The Michigan State Spartans' preparations for their defense of the Big Ten Legends Division title were dealt an unfortunate blow on Tuesday afternoon when head coach Mark Dantonio told members of the media that junior starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell may be sidelined for the rest of the spring due to a sprained knee.
"(Maxwell) may or may not be back by the end of spring ball," Dantonio said Tuesday afternoon. "We will see how it goes early in the next week. It's a non-surgical thing."
According to Dantonio, Maxwell sustained the injury during Michigan State's scrimmage last Saturday on a fairly routine play.
"He was just leaving the pocket, sort of backing away from the defense and sort of fell backward," Dantonio added.
The Spartans returned to practice Tuesday afternoon and redshirt freshman Connor Cook took over as Michigan State's No. 1 quarterback. Michigan State's coaches are all taking the current situation in stride though and believe this will be a great opportunity to give Cook extra repetitions.
"We have to look at every opportunity as a positive," Dantonio said. "If it had to happen, you would rather have him (Maxwell) do it. Connor needs the work. Andrew has been in the system for three years and he will be ready to go, and he may be able to come back next week but we won't push that.
"Connor is crisp. He has a great arm, very good arm strength. He has good knowledge and he can move around in the pocket. There are very good things that he does. He just needs to get game experience and scrimmage experience and every snap for him is a learning experience for him as he continues to go forward..."
Second-year offensive coordinator Dan Roushar also views this as a great opportunity for Cook, who was a 3-star prospect from Walsh Jesuit High School in Ohio, to learn the system and improve as a quarterback.
"As we look at it, Connor is going to get every opportunity and every rep," Roushar told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "Only through repetition do I think you get better. He will learn every time he takes a snap. We are going to turn this into a positive."
Cook completed 9-of-14 pass attempts for 76 yards in the Spartans' first scrimmage, however the young signal also threw an interception that was returned 41 yards for a touchdown by first team All-Big Ten defensive back Johnny Adams.
The No. 13 ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2011 is taking everything in stride as well and says his demeanor and approach has not changed much despite being the No. 1 quarterback at the moment.
"I didn't really try and do anything different," Cook said on Tuesday. "You just have to come out, be yourself and try and execute."
One thing that comes along with being the starting quarterback for any team is pressure, but Cook did not shy away from admitting that he was feeling a bit more of it than usual.
"I do feel a little bit more pressure," Cook said. "Being the No. 1 guy there is always going to be a little bit more pressure than being the No. 2 guy, but I wouldn't say that it's a bad feeling."
The injury to Maxwell will likely be a long-term benefit for the Spartans with every additional repetition Cook takes, but in the meantime it will disrupt the cohesiveness of Michigan State's starters.
Maxwell has not been the only Spartan to be hit by the injury bug though. Wide receiver Tony Lippett (ankle) and cornerback Darqueze Denard (shoulder) are both out for the remainder of the spring. Linebacker Chris Norman and wideout Bennie Fowler have also struggled with injuries, but were cleared for non-contact participation on Tuesday.
Zach Dirlam is the lead editor of the college basketball section as well as Big Ten columnist for the FOX Sports/MSN/YardBarker affiliate website Sports at Work. Check out his blog, Dirlam’s Dirty Dugout Sports Blog, which features this story, along with other articles and video reports on major sports.
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