Fans get a look at the 2017 Michigan State football team at Spartan Stadium. Dale G. Young / The Detroit News
East Lansing — Michigan State will finish preseason camp on Thursday and by Sunday will begin preparation for the opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 2.
With the regular season fast approaching there is plenty on the minds of Spartans fans. From the backup quarterback position to who will produce in the passing game, we’ll do our best to provide answers in this edition of the Michigan State mailbag.
■ Question: Thoughts on deWeaver? Feel as though his path is pretty blocked by Lewerke and wondering if he gets frustrated. — @MaxRothley
■ Answer: It’s hard to say considering Messiah deWeaver missed the entire spring because of a back issue. From all accounts, he’s playing well in preseason camp and if there was some sort of long-term injury problem with Brian Lewerke it wouldn’t surprise me to see deWeaver get the call.
In terms of being blocked or getting frustrated, that’s just life in college football. Michigan State, like most teams, will recruit at least one quarterback in every recruiting class. That, naturally, will leave a quarterback or two that came in with high expectations never fulfilling those expectations or heading somewhere else. Michigan State has benefited in recent years that those players have stuck it out — Keith Nichol, Andrew Maxwell, Tyler O’Connor, Damion Terry — while watching the likes of Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook put up record numbers and head to the NFL.
Bottom line: This is how it goes. If Lewerke does, indeed, become the next Cousins or Cook, then the next move is up to deWeaver. If he sticks it out, he could still play as a senior, but at the same time, he’ll have to beat out Rocky Lombardi, Theo Day and any other quarterback that comes along. However, he’s a talent to be sure. That means a transfer could happen if Lewerke locks down the job long-term. This early in his career, however, there aren’t really any signs of frustration.
■ Q: On a scale from 1-10, what chance would you give Tyson Smith to have a starting position since he’s the most experienced of the group? — @HiveLewerke
■ A: Good question. I’d have to put that right smack in the middle at 5. How’s that for a definitive answer? Everything being equal, I’d have to bet the starters in the opener are Justin Layne and Josiah Scott. However, both are young — Scott having never played a college game — and Smith has for more snaps under his belt. That sort of experience could end up being crucial, not only when the entire secondary is short on playing time but when the whole defense could use as many knowledgeable players as it can get. Also, Scott was held out of the Spartans’ scrimmage last week, though coach Mark Dantonio said he expects the true freshman to be OK for the opener.
The question that will no doubt be looming with Smith is how does he bounce back after suffering a stroke in the off-season? He’s been cleared medically and said a couple of weeks ago he feels as good as he ever has. The feedback from the coaching staff seems to back that up as Harlon Barnett, the co-defensive coordinator in charge of the secondary, has been effusive in his praise, even as he says he’s trying not to over-hype any player. Smith might not start the opener or any game after that, but it seems certain he’ll be on the field often.
■ Q: Which WRs will go over 500 yards this season? Will the OL will make or break this years Offense? — @BKyulzick
■ A: You’re probably not looking for me to say none, but the Spartans had only one receiver surpass that number in 2016 and that was R.J. Shelton, who is now in the NFL. Of the three projected starters — Felton Davis, Darrell Stewart and Trishton Jackson — there’s fewer than 300 career yards between all of them. Not exactly the numbers you’re looking for when you’re breaking in a relatively new quarterback.
The good news is what the Spartans lack in experience and production they make up for in sheer talent. Davis, if he can stay healthy, has the size to be a significant red-zone threat, while Jackson was outstanding in the spring game. Also, don’t forget Cam Chambers, who redshirted last season but might end up being among the best in that position group. Add in true freshmen Hunter Rison and Cody White, and there’s plenty of talent to get it done. My guess? Jackson and Davis both surpass 500 yards with Chambers being my wild card choice.
■ Q: Of the players we lost due to controversy (Corley, Reschke, King, etc.) who’s impact will MSU feel the most? — @ungerjos
■ A: Another tough one, for sure. I think the loss of Donnie Corley stings because of his potential to become an All-Big Ten type receiver with the added ability to play on defense. But as we’ve talked about, Michigan State has lots of talent at wide receiver that could make fans forget quickly what could have been with Corley. Jon Reschke was a tackling machine at outside linebacker, but his injury last season allowed Andrew Dowell to establish himself and the Spartans have young depth pushing there, as well, including Tyriq Thompson and true freshman Antjuan Simmons.
That takes me to Josh King and Auston Robertson. It’s no surprise the pass rush was abysmal last season and each had a chance to get his feet wet as true freshmen at defensive end. Their departure leaves the position a bit unsettled as Demetrius Cooper works his way back from off-field issues while former walk-ons Kenny Willekes and Dillon Alexander look to play significant roles. There’s a chance Cooper breaks out and redshirt freshman Brandon Randle makes an impact but the loss of King and Robertson doesn’t help.
■ Q: It’s 3rd and 7 on our own 45. What play does Dave Warner call? -- @UpDeckJerkGuy
■ A: OK, this was a little tongue in cheek but the fans’ frustration is understood. That said, I’ll vote for a double-reverse pass. All right, maybe not. Something tells me if the Spartans get the first down it was the right call.