MSU finishes spring ‘strong’ as O-line takes shape
East Lansing — As the bulk of the Big Ten was just hitting the meat of its spring practice schedule, Michigan State wrapped things up on Tuesday.
The final practice came just days after Saturday’s spring game and coach Mark Dantonio was happy with what he saw from the Spartans over the past month and change.
“I thought we finished strong, and that’s what you always wanna try and do,” Dantonio said Wednesday on the Big Ten spring teleconference. “You always wanna try going forward and moving up the ladder and I think we did that. I was very impressed with the chemistry of our football team and the overall disposition as we went out on the field.”
The Spartans, coming off a bounce-back 10-3 season in 2017 that included a victory in the Holiday Bowl over Washington State, returned 19 of 22 starters, meaning most of the roster intrigue was not with the starting group.
That’s not to say, however, there weren’t key battles to watch throughout the spring. One of the most important on the offensive side was who would step forward and be the likely replacement at center for Brian Allen, who is off preparing for the NFL Draft later this month. Offensive line coach Mark Staten has looked at a handful of options, but it appears Allen’s brother, Matt, has established himself.
“I think Matt right now, he’s the one,” Dantonio said of the sophomore. “With that being said we’ve got … Cole Chewins and David Beedle did not play so that adds depth to the offensive line. Beedle has played center. (Tyler) Higby has played center. We’ve messed around with Jordan Reid playing center. Blake Bueter is playing center a little bit. So, we’ve got quite a few guys that are in there competing for that position.
“The ultimate thing is we will play the best five guys and Coach Staten has done a nice job. We’ll move people around in there, we’ll roll people around. At the end of the day we’ve got to get the job done, but I thought (Allen) played well in the game. I don’t think he had any bad snaps and also I thought he was pretty firm.”
As they have done in the past, the Spartans likely will rotate several players along the offensive line. Chewins and Beedle are the likely starters on the left side with Allen in the middle and Kevin Jarvis at right guard. From there, it’s harder to determine who starts at right tackle and how the rotation plays out.
Luke Campbell started 12 of 13 games at right tackle last season as a redshirt freshman. However, Reid saw plenty of playing time as a true freshman and Higby has started 13 of 22 games the past two seasons.
Out of that group, Staten singled out Reid late in spring practice.
“He’s going to be a starter this year. Where, it will depend,” Staten said. “If he wins the center spot then somebody else will play right tackle. If he wins the right tackle spot, somebody else will play center. If he wins the left tackle spot, somebody else will play right tackle. That’s on him, but he’s definitely a starter, doing good things.”
After the spring game, however, it appears Allen has locked up the center spot headed into the summer.
However it shakes out, quarterback Brian Lewerke was impressed by the way the unit played.
“I think they did a great job,” Lewerke said. “I think almost every guy’s played almost every position by now. It’s crazy — we’ve switched up a ton of guys but I think they did a great job today. Matt did a great job at center. That’s still a guy that I’m still learning how he works and how he operates, but I do think he did a great job personally.”
Dantonio said he listens to Lewerke’s input when deciding who he’s most comfortable with a center, but Dantonio also believes Lewerke can adjust.
“I think he just goes with the flow,” Dantonio said. “And he makes everybody better out there, including the guy snapping the ball to him.”
Overall, Dantonio was happy with what he saw up front.
“What I saw was good snap, good power, especially from guys like Kevin Jarvis,” Dantonio said. “He played extremely well. Got some other guys in there playing as well. Matt Allen did a nice job at the offensive center position. But I thought that for a spring game, a spring situation, they played pretty well; the ones. The twos got some work to do.”