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With Connor Cook gone, senior Tyler O'Connor looks to step in as Michigan State's starting quarterback

Michigan State quarterback Tyler O'Connor - the likely successor to Connor Cook - showed in the spring game he's capable of driving the Spartans.
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Head coach Mark Dantonio refrained from naming who a leader to succeed Connor Cook as Michigan State's starting quarterback, but if Saturday's spring game is any indication, the job is fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor's to lose.

In front of a record crowd of 51,000, O'Connor led all quarterbacks with a 138-yard, one-touchdown performance, completing 10-of-16 passes. He was the most poised of the four quarterbacks who saw time under center.

He's a year older and a year more experienced than the next oldest quarterback on the roster—Damion Terry.

"It comes down to decision making, creating, making plays and leadership," Dantonio said. "So far Tyler, I think, has done a nice job at that. The other guys have too, but they have to be consistent. And he certainly has the most experience, but we'll see how it all shakes out."

Though Terry's Green team won, 14–11, it was O'Connor who had the most impressive drive of the day.

After Terry led a 10-play, 53-yard touchdown drive to give White a 14–3 lead, O'Connor responded a 4-play, 70-yard drive that only took 44 seconds.

O'Connor made a list of goals before the season and set it as the background on his phone. He wants to be the man on offense, be more consistent and more accurate, and become a leader his teammates look to on and off the field.

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"I think Tyler has done a nice job to just continue to emerge as a leader," quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said after the game. "He's done a nice job as a fifth year senior, and I think you see him, the way he carries himself, the kids rally around him. He's a guy that makes people better around him."

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O'Connor said he feels more comfortable these days. He and Terry split reps against Ohio State late last season with Cook sidelines. Now that Cook is preparing for the NFL Draft, O'Connor's mentality right now is that he's the guy moving forward. And he can feel the difference on the field.

"When someone hands you the keys and says 'here, you're the guy,' it's easier to play," O'Connor said. "When it's dangling in front of you and you don't know, it's hard to play, you don't want to make mistakes and things like that. My mentality this spring has been that way since it's a lot easier to play."

It isn't O'Connor's first time battling for a starting position. He competed with Cook, Terry and Andrew Maxwell for the starting job back in 2013, a battle that Cook ultimately won. He feels good about his odds this time around.

"There's a lot of football to be played, but I feel pretty good right now," he said. "These next few months - a lot can happen through the summer, that is pretty much the invisible time of the season. But a lot of work is to be done on and off the field from the feet all the way up to the arms and head. A lot can still happen, but I feel really good about where I am at."

Omari Sankofa is SI's campus correspondent for Michigan State University. Follow him on Twitter.