Brian Lewerke ‘the guy’ at QB for Michigan State
East Lansing — If Saturday’s spring game was any indication, there will be no quarterback controversy at Michigan State this fall.
As Mark Dantonio stated, Brian Lewerke is “the guy.”
He said it after Lewerke threw for 305 yards and a touchdown in the spring game and he said the same thing back in December, just weeks after the end of a disappointing 2016 that included inconsistent quarterback play.
Even with Damion Terry entering his senior season and Messiah deWeaver coming off his redshirt season, Lewerke is clearly the starting quarterback heading into the offseason as the Spartans will next come together for preseason camp.
“He can throw the ball and what he has, he has a great ability to run the football, too,” Dantonio said Saturday. “He’s a good athlete. He’s poised back there. Every time he takes a snap in an environment where there are people there or something of that nature he’s going to get better and better and better. There’s always a little bit of a learning curve, but he’s a good player.
“I also think our other quarterbacks are good players, too, but right now he’s the guy.”
It was easy to be the guy this spring as both Terry and deWeaver remained on the sidelines the entire game. Terry, who has dealt with injuries his entire career, was suited up but did not play while deWeaver, the Big Ten Network said, was out with an injury.
So while it doesn’t appear the competition has been fierce this spring, Lewerke had the look of a quarterback in charge. He was sharp throwing the ball — though a couple of poor throws ended in interceptions — and had command of the offense.
It was the glimmer of that command and that ability last fall that led to Lewerke gaining Dantonio’s endorsement once the season was over. The only problem was that Lewerke never got to finish the season after breaking his leg Oct. 29 in a loss to Michigan.
The injury knocked Lewerke out just as he was poised to be the starter the rest of the season. Before the Michigan game, the redshirt freshman had started twice and had mixed results. But it was clear by late in the game against Michigan — when he came on in relief — that Lewerke was the best option ahead of Terry and senior Tyler O’Connor.
However, the injury came and derailed that plan.
“(He) probably would have been our guy through the last four games,” Dantonio said back in December. “And I think he's done enough to warrant him to be the guy to beat out.”
Through four appearances, including two starts, Lewerke was 31-for-57 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in 2016. He also ran the ball 21 times for 149 yards.
The Spartans are hoping for a big jump in those numbers this fall as Lewerke appeared completely healthy after breaking the leg. That doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains — like the two interceptions — but Dantonio feels Lewerke is on the right track.
“He’s much improved,” Dantonio said. “He’s still going to mess up signals, and call the wrong play when it’s supposed to be a different play, those type of things which are elementary mistakes that he will get past. I think he’s progressed very well.”
While Lewerke is the guy for now, there are no guarantees. After a season in 2016 when quarterback play was spotty, the Spartans will do everything they can to be certain they have the right guy in place by the time the season kicks off.
That means it wouldn’t be wise to count out Terry or deWeaver, who was highly recruited and was elevated to the No. 3 quarterback last year after Lewerke was injured. They’ll be joined by true freshman Rocky Lombardi.
Of the entire group, Dantonio said, “You saw our quarterbacks that were out there today playing. We’ve had our quarterbacks playing in there.”
That play was clearly limited this spring, not great for the depth but a benefit for Lewerke, who has taken the majority of the first-team snaps. If he keeps playing like he did on Saturday that will continue to be the case in a few months.