Maybe, just maybe, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has found a new offensive religion.
At last Saturday's scrimmage, Dantonio threw off the chains and inserted fourth-string true freshman Damion Terry into the mix at quarterback after two weeks of not seeing what he wanted from senior Andrew Maxwell, sophomore Connor Cook and redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor.
The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Terry is a potential mold-breaker in Michigan State's conservative pro-style offense.
The Pennsylvania high school player of the year isn't a dropback technician. He's an improviser and creator and a general pain to tackle.
Terry moved the No. 3 offense well Saturday. Then he worked with the No. 2s and did it again. The coaches bumped him up with the starters, and the offense continued to hum, with Terry in the middle of it all — 280 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
“The guy who made plays was Damion Terry,” Dantonio said. “He's a big, physical guy. He's sudden, and he can create. He's still a freshman and that's the thing that bothers you a little. But he can create.”
Now comes the part that makes you wonder if Dantonio truly is about to flip to a different chapter in his offensive bible.
“The name of the game is you've got to create at quarterback,” he said. “You've got to take a bad play and make it a good one because things are going to break down. That's just the way football is.”
It sounds like Dantonio, an old defensive guy, is tired of trying to stop dual-threat guys without having one of his own to create headaches for the opponent.
Clearly, this has given the media in Michigan plenty to pontificate about.
A four-quarterback race just 10 days out from the Spartans' first game is a second-guesser's delight. Dantonio fanned the flames by saying all four will get first-team reps the rest of this week in practice.
He even referenced the success of Michigan State's powerhouse men's basketball team using young leadership.
“Tom Izzo plays a freshman point guard all the time,” Dantonio said. “When that guy asserts himself and takes control ... that's the guy who is going to play.”
Defensive players interviewed gushed about Terry's performance. From Mlive.com:
Ľ “It wasn't just the plays he ran,” linebacker Taiwan Jones said. “It's how he came in, he was calm, he wasn't erratic like every other freshman who comes in.”
Ľ “I didn't think he'd take off like he does,” end Shilique Calhoun said. “He can run. When he first came in, they told us he would run, but I didn't know he could run like that. ... He just has it.”
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Terry was expected to redshirt. Now?
Some writers near the MSU program have opined that Terry playing immediately would mess up the quarterback depth chart for the future because Maxwell is a senior and the other two candidates might look to transfer if bypassed on the depth chart.
I say there's no better time than now for Michigan State to use Terry. Sure, he'll make some mistakes. But he'll have one of the nation's top five defenses to cover for him. And no one else at that position has dazzled.
If Dantonio has any qualms, maybe he should dial up former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne.
In 1992, the Huskers had a fifth-year senior starter at quarterback (Mike Grant). But it didn't stop Osborne from installing true freshman Tommie Frazier as the starter for good in the sixth game.
That move set Nebraska football on a new and improved path for a decade. That possibility exists at Michigan State, too.
Let's hit something
Max Bullough's job on the football field is to smash people.
Michigan State's first-team All-Big Ten middle linebacker comes from a long line of smashers. Both grandfathers, his father and three uncles played major-college football, and his younger brother Riley is a freshman at MSU.
To no one's surprise, Bullough is not a fan of the new hit-to-the-head rules this season that could lead to broader ejections.
“It's stupid,” he said. “It's football. It's dangerous. Get over it.”
Kill feels he's in great shape
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who suffers from epilepsy and has had seizures during games before, is noticeably thinner than past seasons.
“I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life,” he said. “I'm doing great. And I've got a great doctor that is a specialist in epilepsy.”
Kill, known for his full-bore approach to life, is lending his enthusiasm to Minnesota's recently announced plan to spend $190 million on athletic facilities over six to eight years.
“We have a beautiful stadium to play in on Saturdays,” he said. “But we really need to get better with our practice sites and academic area and strength training. The time is now.”
Bits and pieces
Ľ Purdue coach Darrell Hazell has picked fifth-year senior Rob Henry to start the first game at quarterback. That leaves Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana with ongoing quarterback competitions.
Ľ Wisconsin is looking at quarterback Tanner McEvoy as a part-time wide receiver, saying the 6-6 juco transfer is too good an athlete not to be on the field.
Ľ Early word is that Nebraskans looking for tickets to the Oct. 26 game at Minnesota better go to the bank first. Ducats are scarce and expensive.