center Week 1 against Western Illinois but was benched after three series. Redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor is the final QB to take snaps. He was 2 of 4 for 22 yards against South Florida. Dantonio obviously hasn't been impressed with their progress because he added true freshman Damion Terry to the mix this week. Dantonio is being careful with Terry because if he was to play, that would end what was supposed to be his redshirt season.
"If he's not ready to play in a game, we can't take the redshirt off him and ruin his year," Dantonio said. "That wouldn't be fair to him. People need to understand that. If we take the redshirt off of him, it means he had a great week of practice and he's ready to play. We can't play him one game and not play him again. That's not fair to him, not when you're a true freshman. That's why this situation needs to be managed delicately. We have to make sure he's ready to play and then allow him to develop."
Dantonio said Terry will take reps as the No. 2 quarterback at practice this week (Cook is currently the "No. 1"), and Terry's performance at practice will determine if he will play Saturday.
The mess at quarterback leaves the Penguins (2-0) wondering who to prepare for as they try to knock off a Football Bowl Subdivision team from a premier conference for the second straight year. The Penguins have played well against the pass thus far, albeit it came against non-scholarship schools Dayton and Morehead State. The two combined to complete 41 of 76 passes (53.9 percent) for 363 yards, three interceptions and two touchdowns.
Pressuring the quarterback has played a key role in keeping the opponent's aerial attack under control. YSU only has three sacks, but they've harassed quarterbacks into errant throws on a number of occasions. The constant pressure is major reason teams are six of 30 on third-down conversions.
"It helps us because is that quarterback going to be able to get into a rhythm early?," said YSU senior defensive tackle D.J. Moss of the Spartans quarterback situation. "So we're going to go ahead and try and pressure him and have some fun out there."
Moss also said that preparing for multiple quarterbacks can be a difficult task if the players have various strengths. He doesn't see that with Michigan State.
"It can be, but a lot of (MSU's quarterbacks) are big, tall quarterbacks with big arms," Moss said. "I don't think their offense is going to change much with each one, but we'll be prepared for each of them."