By Adam Biggers
Andrew Maxwell sounds all the more confident during each interview. And that's a great sign, considering he had just 26 pass attempts last season as the Michigan State Spartans' back-up signal-caller.
The former Midland High star seemingly has things figured out. It's been well-documented that former Spartans star quarterback Kirk Cousins has been impressed with Maxwell. In fact, Cousins has said numerous times that Maxwell is "further along" than he was at the same point.
The Spartans' 2012 season could end up being a case of addition by subtraction. For one, losing several key receivers in Keith Nichol, Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham will surely take its toll on Michigan State, which was one win away from a Rose Bowl-berth a year ago.
However, while there are pieces that will be missed, there are means to replace, keeping Michigan State near the top of the Big Ten Conference -- and enough talent to make a run to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Grand Daddy of Them All.
"I feel like we have all the pieces in place," Maxwell told ESPN. "You look at our defense, returning a lot of guys from a really successful defense last year. We've got great depth at O-line, we've got great depth at receiver and running back. Our goals are just climbing every year. Those are attainable, those are reaching and that's what we're shooting for."
Now, the depth at wide receiver Maxwell speaks of is indeed there. However, that depth isn't necessarily experienced. Receivers like Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphrey jump out as the only players with any game experience to speak of. But the addition of Jeremy Langford to the fold adds athleticism. The sophomore reportedly ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, a speed that will make him useful at the wideout slot, as well as at running back.
That has to be encouraging to Maxwell, who doesn't stand to inherit a group with as much perceived talent as Cousins did -- Mark Dell, Cunningham, and others.
In the same interview with ESPN, Maxwell praised the wide receivers corps for its work ethic. But while there are plenty of talented wideouts waiting in the wings, Maxwell stressed the Spartans' success will be determined on how quickly the group's continuity materializes.
"It's a work in progress, but we've got all the talent in the world at that position," Maxwell said. "They've got all the tools, they've got all the skills to be the playmakers we've had in the past. With so many guys vying for spots, it's just going to bring competition to practice. That's going to make the coaches pick the best ones to put on the field."
A new role on the team is a daunting task for anyone to undertake. And accompanied by the losses of arguably one of the best stable of receivers in recent history, the Spartans offense will be interesting to monitor during April 28's Spring Game in East Lansing. That offense will also be under close watch as the season begins this fall. Can it re-tool itself back to a potent scoring machine?
Maxwell seems to think so. And he's not the least bit shaky when saying it, either.
"I feel prepared. I feel prepared because I learned behind a great guy like Kirk (Cousins), arguably the best quarterback in Michigan State history," Maxwell said. "I couldn't pick a better guy to sit behind for three years and learn. Not only learning behind him, but the coaching staff and the support they've given. All that combined just leads to a pretty confident feeling."
He's inexperienced, sure. But Maxwell knows the offense and has strong ties with teammates. That alone gives him a leg up; he's not treading into unfamiliar territory.
"I feel like it will be a smooth transition," Maxwell said. "Not only because I've been here for a while, but because I've built a relationship with guys on this team. I'm not a new face around the building, I'm not a new face in the locker room. I feel like the relationships I've been, the bridges I've built with those guys are going to help me be effective as a leader and a player."