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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Assessing Terry O'Cookwell at QB: Spartans First Team in History With Losing Record While Still Undefeated

While we sit here with our favorite team at 2-0, it almost feels like 0-2. In fact, this reality is about as bad as any script that you could have drawn up for the Spartans minus injuries, losses and defensive woes. While MSU's quarterback combination of  O'Cookwell has been a recipe for disaster, leaving any one quarterback in for an entire game or half would likely have left Spartan fans with that same, "I ate something bad" feeling.

After Dantonio announced that Andrew Maxwell would start at quarterback heading into the season, an M-Live reader, jaytheshocker prophetically shared this with other readers, "... Instead of being excited about the upcoming season, I'm rather frustrated. Although it's not a surprise that Max is being named starter, I'm still expecting the same song n' dance we watched last year. I look forward to the world of check downs and inept offense." I just couldn't see it being any worse than last year and could not accept that improvements in other areas would not improve quarterback play - regardless of who was named quarterback. I tried to console him with my view that Maxwell was not THE problem in 2012.

So was I wrong about Maxwell? I don't think so. I think I was wrong about EVERYTHING ELSE. Have we really seen any of the QBs really run the team? No - nor should we. None of them have shown they can do it effectively. Instead, we have only seen what O'Cookwell can do and it's leaving us all hungry for something different.

Here are my previous posts about Andrew Maxwell:
While MSU does not have an RG III or Andrew Luck, I think Dantonio's approach with the off-season QB competition and 2013 "rotation" has proven that Andrew Maxwell is not the problem with the offense. There is a reason he keeps trotting Maxwell out on the field. He happens to be the best all around quarterback TODAY. The problem is that all the quarterbacks who have played so far have more problems with this offense than opposing defenses have handling our offense. It's an offensive problem more than quarterback problem. That does not mean that the quarterbacks are THE problem. At times they merely contribute to the deeper underlying problem.

Heading into the season, I projected that reduced injuries, improved schemes, pass-run balance, experience and variety of other factors would lead to a better overall system. If that were true, combined with an older/wiser Maxwell and an injury free spring for him (unlike 2012) and having to earn the job (unlike 2012) and there would have to be some improvement for him and the offense. I spelled it out in both the posts and received much support in the view and actually picked up many fans repeating the concepts on M-Live and other media sites.

Most of us expected the receivers to produce better. I don't mean just catching "catch-able" balls. I mean making plays. Making those great catches that extend drives - that get the first down or that "second & short" which makes a play-action deadly. I mean creating separation down field so whoever is in at QB does not need time to check down to option 2, 3, and 4, causing a 2-yard throw on third and 8. I mean running a 5-yard route at five yards, not 3 yards, and yes, catching the ball. All good offenses get that type of play from their receivers. I was wrong about the receivers - so far. Then, there is the list of all the complaints about the scheme and other issues. Would Maxwell or any of the other quarterbacks function better if the rest were not so dysfunctional? Yes. But, it's their job to make good with what they have and O'Cookwell has failed. Dantonio has kept his word by giving them all a fair shot (consider camp and practices too).

So what is Dantonio to do now?
He knows. He has determined that Maxwell is the best quarterback, but the offense clearly does not work with Maxwell or O'Cookwell in there. He needs to add a new ingredient. He needs to add an element that does not exist in the current offense. He needs to add Damion Terry in heavy doses vs. Youngstown State.

The upside:
  • If DT truly does possess physical skills that other quarterbacks do not have, this offense clearly needs the help. 
  • If DT truly has "IT" as some have suggested, this offense needs as much of "IT" as is available.
  • It prepares Terry for 2014.
  • You have a low-mistake back-up in Maxwell (unless you take SpartanMan82's route of letting Maxwell be the holder on field goals the rest of his career).
The downside:
  • If the upside is just not true or Terry is just not ready, it could exacerbate the problems the offense is having by adding crucial mistakes the Spartans have avoided for the most part so far. 
  • If the upside is true, but the offense is so screwed up that even with the addition of Terry's strength's the offense remain anemic, it could spell disaster for the cohesiveness of an otherwise mentally tough team.
  • The way I understand the red-shirt rule, Terry would lose his ability to red-shirt, setting up a real log-jam at the QB position next year if he is the assumed starter. It could could lead to a disastrous (yet doubtful) transfer of both Cook and O'Connor. Likely, one will transfer if Terry is the assumed starter.
It is time. It doesn't mean it will work.

-R2G

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7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I know from personal experience that trying too hard leads to failure, not success. Putting more and more presessure, self-imposed, leads to thinking too much when just letting training and talent do the job is all it takes.

    They need to unwind and relax and start enjoying playing football again, sort of like in one of the "Mighty Ducks" sequels where the team went and played some street hockey versus a neighborhood team in order to get their heads straight.

    Just admit to yourselves, Spartan football players, that you are going to make mistakes and that everyone knows you will make mistakes and put that behind you. Worrying about making mistakes causes a substantial loss of focus, which seems to be a big part of what is going on.

    It's a game. Go out and enjoy it.

    You can't do any worse than you are right now so just say screw it and go play ball.

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  3. Maxwell can hold for extra points as well as field goals, and he can be used to stand up and throw three-yard bullet passes for two points each.

    As far as my previous comment about Terry only needing to be "as good as" the other guys, I take into account that he is in his first month, while O'Connor is in his 13th month, Cook is in his 25th month, and Maxwell is in his 49th month. I figure if Terry can hang with these guys after only one month, it may well be worth it to let him play now in hopes that he may be even better by the last month of the season.

    I still think Terry can play on Saturday as a "free-shot". With a quick search, I was only able to find a document from an NCAA member school that details the maximum number of games before the redshirt-option is lost. This copy-and-paste won't look great in this simple "comment" format, but here it is:

    "Here is the Maximum amount of competition(games or dates of competition) the student athlete can have and still receive a medical; Football can play in 3 of 11 games; Volleyball can play in 6 of 26 dates of competition; Women's and Men's Tennis 5 of 25 dates of competition; Men's and Women's Basketball 6 of 26 games; Baseball 10 of 50 games; Softball 12 of 56 game; Men's and Women's Golf 5 of 21 dates of competition; Men's and Women's Track 4 of 18 dates of competition."



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    1. Abuse of the medical redshirt does happen, but I would not encourage MSU to go down that path of misdirection or deceptions.

      Medical redshirts are intended for cases of hardship due to a medical condition, not a shuffling of the roster because things are not working out.

      Coach Dantonio knows the rules better than either of us and he will do the right thing if or when the time comes.

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  4. From the NCAA Website:

    http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/Resources/Behind+the+Blue+Disk/Division+I+Football+Recruiting

    What are redshirting and grayshirting? Redshirting and grayshirting are delays in a student-athlete’s participation with a team. Typically, a student-athlete is eligible to compete in a certain sport for four years. However, a student-athlete may wait to compete for up to two years, extending his or her eligibility to five or six years. During a redshirt year, a student-athlete is signed to a team, enrolls at the start of a school’s academic year and practices, but does not compete. In a grayshirt situation, a student-athlete attends college classes but is not an official member of a team and does not practice or compete.

    Why would a student-athlete choose to redshirt or grayshirt? There are many reasons student-athletes choose to redshirt. They may want to gain a year of practice with the team or add size and strength before competing. They may redshirt if playing opportunities at their position are limited. If a student-athlete loses the majority of a season to injury, he or she may apply for a hardship waiver, known as a medical redshirt. Typically, student-athletes choose to grayshirt if they are injured just before college and need a full year to recuperate.

    I am not convinced that a medical redshirt for Terry would happen if he played YSU.

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  5. From the NCAA Website:

    http://www.ncaa.org/blog/2011/12/reevaluating-the-most-important-rule/

    14.2.1 – Five-Year Rule.
    A student-athlete shall complete his or her seasons of participation within five calendar years from the beginning of the semester or quarter in which the student-athlete first registered for a minimum full-time program of studies in a collegiate institution, with time spent in the armed services, on official religious missions or with recognized foreign aid services of the U.S. government being excepted. For international students, service in the armed forces or on an official religious mission of the student’s home country is considered equivalent to such service in the United States.

    Collegiate eligibility is often thought of as being four years of playing and one redshirt year. The reality is that collegiate eligibility is four years of playing that must be completed within five years, leaving one year of cushion for anything that might happen to a student-athlete during their collegiate career. Redshirts, medical hardship waivers, transfer residence, nonqualifier residence, financial difficulties, academic ineligibility and reinstatement conditions all have to share that one year.

    The basics of the five-year rule state that once you start college, your Division I eligibility is gone after five years. And the only way to stop the march of the five-year rule is to join the military or go on a religious mission. There are some other exceptions for pregnancy and elite international competition. But for the vast majority of student-athletes, once the clock starts, it does not stop until the five years are up.

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