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Stanton strikes dangerous pose for MSU

Bob Griffin | Friday, September 22, 2006

It’s taken four full seasons, and a unique progression from special teams standout to NFL quarterback prospect, but Michigan State senior Drew Stanton has finally made a name for himself on the national scene.

It was only a matter of time. Irish safety Tom Zbikowski recalled Wednesday his first memories of encountering the Michigan State quarterback, tracing back to Stanton’s late-game entrance in 2004 against Notre Dame.

“I know two years ago getting ready for the game, they weren’t sure who was their quarterback,” Zbikowski said. “He came in late in the game and kind of started moving the ball, just taking over. Ever since then, they’ve had just a prolific offense that puts up a lot of points – a lot of yards.”

No kidding. In 2005, Stanton became the second Spartans quarterback in the school’s history to throw for over 3,000 yards (3,077), finishing the season with 3,415 total yards and 26 touchdowns (22 passing).

He is a dual-threat weapon who is equally dangerous scrambling as he is stepping up in the pocket – pretty good for a kid who as a red-shirt freshman in 2003 was mostly relegated to punt coverage.

“[Stanton’s] definitely going to be one of the best we go against this year,” Zbikowski said. “Any time you have that dual threat, that’s why they’re so successful on third down. You have that run or throw option that he has, a lot of weapons around him, it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Stanton has lived up to his billing this year. The quarterback has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns in three games. He also has 30 carries for 193 yards and three rushing scores.

To put that in perspective, Irish running back Darius Walker has carried the ball 52 times for 180 yards.

“Obviously the key person, the one who makes this all go, is Drew Stanton,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday in his press conference. “He’s a heck of a player. He’s a dual threat who can run, he can throw, he can throw in the pocket, he can roll from the pocket, he can throw across his body.”

NFL scouts have noticed as well – Mel Kiper has him ranked as the No. 2 senior quarterback prospect in the nation (second only to Irish signal caller Brady Quinn). He is No. 4 overall on Kiper’s big board, behind Quinn, Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Georgia defensive end Quentin Moses.

He was also a major reason why Michigan State had the luxury of planting a flag in Notre Dame Stadium after its 44-41 win in 2005 – an incident Weis adamantly denied using as motivation this week. Stanton finished 16-of-27 passing for 327 yards and four touchdowns (one rushing) against the Irish.

So how does Notre Dame go about ensuring it limits Stanton Saturday in what could be the biggest game of its season?

“I think Double D better get loosened up here today,” Weis said referring to freshman quarterback Demetrius Jones, another dual threat who is being used to mimic Stanton this week in practice. “He might get himself a workout here this week.”

Zbikowski expects Stanton and the Michigan State offense to spread the Irish defense across the field by running various screens.

The senior said staying fundamentally sound and making open-field tackles will be the defense’s major point of emphasis in limiting Stanton’s effectiveness.

“You talk about them spreading it out, throwing the ball, then you look at how much they’re rushing for,” Zbikowski said. “We got to get ready for that, get in the film room and keep studying.”