CHICAGO – Michigan State's Drew Stanton became a mobile quarterback by mistake. Actually, it was a defensive mistake.
After two losses in their first three games last season, the Spartans coaches chose to make a switch at quarterback and gave the 6-foot-3, 222-pound Stanton, then a redshirt sophomore, his first start against Indiana. During one of the first drives of the game, an option play was called and he took the ball around the edge of the offensive line and immediately found a big stretch of open space.
"We ran the option and they just didn't account for me at all for whatever reason and I was able to run for a first down," said Stanton during the Big Ten media days earlier this week. "We ran it a couple of more times and they didn't account for me again."
A major running threat was born. The option play was called several more times and Stanton, who was known as a pocket passer in high school, ended up rushing for 134 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Spartans to a 31-3 win. The next week, he rushed for 89 yards against Iowa and two weeks later he became the first MSU quarterback ever to pass for over 300 yards and rush for over 100 in a single game in a 51-17 romp over Minnesota.
Stanton finished the season with 687 rushing yards and an average of 68.7 yards on the ground per game – the eighth-highest total in the league and easily the most of any quarterback.
"I think I surprised everybody and it all started with that Indiana game," said Stanton, who was also a highly-touted baseball prospect. "That started a snowball affect because it was my first start and usually coaches want young quarterbacks to stick with what was successful or what you are comfortable with."
Stanton, who battled a handful of injuries last season, ran so much and took so many hits that Spartans coach John L. Smith is planning on calling less designed running plays for the quarterback this fall and has asked his dual-threat signal caller to slide more.
EXTRA GAME DOESN'T = AN EXTRA CUPCAKE: There has been a lot of talk that the NCAA's addition of a 12th game next season will just lead major programs to schedule a slew of Division I-AA teams. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel doesn't necessarily believe that is the case. "With 12 games you are going to see a lot more Texas-Ohio State type of games," he said. "The odds are going that way and I think you will see more because of the pure numbers." Ohio State hosts Texas in one of the nation's most anticipated games on Sept. 10. The Buckeyes also have two-game series in the future with Miami (Fla.) and Southern Cal.
TILLER'S BODYGUARD: Purdue sophomore punter Dave Brytus might be the toughest guy on the team. At 6-foot-4, 227-pounds, he doesn't look anything like most punters and he owns a black belt in karate and a junior Golden Gloves boxing title. He also played ice hockey. "I really recruited (Dave) because I wanted him to stand next to me on road games," Purdue coach Joe Tiller joked. Brytus had an excellent freshman season and was named the Boilermakers special teams MVP.
THE POWER OF PATERNO: Penn State junior linebacker Paul Posluszny believes that legendary coach Joe Paterno will be around next season and for several seasons down the road. "He's going to be around until he dies, probably until forever," he said. "He's got that power and he will be around until he wants to leave."
PENN STATE'S OLD SCHOOL UNIFORMS SAFE FOR NOW: Paterno said he has been approached on a handful of occasions about altering Penn State's uniforms but hasn't and probably won't see any need for it. "Nike is on my back all the time. They do the uniforms for USC and FSU and every once in a while they will send somebody out with some new stuff, but it's not quite time for a change," he said. "I know everybody has a different style but I like our uniforms. It's interesting because when everybody was wearing white shoes, I said we were going to wear black shoes and now everyone is wearing black shoes. It all comes back around. At one time we were one of only two teams without a name on the jerseys too."
INJURY IS NO EXCUSE: Many have speculated that if Stanton had been healthy for the entire Michigan-Michigan State game last year that the Spartans would have pulled off the upset. The quarterback left late in the first half with a shoulder injury and the Spartans holding a 21-10 lead. Still, he doesn't believe he could have prevented the Wolverines from coming back for a thrilling 45-37 win in triple overtime. "It was frustrating and it hurt not playing, but I don't think if I could have kept playing it would have changed the outcome of the game," he said. "It was the little things we needed to do like getting an onside kick."
INSTANT REPLAY A HIT: Most of the other Division I-A conferences have adopted the instant replay system that the Big Ten used last season. It was used in 28 of the available 57 games and 43 stoppages led to 21 overturned calls. The average time of review for each replay was 2 minutes, 39 seconds. "We like it just about everything about it," Tiller said. "I think we are onto a pretty good system. I would not like to see the coaches challenge involved. For the most part it went on very smooth and fast and that was the intent. I think it was a huge success."