Connor Cook's confidence has grown by leaps and bounds

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Elite 11 college counselor group is always loaded with a number of NFL prospects at the position, and that was certainly the case again this year.

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board last year and is already looking to improve on that even more in 2014 as he likely enters the season as one of the top seniors on scouts' radar.

Another player who is drawing interest from the scouting community despite being a redshirt junior entering the season is Michigan State signal-caller Connor Cook. At 6-foot-4 and 220-plus pounds with a strong arm, he was one of the top college players at the Elite 11 this week. Cook has the potential to have another very strong year under center in East Lansing thanks in part to what he's accomplished this offseason and having another year under his belt at the position.

"He gets to come back around the track a second time, getting to see a defense again or know what a defensive coordinator's tendencies are," quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. noted. "Last year he was just excited to have a seat on the bus. This year he's driving it."

Cook led the Spartans to a 12-1 record in 2013 as the starter and posted big upset wins in the Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl to complete a historic year for the program. Operating a pro-style offense that showcases his decision making, Cook has worked with Whitfield in San Diego this summer to refine his passing technique and footwork to further his potential as a pro prospect down the road.

One of the biggest takeaways the MSU quarterback has shown off in sessions with Whitfield might have nothing to do with his form, however.

"Confidence," Whitfield remarked. "When we met, he was battling for the No. 2 position. A couple of games into the season, he emerges as a starter and is the first quarterback ever to beat Ohio State, Michigan and Stanford and is the Rose Bowl MVP.

"He's one of those guys who now has the pilot light on inside, and with more experience, that confidence will bode well. The most dangerous thing you can have in a quarterback is confidence, and that guy has it."

That's certainly a scary thing for Big Ten opponents in the future, as well as early non-conference opponent Oregon.

If Cook can show as much of a leap as he did from his freshman season to his sophomore season, the second-team All-Big Ten selection from a year ago could be drawing more than just a handful of scouts to his games going forward in case he decides to declare early for the 2015 NFL Draft.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter *@BryanDFischer.*

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