Dowdell likely starter vs. Rutgers

A combination of injuries and steady progress have vaulted Damon Dowdell up the depth chart on the Michigan State roster. Dowdell is expected to be the starting quarterback when Michigan State starts the season next week against Rutgers.

(EAST LANSING) - A combination of injuries, a change of attitude and a strong work ethic have combined to vault senior quarterback Damon Dowdell up the Michigan State depth chart.

Dowdell is expected to be the Spartans starting quarterback when the Green and White open their season on September 4th at Rutgers.

Dowdell was a longshot in the quarterback battles that were forced when incumbent Jeff Smoker graduated and was drafted by the NFL's St. Louis Rams.

Sophmore Drew Stanton was the odds-on favorite to suceed Smoker, but suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on the kickoff coverage team in Michigan State loss to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl.

Stanton appeared to be on track after a nice spring. But even then head coach John L. Smith was non-committal.

"It's hard replacing a guy (Smoker) who is that accurate," Smith said. "Stanton should be completely healthy and ready to go. He is going to be a nose ahead of those guys even without spring ball."

But Stanton knee began to swell in the last two weeks of fall practice, keeping him out of practice and setting him back in the pecking order.

"It might open the door a little bit (for the others), but I don't have control over it," Stanton said. "Coming into camp, I didn't know what to expect."

Then it was freshman Stephen Reaves turn to draw the spotlight. The fiesty left hander - who is the son of former NFL star John Reaves - showed an ability to grasp the offense early on, but then struggled as MSU's defense picked up the pace, blitzing early and often.

Meanwhile, the fifth-year senior from Detroit Henry Ford was being billed as a longshot, but he wasn't having any of that.

"It's good going in as an underdog," Dowdell said on media day. "I don't worry about people counting me out. The coaches told me what I had to do in the off-season and I did it, so I'm just trying to be No. 1."

Smith took note of Dowdell's tenacity and he began splitting the majority of the reps with the first team.

"I liked what I saw out of Dowdell, and Drew as well," John L. Smith said. "One of those guys is going to have to step up and separate themselves.

I'm not going to say Stephen is out of it, but I think the others are inching ahead. They are doing a little bit more correctly. From a mental standpoint, it seems like the other two have a little more grasp on the entire package."

Dowdell is pushing himself to be near perfect with his reads and timing because he knows this is likely his last shot at being a starter, and moving to the next level.

"It's alright to make physical mistakes sometimes, but I just have to make all the right mental reads and decisions and be perfect at that."

If he does, he'll be the starter on September 4th.

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