What MSU coach Mark Dantonio said about Damion Terry (verbatim) and what I think he meant

There was essentially one question facing Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio before Monday morning’s practice: Um, coach, so Damion Terry?

MSU’s heralded freshman quarterback put together an eye-opening scrimmage Saturday, according to the numbers and to Dantonio.

Dantonio talked openly Monday about Terry’s prospects of playing QB for the Spartans this season. This wasn’t off-the-cuff. Everything he said was calculated.

Here’s a transcript of what he said, and, after each answer, why he said it or what I think it means …

Q: What’s realistic for Terry?

Dantonio: We’ve got to see if he’s consistent with his performance that he displayed on Saturday and we’re going to find that out. Is it a one-time thing or is there consistency there. I think when you have a freshman, the learning curve is so big. Where you’re at on Practice 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 is distinctly different from where you’re at on Practice 16, 17, 18, 19. I that’s what we have to find out, because I think we need consistency there. But there’s no question he made some plays. He made some big-time throws and that’s exciting to watch.

My take: Dantonio might have been taken by surprise by Terry’s performance Saturday. The freshman QB had all but dropped off the radar and out of the conversation for this season. There’s a reason for that. He hadn’t done much to show he was close to ready — before Saturday. The question now is whether Saturday was an epiphany or a just really good day for a young guy with a lot of talent. If it’s the latter, he can’t play. The bad days for freshman QBs are too costly.

Q: Has Terry had any live work?

Dantonio: We did go live on Saturday. We turned it up and went live. I think we needed to do that, especially with him. We did that a little bit with some of the other quarterbacks, as well. Probably went less than half but more than a third was live with the quarterbacks.

My take: That MSU went live with any of its QBs — other than Terry — this close to the season is a sign no one has won the job and that the coaches aren’t comfortable with where these guys stand. If you’ve got a guy who is ready, he doesn’t get hit in a scrimmage less than two weeks before the opener.

Q: Were Terry’s reps scripted?

Dantonio: As the scrimmage progressed, he did well with the 3s (third unit). I sort of shrugged my shoulders and put him with the 2s. (Then) I sort of shrugged my shoulders and put him with the 1s. It’s not that complicated. You’re going to play the guys that move the football down the field, that don’t make mistakes that can create. I’ve said that all along and he demonstrated that. I hate to say that it’s a four-man race or anything like that. Obviously, there is differences in terms of who has the most knowledge and things of that nature. This is about consistency over a period of time. But, you have to give people the opportunities and I’ve said that all along. I think that’s refreshing when a freshman gets an opportunity, because it proves what we say is correct. We’re going to give everybody an opportunity and we’re going to try to be very consistent and fair about this in all respects. And our players, hopefully, they understand that.

My take: Dantonio told Terry he’d get an opportunity during his recruitment — Terry talked about it publicly — and he’s trying to live up to that, and in saying so, he’s sending a message to other recruits that he’s a man of his word on this. But I also think Dantonio is tired of seeing offense without movement. And when he sees the offense move behind a certain quarterback, that QB is going to keep getting chances.

Q: How will the quarterback reps be divided this week?

Dantonio: I want to see everybody getting reps with the 1s and the 2s or the 2s and the 1s and try to make it equal. But at some point in time, they’re going to have to stand on what they’ve done, just like they have to do that during games.

… The bottom line is what do they do to be successful on the field and the best way to handle that is by past experiences and then also what’s happening currently in scrimmage situations. We’ll go a little bit live today, or whatever we’ve got to do, but we’re going to find out.

My take: A decision on Terry has to be made quickly. The rest of these guys, as I wrote in a column early this month, will be made by their performances on Saturdays early in the season. Terry will have to be consistently productive and avoid costly mistakes through the next week or the redshirt stays on — which I think it will.

Q: Is there any possibility he could start?

Dantonio: Tough to say right now because we don’t have this next week-and-a-half in the bank. What we have seen is that he made plays in the scrimmage, he throws a good ball, he made plays with his feet and that’s all you can assess. You can assess, at the beginning of the scrimmage it was a three-horse race. And at the end of the scrimmage it was a four-horse race.

… Tom Izzo plays a freshman point guard all the time, all the time, right? When that guy asserts himself and takes control of the football team or the basketball team, that’s the guy who’s going to play. I don’t care if he’s a senior, sophomore, junior, redshirt freshman or freshman, that’s the best thing to do. Damion has to prove consistency of performance. The other guys have to prove more consistency. They’ve got to break away from their own three-man race.

My take: No. There’s no chance he starts. Andrew Maxwell starts the opener, because not doing so ruins him and you can’t go back. The freshman point guard comparison is shoddy, too, because hoops is so different. Playing in a pro-style Division I offense is much more complex and the sport is so much more physical. But Dantonio is clearly not happy that the other three haven’t separated themselves.

Terry will redshirt, I still believe. But this is an interesting story line, because of what it says about his ceiling (all good) and the other QBs (not so good).

I’ll have more in a column for Tuesday’s Lansing State Journal.

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26 Responses to What MSU coach Mark Dantonio said about Damion Terry (verbatim) and what I think he meant

  1. avatar TimD says:

    Was Tommy Rees ruined when Brian Kelly started Everitt Golson ahead of him?

  2. avatar Cal says:

    Terry could start the opener. Not only is this is the perfect year to bring him in with our strength of schedule, but it would speak volumes to recruits about their chance to play early. With J Campbell coming in 2015, there is more on the way.

    He can get a few plays in the first few games and still redshirt. I’m not saying it’s a sure thing by any means, but I’d give the chance of him starting the season as our #1 at close to 50/50.

    Our most important game this year? The Acorns in the B1G title game. He’ll be plenty ready by then.


  3. avatar msu76 says:

    We did not win a home conference game last year, we did not get into the red zone last year vs Notre Dame & we scored zero points in the first half of our bowl game (where we were fortunate to block a punt and Leveon Bell threw for the most yards). We lost to a terrible Iowa team at home! Time to give Maxwell the clipboard and get back to winning.

  4. avatar GoSt8Go says:

    GC, the last take didn’t sound like your interpretation of what MD said, but rather your own opinion. The rest of it seemed to follow your script. It doesn’t seem clear to MD that he knows for sure what he’ll do with Terry, nor does he have to make that decision.

    Know that it’s clear why these QB’s are going live right now. MD has the bodies and critical decision making under pressure was the number one area to fix with the QB position from last season. Nothing to do with where we are in summer camp at this point unless one of them had clearly made a distinction. I don’t think anyone is surprised that No’s 1-3 are battling live right now.

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      I agree with you that GC is just guessing on Dantonios thoughts, I think the whole issue is fluid right now, Dantonio is looking for a QB who can create , he will adapt to whoever is creating for him.

      • avatar GoSt8Go says:

        That wasn’t what I said. I agree with Graham on most if his interpretations of MD’s statements, just not the last one. MD’s quandary is he needs a creative QB that will limit mistakes. With this defense, the Spartan offense cannot afford make mistakes that lead to the opponent’s defense putting points on the board, or getting exceptional field position. That’s MD’s point with the consistency comments.

        • avatar Spartan 81 says:

          On the contrary I am in complete agreement with you he will start any QB who will create as long as mistakes don’t give points away. I think it’s fluid and he is in the evaluating process. I also think he will reach his decision based on what he feels would give us the best chance to win. If maxwell starts its not because he is afraid of ruining him if he doesnt

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Do you happen to know who the last Spartan QB in the post PerlesTed era not to be redshirted was? I thought it might have been Stanton but I was mistaken.

  5. avatar TruGhostofBo says:

    Firey One,

    Izzo’s offense is a “pro style” division 1 basketball offense. That’s not a shoddy comparison, at all. Right now, based on, practice performance & numbers, provided, Terry seems to be “that guy” If Dantonio continues along the path he so stubbornly followed last year because he doesn’t want to “ruin” Maxwell, MSU will have 1 or 2 more victories, and that is only because the schedule is more favorable, not because the offense improved. Yesterday, Dantonio was telling the media how the receivers were “going after” Terrys’ passes. When was that last time that happened with the 3 returning QB’s???????

    • avatar The most interesting man in the world says:

      The women at my table continue to be amazed by your basketball knowledge they long too see you give Izzo some coaching advice

      I don’t often read this blog but when I do I drink Dos Equis

      Stay thirsty my friend

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Did Drew Stanton play as a freshman?

      • avatar MSU Owns Beilien says:

        he was on special teams and blew his knew out in the bowl game vs nebraska

        • avatar reality check says:

          And he spit the bit against Michigan Belein wilting against a quality defense

        • avatar The most interesting man in the world says:

          The women at my table grow weary of Dantonios tales of adventures they long for a QB who is skilled in the art of penetrating the red zone.

          Stay Thirstymy friend

      • avatar TruGhostofBo says:

        Stanton redshirted through Michigan State’s 2002 campaign before serving as the #2 QB behind Jeff Smoker in 2003. In 2003, he also played on special teams where he made several impressive open field tackles. However, Stanton injured his knee in the Alamo Bowl against the University of Nebraska while covering a punt and had to undergo reconstructive surgery.[3] After becoming the starter in 2004, Drew received regional and national praise for his play on the field and was also named an Academic All-American.

  6. avatar ray osborn says:

    O’Connor or Cook whichever one performs during the first 3 games. give the clipboard to Maxwell.

  7. avatar Fred Peach says:

    Keep in mind Dantonio has been a ramblin gamblin man, maybe not with a decision of this magnitude, but he certainly has a record of going unorthodox and not just with trick plays. Think of LT switching between O and D, R Bullough to RB, Cousins over super recruit/transfer Nichol. I think it is game on this week for Terry having a very realistic shot. Clearly he is the most dynamic player of the 4 and if he shows he can handle the play book and avoid big mistakes, he could be the guy. We should know by the end of this week.

  8. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Both Cousins and Bell sustain foot injuries last night, must be the shoes.

  9. avatar The most interesting man in the world says:

    The women at my table have this question for the boldest among you

    If an older woman chasing a younger man is a Cougar, does it not follow that an older man chasing a younger man is a Nittany Lion.?

    Stay Thirsty my friends

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