"It" is that intangible presence, combined with talent and ability that separates him from other quarterbacks. While it is pretty early in the process, I believe I see "it" in Michigan State freshman quarterback Nick Foles.
The Austin Statesman Central Texas Player of the Year, Foles threw for threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns against just four interceptions as a senior while leading the Austin Westlake Chaparrals to a 12-3 record including a trip to the Class 5A Division I championship game against Southlake Carroll.
For his career, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound freshman threw for 5, 658 yards and 56 TDs, impressive numbers even at the high school level. However, he had a setback, suffering a torn labrum and undergoing 'Drew Brees' surgery which scared off a few schools that were recruiting him, but even MSU Coach Mark Dantonio admitted that he was impressed by Foles as a high schooler.
"Nick posted some incredible passing numbers as a senior, especially when you consider that he played in a pro-style attack. The number that really jumps out at me is the four interceptions in 280 passing attempts – that's making good decisions and taking care of the football," said Dantonio.
Michigan State's coaching staff would prefer if Dixon grabbed the reigns and ran with them, simply because they would like a more experienced player in place.
"I think anyplace you would prefer not to do that (use a freshman as a backup)," said MSU quarterback coach Dave Warner. "I think that's standard throughout college football, but they (Foles and fellow freshman Kirk Cousins) are very talented. When we recruited them we told them they'd have an opportunity to win that spot."
"Whether they are ready for it or not remains to be seen."
"He's in the mix," admitted coach Warner obviously Brian Hoyer has taken charge, he's solidly number one and Nick Foles in the mix for that number two or number three or number four spot. It's going to depend on how well he performs over the next couple of days."
Foles completed 10-of-17 attempts for 76 yards and one interception but statistically was outperformed by Cousins, who went 6-of-9 for 83-yards including a 59-yard TD toss to another outstanding freshman, B.J. Cunningham.
Warner, who will huddle with Dantonio and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell and make a decision on the backup, refused to tip his hand on which of the three were making a move to solidify their grip on the job, saying all three "had responded well to the challenge."
He did, however, lay out what either of the true freshman would have to do in order to leapfrog over the redshirt freshman Dixon.
"A big part of it has got to be (their) grasp of the offense. It's tougher for a (true) freshman to come in and learn it all right away. That's where those guys have the biggest challenge is understanding the offense.
Most high schools don't run the variety of protections that we run. They just sit back their and throw the ball around a little bit where as in our case you have to understand protections and where your "hots" and "sights" are and change your protections," explained Warner.
If the staff did elect to go with Foles, Warner said it would not affect their offensive scheme.
"It would affect what we would call if the situation arose when those guys would get in there. We would tailor a package and simplify it a little bit, where when we're making calls when those guys are in the games we would feel confident that they would understand it and stay away from the more complex things we're doing."
Then there's the redshirt issue, with a bright future on the horizon, Dantonio may not want to remove the redshirt, losing a year to a player who might become a three or four year starter.
"I think a big part of that is Coach Dantonio's answer to that question," said Warner of the redshirt issue. "My own philosophy If our backup is a freshman, who ever our backup is, you've got to get him in there. You've got to get them expereince when you can."
"Very rarely can you go through a game - as Michigan State found out last year - where your starting quarterback's going to be the guy the whole season. Sooner or later the number two guy's going to be in a pressure situation to where he's got to perform not just be in mop up duty. He's (going to have to) go out there and get the job done," said Warner.
Even if MSU elects to keep Foles sidelined this season in preparation for the future, it looks to me like injury or off the field problems are the only thing that can keep this kid from excelling at the collegiate level. Foles has ideal size, arm strength and pocket awareness.
He also seems to have "it", that quality that drives a player to rise above mediocrity.
It's only a question of whether "it" will be on display sooner or later.