Mark Dantonio announced Michigan State’s captains Wednesday night via Twitter. By that time, Andrew Maxwell knew he wouldn’t be one – a year after the quarterback’s teammates voted him into the leadership position as a junior.
It’s entirely rare to see someone lose their captaincy after being named one as an underclassman. It should happen to MSU’s basketball team because Russell Byrd almost assuredly won’t be a second-time captain in basketball. And Thursday night, it happened to senior quarterback Maxwell as his fellow Spartans elected linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and offensive lineman Blake Treadwell as the 2013 season captains.
Dantonio was quick to spin it positively: Maxwell remains an important leader, got a number of votes from his teammates in the democratic process, will be part of the leadership council of 12, that the picks were more about what these other three had done rather than what Maxwell hadn’t done, that he’ll be one of the rotating fourth captains one week this year.
Etc., etc. Fine, that’s solid motivational talk. But perception often is reality.
The fact is two quiet but productive players – Treadwell and Dennard – got the vote of confidence from their peers this year; Maxwell didn’t. Quarterbacks are almost always considered the leaders, unless they’re an inexperienced underclassman. Yet Maxwell stood out enough to his teammates a year ago to be elected captain without having started once and with having taken minimal meaningful snaps.
So does this mean mutiny on the H.M.S. Dantonio? Does it mean Maxwell is out of a job? Not necessarily.
Nothing is done within the Spartans’ program without intent – see Dantonio opting to choose the three guys who ended up as captain and not Maxwell to represent MSU at the Big Ten media days in Chicago last month. And yes, Maxwell attended that event as well last year.
What this appears to be is more of a smoke screen, similar to how Dantonio gushed on Monday about Damion Terry’s weekend scrimmage performance. That day, the coach painted the QB race as still being a four-man battle. By Thursday, Dantonio said he knows who he plans to start and seemed to be cooling again on Terry.
Talking so much and exclusively about Terry on Monday was meant to light a fire under the three QBs in the mix. Dantonio proceeded to talk about seeing “flashes” from Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor in practice, which means they also lack the consistency he wants from the position.
Which leaves Maxwell, who fits the don’t-make-mistakes footprint that Dantonio also brought up when talking Monday about what he needed to see from Terry to prevent a redshirt. Ball security always reigns supreme in Dantonio’s mind, and that’s what he hopes having a veteran senior with a full season of game experience means.
Treadwell said Maxwell handled the news in his typically even-keeled manner. Exactly what Dantonio expects from his QB.
“He’s still a leader. He’s still gonna lead this offense,” Treadwell said. “He’s the quarterback – it starts in the huddle from his words, and we put it into action.”