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After being used sparingly to start the year, Connor Cook took the starting spot under center from Andrew Maxwell in the third week of the season.
Cook, along with a very talented Spartan defense, finished strong, losing just one game and capping the year off with a thrilling Rose Bowl win over Stanford.
The 6'4", 218-pound pocket passer out of Hinckley, Ohio, will look to put the Spartans back into the national title hunt in 2014.
The first thing that jumps out about Cook’s game is his pocket presence. Cook, who has the benefit of playing in a pro-style offense, takes the time to go through his progressions, which is rare for a player with minimum experience.
He is constantly climbing the pocket until he finds an open man. After Cook has locked in on a receiver, he shows great balance, shifts his weight forward and delivers sharp throws.
Another thing to love about Cook’s game is his anticipation on passes, like on this play.
He anticipates his receiver’s cut under the safety and places the ball right in the receiver’s hands in stride, earning a big gain.
Cook can also make plays happen on the run. On this 2nd-and-goal inside of the two-yard line, Cook executes the play action and rolls out while scanning all of his eligible receivers in the end zone.
When he has cluster of players (two receivers, three men in coverage) over the middle, Cook quickly glances to the right to find his fullback, Trevon Pendleton, in single coverage.
As soon as Pendleton gets free (thanks to a stumble by the Stanford cover man), Cook delivers a catchable pass while scrambling, giving Michigan State its first lead of the game.
It is these kinds of improvisational skills and ability to quickly find the open receiver that make Cook so dangerous.
Cook’s biggest problem is that he sometimes trusts his arm too much and makes bad decisions.
On this play, Cook locks in on a receiver five yards from the line of scrimmage. He fails to recognize two things: There are four defenders in the area that have a play on the ball and Ohio State’s safety, anticipating that throw, begins to close in on the receiver.
Cook makes the throw, resulting in a costly turnover.
He had another one of these plays against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
These things will improve as he gets more playing time and continues to improve his ability to read coverages, although he does pretty well with this despite starting just under one full season.
Cook already has a number of things that NFL teams look for in prototypical pocket passers. If he can continue to improve and show that last year wasn’t a fluke, Cook could be another signal-caller hearing his name in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL draft.