East Lansing — Connor Cook has thrown four interceptions in two spring games, but heading into Saturday’s Green and White game, coach Mark Dantonio is far from worried.
That’s because the quarterback, entering his final season, has been “nearly flawless” for the bulk of spring practice.
“For the first eight practices he didn’t have a turnover,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “So sometimes they just come. Part of the game. Pressure, etc.”
Cook and the offense were impressive, according to Dantonio, for the bulk of last weekend’s scrimmage before a pair of interceptions from the player who led the Big Ten last season with 3,214 passing yards.
He finished 17-for-26 for 178 yards and had a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jamal Lyles. That came after he was 14-for-20 for 126 yards and two interceptions in the first scrimmage.
But, Dantonio pointed out, there was much more to it than just the play of the quarterback.
“Sometimes a wide receiver may come out of his break at a different time,” Dantonio said. “A lot of routes are timing routes. He had one bad throw.
“But the other one was a combination of things. Combination of great play, combination of receiver broke his route, things of that nature. So there’s a lot of things going on out there. But no (I’m not concerned). Not really. No.”
There are bound to be some kinks to be worked out after the receiving corps lost Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery. There is, however, still plenty for Cook to work with.
The Spartans have depth at tight end, including Lyles and Josiah Price, while there are plenty of playmakers at wide receiver, led by Aaron Burbridge, Macgarrett Kings Jr. and R.J. Shelton.
After the final scrimmage, Cook talked about the things he needed to work on before next season.
“I want to continue to work on my accuracy as well as work on making the right read and going to the right spot with the football,” he said. “I’ll also strive to continue to become a better leader.”
It’s easy to understand why Dantonio and the Spartans are confident in Cook.
He has been named second team all-Big Ten the past two seasons, MVP in the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl while also throwing a touchdown pass in a school-record 16 straight games.
“I think he has shown improvement in his footwork, he’s been very accurate, he knows the system very well,” Dantonio said. “He’s been accurate on his throws.
“Like I said the other day, he was nearly flawless until the very end of the scrimmage. Played very well.”
No worries on line
Another reason the Spartans have no concerns with Cook is the play of the offensive line.
Jack Allen anchors the experienced unit at center, while left tackle Jack Conklin enters his junior season as a potential All-American.
Right guard Donavon Clark is entering his senior season and right tackle Kodi Kieler, who will be a junior, started eight games in 2014. Sophomore left guard Brian Allen saw time at three positions as a true freshman.
“Offensive line is very solid,” Dantonio said. “I thought our two running backs — (Madre) London and (Gerald) Holmes — ran the ball effectively last week. ... We’ve got guys that have played, we have two All-Big Ten performers back.”
The staff also will be in game mode Saturday, and that means a few changes on defense.
Dantonio said co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett will remain in the coaches box, where he was along with former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi in recent years. He’ll be joined by Mike Tressel, the other co-defensive coordinator. Linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Mark Snyder will be on the field with defensive line coach Ron Burton.
Green and White game
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Free youth clinic: Kids 8-12 meet from 10-11:30 a.m. on field behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.