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Michigan State Football: 2016 Green and White Game Quarterback Preview

Michigan State's Green and White game offers Tyler O'Connor, Damion Terry, Brian Lewerke and Messiah DeWeaver a chance to state their cases.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

For the 2016 Michigan State Spartans, one of the biggest questions will be at the most critical position of them all.

Gone is one of the program's best ever in Connor Cook, along with his school-record 9,194 yards with 71 touchdowns and a lot of winning. It's going to feel weird not seeing the three-year starter back this year, and now the Spartans must replace the man who finished his career as the winningest quarterback in school history with a 34-5 record, two Big Ten Championship Games and three bowl victories.

And of course, the man who replaces Cook will not simply be handed that job, regardless of what his prior accolades may feature. Head coach Mark Dantonio had fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor begin spring football with the top spot on the depth chart, and he's still the favorite entering Friday's Green and White Game to be the Week 1 starter.

That's how it should be after the way O'Connor filled in for an injured Cook last season. O'Connor made only one start, but it was the biggest regular-season game for MSU. He led the Spartans to an upset win over Ohio State at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 21 to help his team eventually secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound O'Connor was 7-of-12 passing for 89 yards and a touchdown with eight rushes for 25 yards. The defense won the game, but O'Connor did come up big in several key moments of that game to help the Spartans pull off the massive win.

O'Connor has kept the momentum going with a solid spring and looks poised to win the starting job.

"I feel very confident with how I've played this spring," O'Connor told "I feel like I've played very consistent. That was my goal going into the spring. I feel like I threw very well, I was very accurate."

Competing with O'Connor has been fourth-year junior Damion Terry, redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and true freshman Messiah DeWeaver. For now, Terry looks like the likeliest to push O'Connor for the starting spot after the two battled for the backup job last season.

Terry even played in that near-miraculous win at Ohio State, completing 1-of-4 passes for two yards while rushing for 25 yards on eight carries, though it was mainly O'Connor who led all three scoring drives.

Though these two are fighting for what may end being their lone shots at becoming full-time starting quarterbacks in college, Terry and O'Connor are good friends just enjoying the process.

"It'll be fun, I guess, is how you've got to look at it," O'Connor told the Detroit Free-Press. "I mean, Damion is one of my best friends. It'll be a good competition. Obviously we're both very excited to get into it. ... I've just got to keep improving my leadership, improving my accuracy.

"I do feel I've got a great grasp of the offense, great grasp of seeing defenses, reading coverages, things like that. So my leadership has got to increase more than it ever has. Obviously being a backup the past four years, it's hard to be a leader when you're not playing, which is pretty obvious. It's time to step it up a notch and be ready to go."

Don't count out Lewerke, a former three-star prospect from the 2015 class, or deWeaver, a four-star ESPN 300 recruit. As of now, they're the future of this position for Michigan State, so if Dantonio and the coaching staff see that future needs to start this year, those two will get their shots.

Whatever happens, Saturday will provide a small glimpse into what the future holds.