Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/2/12
EAST LANSING, Mich.-- Gone is the three-time starting quarterback and team captain for Michigan State. It was a little strange when the Spartans took the field to open spring football practice last week and not see No. 8, Kirk Cousins, in charge of the huddle. Cousins rewrote the program's record book, but his longtime heir apparent, Andrew Maxwell, is now the man in charge. "It was different, weird," said Maxwell, a fourth-year junior from Midland, Mich. "For three years, when they yelled 'ones' (first-team), Kirk and the group ran out there. Now that's my group. It's going to take some getting used to. "But it's a challenge I've been waiting for, a challenge I'm ready to accept." Cousins left Michigan State as the school's all-time winningest quarterback with a 27-12 record as the starter, including 22-5 his last two years. He broke the school records for passing touchdowns, passing yards, completions, passing efficiency, total offense and 200-yard games. All Maxwell really has done is have a up-close view of his predecessor's success. His playing has been minimal, mostly when the outcome of the game already had been determined. In nine games over the last two seasons, Maxwell completed 29-of-51 passes (56.9 percent) for 294 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. By the time he takes the field for the opening game on August 31 against Boise State, it will have been nearly four years since he started a game. The last one came during his senior year at Midland High in 2008. "It's going to be an adjustment," Maxwell said. "Everything happens a little faster, everything's a little more intense. "You can try to replicate it in practice, but it's just not the same until the bright lights come on and it's game day." From all indications, Maxwell is ready to pick up right where Cousins left off. There are some people around the program who actually feel he potentially could be better than Cousins. One year as a redshirt and two more as the backup have given Maxwell tremendous behind-the-scenes experience. But what no one - not even coach Mark Dantonio - knows for sure, is how Maxwell will respond when he's faced with third-and-8 in the final minutes of a big game before more than 70,000 roaring fans. "He's been in the system, he's game-ready," Dantonio said. "I think he'll be an outstanding quarterback. "Andrew is very much like Kirk in a lot of ways. Their personalities, very faith-driven, intelligent players, hard workers, very good teammates and good leaders. "We're very fortunate to have him be as patient, really, as he's been throughout this process. He came here as a highly recruited young man. From day one, he impressed. He came here with an idea that he can be the guy. "This is his time." Cousins brought off-the-chart intangibles, including exceptional leadership skills, to the team. All of that will be difficult to replace. Maxwell will have to fill some of that void because he's the quarterback, a position where leadership is essential, but he's just going to try to be himself. "If I try to be Kirk's replacement, I'm not being myself," Maxwell said. "I'm not being the guy that people have known in the locker room going on four years now. "From the day I walked on campus, I tried to build relationships with guys and establish myself as a leader. If I try to be somebody that I haven't been, that's not going to translate well in the locker room. If I just be myself and continue the relationships and the bridges that I've built with teammates, I think I'll be effective." Maxwell, who is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, has the physical skills to be a successful college quarterback. The arm strength and accuracy have been evident in practice. Dantonio said Maxwell has shown he has the ability to read defenses well from the line of scrimmage, too. It all comes down to whether he can take it all with him across the street to Spartan Stadium - and on the road - on Saturday afternoons in the fall. Fortunately for Maxwell, the Spartans return an experienced offensive line that should be one of the team's strengths. Left guard Joel Foreman is the only starter lost up front. Six returning players on the line have starting experience. It's a different story at receiver, where the likes of B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol have departed. Maxwell, however, built a strong connection a year ago while working closely with second-team wideouts such as Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphrey. Those will be his probable go-to guys on game day now. Asked if it feels like this is his team yet, Maxwell answered, "It's getting there. I had to get over the fact, 'OK, I'm the starting quarterback now.' I was sitting in my apartment all day (before the first spring practice), kind of anxious. What's it going to be like?" What Maxwell didn't expect was the cameras to be on him when he was simply warming up beforehand. Welcome to the world of a starting quarterback in major college football. "It's going to take getting used to, I think," Maxwell said of being in the spotlight. "But it comes with the position. "It's kind of a relief to get going. Thinking about it all winter, having all the hype built up around it, now we can get out on the field and play football." The long wait is over. It's his job, starting quarterback. Time to prove himself.
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