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East Lansing — Connor Cook earned Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl MVP honors while leading Michigan State to two straight bowl victories.

But the Michigan State quarterback is hardly resting on his laurels.

He'll be a senior this fall, and already is putting plenty of expectations on himself and his team — and anything less than a championship will be a huge disappointment.

"When you win a championship and you win your conference, that's the most fulfilling feeling I've ever felt," Cook said this week after a winter conditioning session. "Knowing you are outright champs in your conference and you're going to a great bowl — we went to a great bowl game in Dallas, but we didn't play for a championship in our conference.

"I think that's the standard and that's been the goal since Coach (Mark) Dantonio has been here."

That began with a share of the title in 2010 and another by beating Ohio State in the 2013 title game. But the Buckeyes got the best of the Spartans last season on their way to the national championship.

And though Michigan State beat Baylor in the Cotton Bowl and finished No. 5 in the nation, Cook classified it as not being good enough.

"Maybe if we were 11-2 and won a Big Ten championship, it would have been great," Cook said. "It's the fact we didn't win the Big Ten championship, didn't win our conference, that's why it was a disappointment."

Michigan State will have its work cut out again this season to get that championship as it travels to Ohio State. But that's why the offseason workouts are so important.

Cook said he has seen plenty of leadership from throughout the roster and that he has made an effort become one of the Spartans' primary leaders.

"I've been more vocal this year and earning guys' respect," Cook said. "But it's not just me, everybody is stepping up. We've got a handful of leaders out here and being the quarterback you've got to be the first in line in all the drills and coaching up other guys and holding them accountable, and I've been doing that."

He's been doing more than just leading, however, and will spend next week in California with quarterbacks guru George Whitfield.

Cook will have specific goals to accomplish while working with Whitfield.

"Things I need to work on from my self-evaluation just watching this past year, I feel like my pocket presence could be a little bit better, fighting the instinct to run and stepping up in the pocket with a lot of chaos going on around," Cook said.

Cook also has spent time watching film and critiquing his play from last season, and hopes to be more patient in the pocket.

"Using our backs in the passing game as check downs, going from one, two, three … the third read and instead of trying to run or create something with my feet just dump it down to a back," he said. "There were so many times I'm watching on film and it could be third-and-5, second-and-10, first-and-10, where I drop back and my second and third guy isn't open and I try to make something happen with my feet and Jeremy Langford or Delton Williams or Nick Hill is running wide open in the middle of the field and I don't even look at them."

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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