O’Connor leads QB battle but isn’t ‘make-or-break guy’

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Tyler O'Connor

Chicago – The preseason depth chart says Michigan State doesn’t have a clear No. 1 at quarterback and coach Mark Dantonio said he isn’t naming one yet.

However, it’s clear who has the inside track to replacing Connor Cook – fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor.

“Tyler obviously is in the lead right now,” Dantonio said Tuesday at Big Ten media days. “But I'm not going to have the pressure put on one position to say this is the make-or-break guy. That's just the way we're going to do it at this point in time.”

O’Connor is listed as the co-starter with junior Damion Terry on the preseason depth chart, followed by redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and freshman Messiah deWeaver. O’Connor has the most experience of the group and was the catalyst in Michigan State’s victory at Ohio State last season when Cook sat out with a shoulder injury.

Dantonio said it will be a competition throughout preseason camp, but a prolonged battle like the one in 2013 that ultimately ended with Cook taking control of the job in the Big Ten opener seems hard to imagine.

“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.”

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O’Connor is 34-for-54 for 374 yards and four touchdowns in his career. He’s thrown two interceptions and has scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. He was part of the quarterback battle in 2013 with Cook, Terry and Andrew Maxwell but saw limited playing time early in the season behind Cook and Maxwell.

He started and took the bulk of the snaps in the 17-14 win at Ohio State last season.

“Tyler O'Connor is a fifth-year senior,” Dantonio said. “He's been in the system four years, been behind a great quarterback. He's been waiting his opportunity.”

Davis likely OK for sixth year

Dantonio said linebacker Ed Davis is on track to gain his sixth year of eligibility and be ready for preseason camp.

“Ed Davis working for his sixth year,” Dantonio said. “Has to graduate to do that. He's currently in a class to do that and doing well.”

Davis injured his knee during preseason camp last year and missed the entire 2015 season. Before the season, he was on the Bednarik Award watch list for the top defensive player and was named to several preseason All-Big Ten teams.

Davis was honorable mention All-Big Ten as a junior in 2014, collecting 58 tackles and 12 for loss, including seven sacks.