Tony Lippett has impressed coach Mark Dantonio in practice this week. (Al Goldis / Associated Press)
East Lansing — After a week off, things haven't dramatically changed for Michigan State and coach Mark Dantonio.
The offense is still looking for consistent production and more "explosive plays," as Dantonio has often described it, and the defense continues to be one of the best in the nation as the Spartans prepare to open Big Ten play Saturday at Iowa.
"The thing you're excited about when look at our team, defensively we're No. 1 in the nation in many things and No. 1 in the conference in a lot," Dantonio said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.
"When you look at offense, we've gotten to the red zone but need explosive plays. There's no question explosive plays are a factor and we're trying to create them. Our players are capable of making those plays."
Through the first four weeks of the season, the explosive plays have been scarce and the offensive production — save from a Week 3 blowout of Youngstown State — has been severely lacking.
It hasn't helped that the passing game, quarterbacks and wide receivers included, has not performed well. Connor Cook has started three games at quarterback and will again this week, while the battle for No. 2 continues between Andrew Maxwell and Tyler O'Connor.
Dantonio believes Cook will grow from the loss at Notre Dame, while the decision between Maxwell and O'Connor depends on the situation. When asked if O'Connor will get another shot, Dantonio was noncommittal.
"Is he the No. 2? Is he the No. 3?" Dantonio said. "Depends on how he practices, depends on the situation in the game."
While the quarterback spot looks much like it did two weeks ago, there has been some shuffling at wide receiver. Tony Lippett has become a co-starter with Aaron Burbridge while Bennie Fowler moves up to join Keith Mumphery. Macgarrett Kings Jr. is the only receiver holding a starting spot on his own.
Dantonio said he sees six receivers as starters and has been particularly happy with Lippett.
"I've been impressed with Tony Lippett these past three days," he said.
Dantonio added defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas is "making progress" and his availability for this week will depend on how much he practices in the next couple of days.