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Mark Dantonio talks QB battle; admits Tyler O'Connor still leading

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Tyler O'Connor will probably be the starting QB this fall, but Andrew Maxwell is a good example as to why the opening day starter won't necessarily keep his job.

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For Michigan State, one of the biggest questions entering the 2016 season comes at the most important position.

Quarterback is an area the Spartans have been fortunate enough to consistently have solid play at over the past decade. Whether it was Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins or Connor Cook, this is an area MSU has been set at for much of Mark Dantonio's tenure.

However, with Cook having just finished his college career as he's now suiting up for the Raiders, Dantonio is left to find who the next Spartans QB will be. Entering summer camp, fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor remains the favorite to win the job after finishing spring football as the No. 1 QB.

But while Dantonio admits O'Connor is "obviously in the lead right now," he's still going to keep this race open and put the pressure on O'Connor to win the job, not have it handed to him.

That's what happened in 2012, when Dantonio essentially handed the starting gig to Andrew Maxwell, who would struggle mightily until Cook eventually replaced him. It only seems fair that 2012 season was MSU's only year without winning at least 11 games under Dantonio since 2010.

Dantonio isn't making that mistake again, and he stressed that at Big Ten Media Days this past week.

"I think what I learned about that as a head football coach is don't anoint somebody and put the pressure all on one individual, because then this all comes on one individual, and I want it to be spread over the position group as a whole," Dantonio told mlive.com.

"We're going to keep the pressure on our quarterback position and on our quarterback coach, Brad Salem," Dantonio said. "I think that's the thing to do right now. Not dependent on one guy. Not to say, hey, he's our guy. That will be defined through August camp and early in the season. But we're going to give people opportunities."

To be fair to O'Connor, he already has more experience and success than Maxwell did when he was handed the job. It took just one game for that to become true when O'Connor filled in for an injured Cook last season, when he led the Spartans to an upset win over Ohio State to help MSU secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship.

O'Connor has kept the momentum going with a solid spring and looks poised to win the starting job, but Dantonio will still give fourth-year junior Damion Terry, redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and true freshman Messiah DeWeaver a chance to win the job.

"What I've seen from all four of our quarterbacks gives me great indication that, although we're going to miss Connor, that position is in great health and as strong as it's been, top to bottom," Dantonio said.

Whoever wins the job, it's just good to see someone will actually win it vs have it handed it to them. That's just too critical of a position to pick the wrong guy at.