IOWA CITY, Ia. — It didn’t take James Morris long to make a comparison.
When the Iowa linebacker was asked about Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, he brought up former teammate A.J. Derby.
“Their skill sets are similar,” Morris said. “Just my general impression is that he’s a good athlete, runs effectively, throws effectively.
“All those things that you hate as a defender.”
Cook was named the Spartans’ starter for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Kinnick Stadium, adding another chapter to Michigan State’s quarterbacking soap opera.
“That has sort of been settled, at this point,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “What we’re looking for him to do is grow and gain experience as he enters his second full start.”
Cook, a sophomore, was 16-of-32 passing for 135 yards two weeks ago at Notre Dame. But he was pulled in the final minutes in favor of senior Andrew Maxwell.
That led to speculation about who would take the snaps against the Hawkeyes.
“(Cook) has got a lot of ability,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “His opportunity to play at Notre Dame, and the starting experience he gained there, I think is invaluable.
“I think he’ll continue to flourish.”
Morris, the reigning Big Ten Conference defensive player of the week, saw enough of Cook to offer a few quick impressions.
“I wouldn’t say he’s a runner,” Morris said. “But I would say he can run when he has to.
“And he’s got a strong arm.”
Those are similar attributes to Derby, an Iowa City native who began his college career with the Hawkeyes before transferring to Arkansas.
Cook grew up in Hinckley, Ohio, where he was recruited by Bowling Green, Cincinnati and Duke, among others.
“He’s still developing and he’s improved every week,” Morris said. “We know he’s going to be ready to go.
“(Cook has) some serious potential to hurt us, if we don’t control them.”
The Spartans have produced a steady line of NFL prospects in recent seasons.
Brian Hoyer, current starter for the Cleveland Browns, threw for 6,159 yards and 35 touchdowns from 2005 to 2008.
Kirk Cousins, a backup for the Washington Redskins, threw for 9,131 yards and 66 touchdowns from 2008 to 2011.
“We understand that whoever is on the field for them is the best guy they’ve got,” Morris said. “He’s going to be a good player, just given the history of the program.”
Iowa has played Michigan State eight times the past decade. In those games, Spartan quarterbacks combined to complete a modest 55.7 percent of their passes (167 of 300) for eight touchdowns, five interceptions and an average of 234.5 yards.
Maxwell started against the Hawkeyes a year ago, completing 12 of 31 passes for 179 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception.
“You go with what you see,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of preparing for Cook. “I don’t think it will be a huge change philosophically for them.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football