Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell has received negative criticism from all angles this season. The first year starter has not been as effective as former MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins, however he does not have the offensive weapons Cousins had. MSU quarterback coach Dave Warner says that Maxwell is taking more blame than he deserves. Warner stated in an interview with the Detroit Free Press that he feels experience is the downfall for the Spartans this year. Warner had this to say:
"I think he's(Maxwell)gotten a bad rap, yeah,because I think it's us, as an offense. I guess, more than anything, we probably found out how important experience was at the skill positions overall. We probably took that a little bit for granted last year."
Warner went on to explain the importance of last year's receiving and quarterback units. The Spartans lost key pieces that accounted for their success last year. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was a proven leader who was a three year captain and starter for MSU. Wide receiver BJ Cunningham left MSU as the all time leader in receptions and receiving yards. Receiver Keshawn Martin served as an all purpose threat for the Spartans.
This year Maxwell is working with players who lack experience. Receiver Aaron Burbridge shows tremendous promise for the future. The true freshman has had breakout moments this season. Receivers Tony Lippett and Benny Fowler are starting to become more consistent passing threats. The biggest passing threat seems to be tight end Dion Sims. Sims has put together a respectable season and is considered a solid draft prospect (it looks like he might stay to improve his statistics and draft stock... he has had some injury issues). It is easy to see how Maxwell is having a difficult year. He lacks a consistent target. The young receiving core is finally gelling... unfortunately the season is nearing an end.
Look at Maxwell's stats... his longest pass of the year is 48 yards. He lacks a deep threat. Someone needs to step up and show their "big play" potential. In his defense, Maxwell has posted numbers that are respectable given the circumstance he is in (2,138 yards 10 touchdowns 5 interceptions 54.2% completion rating). Coach Warner analyzed the situation even further and has pointed out that the line play has been mediocre. They need to create time for Maxwell. On the receiving side, the wideouts need to create space and release quicker off the line. Creating separation is a skill often overlooked by outsiders. Seasoned receivers understand, however for younger receivers it can be a tough concept to grasp. Division One cornerbacks are some of the best athletes in the country... separation is key when going up against a skilled secondary.
The one critique that Maxwell should accept is his tendency to overthrow or "misfire" on pass plays. He rushes plays that are not there. Sometimes it is better to sit back and analyze, but if the play is not their it is better to create a play with your feet or throw the ball away. Forcing plays is far too risky, especially for a quarterback with little experience.
Fans have the right to voice their opinions. The average fan pays good money to support their team and they expect a high quality product on the field. As students, we pay a good price for our tickets too ($165 season tickets... University of Alabama students pay $35 for the season). We have the right to say how we feel, however we should support our players and a true fan will take the time to get a better understanding of the game. If a fan gains knowledge and understands the difficulty of a sport, they can slightly sympathize with a struggling team/player. Casual fans can make ignorant statements, but they hold no weight.
Coach Warner should be commended for standing up for Maxwell and the Spartans. This is a storied program, and despite a road bump this year MSU is back on the upswing. It is demoralizing for a player to lose fan support... if a coach has little faith in a player what does that do to him? As a whole the Spartans should listen to Coach Warner, work hard, and play for pride...wether it be pride in being a Spartan, pride of the fans, or personal pride.