Michigan State QB eager to prove himself
By Jesse Temple
CHICAGO — Andrew Maxwell wants to make it clear that he isn't at Michigan State to fill the shoes of his predecessor. So fans and media members should stop asking how he intends to compare to Kirk Cousins.
Maxwell, the Spartans' newest starting quarterback, spent the past three seasons behind Cousins on the depth chart. And while Maxwell holds tremendous respect for Cousins' accomplishments, he'd like the chance to forge his own path without the parallels.
"Your agenda every day can't be trying to replace somebody," Maxwell said Friday during Big Ten media days. "Your agenda can't be trying to be somebody that you haven't been. I've been in that locker room. I've been on this team since 2009, and I've built friendships and brotherhoods with those guys in that locker room. They know me for me."
Even with Maxwell taking over, Cousins will be hard for fans in East Lansing to forget.
Cousins left Michigan State as the winningest quarterback in Spartans history with 27 victories, including 22 the past two seasons. He also finished his career as Michigan State's all-time record holder in several passing categories, including touchdowns (66), yards (9,131) and completions (723).
Maxwell, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound redshirt junior from Midland, Mich., has never started a college game. In his career, he has completed 29 of 51 passes for 294 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"If I can just continue to be me and not try to be Kirk Cousins — obviously I'm going to put in the work and the effort it takes to be a successful quarterback on the field — but as far as personality-wise and being my own person, I think that will kind of take care of itself."
Competitive (im)balance: Much was made during Big Ten media days about the fairness of the conference's Legends and Leaders divisions as the 2012 season nears.
Because of NCAA sanctions handed down to Ohio State and Penn State, just four teams are eligible to compete for the Big Ten championship out of the Leaders Division: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue. All six teams are eligible in the Legends Division, including top-tier teams Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa.
"You can't control what happens," Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs said. "Obviously, just looking at it from an outsider's perspective, of course it's going to be harder if you're in a six-team versus a four-team. Am I crazy or does that make sense? But you can't control those things that happen. We'll just play football and go from there and hopefully we'll make it to the Big Ten championship game."
As for whether the divisions are fair?
"I don't think it's unfair," Kovacs said. "We can control how many games we're going to win. That's fair right there."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke addressed the same issue Thursday during his media session.
"I think the only thing I can tell you is this is such an unbelievable circumstance," Hoke said. "But at the same time, life's not fair. And whether it's fair or not, it doesn't matter. We have a schedule to play.
Hoosier blues: Indiana didn't exactly shake the shoes of opposing teams on the way to a 1-11 finish last season that included a winless Big Ten record.
Hoosiers center Will Matte said putting another bagel in the conference win column in 2012 would be simply unacceptable.
"It honestly makes you sick," Matte said. "I was nervous coming here because you feel like no one cares about you and all the work you put in throughout the year. It's just tough.
"At the end of the day, you have to win. We have to be able to build a foundation to do that."
Under first-year coach Kevin Wilson last year, the Hoosiers allowed 37.3 points per game. Only six FBS teams in the country surrendered more points.
"I think we'll be a lot better on defense," Wilson said, "but we're not at a point physically in year two to play lights-out great defense."
Wilson acknowledged that the Hoosiers needed to score more points to have any chance this season, and quarterback Tre Roberson would be a key component to making that happen.
A year ago, Indiana averaged 21.4 points per game, which ranked 101st out of 120 FBS teams.
"That's as poor an offense as I've been around since 1999," Wilson said.
Lesson learned: Illinois earned the dubious distinction last season of being the first FBS team to lose six games in a row after starting a season 6-0. The skid led to coach Ron Zook's firing and taught Illini players a valuable lesson.
"You have to play the seventh game as hard as you play the first game," Illini defensive end Michael Buchanan said. "That was a lesson that we learned that we're really going to try to instill in the younger guys. We can't lag off in the middle of the season. We've got to continue to do the little things right and obviously not let that happen again."
First-year coach Tim Beckman said he tried to change his team's mentality during the offseason by creating more competition.
"That was one thing that I challenged our football players was in those last six football games, where was the sense of competition, individually and as a football team?" he said.
Illinois returns 13 starters, including quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Last season, Scheelhaase passed for 2,110 yards with 13 touchdowns and rushed for 624 yards with six touchdowns.
"He's one of those guys that people will follow," Buchanan said. "They'll do things he does because he's very humble, very genuine in everything he says. Whatever he has to do, he's going to do it to help us win."
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