MSU mailbag: Where in the world is LJ Scott?

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State running back LJ Scott is tackled after a reception against Arizona State.

The excitement has returned — sort of — for Michigan State fans following last week’s upset win over Penn State.

The Spartans pulled off the upset with a depleted roster, something that might not change that much this week as Michigan State gets set to host Michigan on Saturday.

So, obviously, the status of Michigan State’s walking wounded was a hot topic this week. We do our best to give some clue as to who might be on the field this week.

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►Question. What the heck is going on with LJ? Also, is Mark Staten on the hot seat, as his O-line is the weakest part of this team? — @RandyCheadle

►Answer. We’ll leave the LJ question for now since there were plenty of inquiries on the senior’s status this week and we’ll focus on the second part of the question. I suppose it’s natural to wonder about a coach’s status if that part of the team is struggling, but there are some reasons the Spartans have had a hard time up front this season that are out of Staten’s control. The biggest, clearly, are the injuries that have hampered the offensive line. Junior left tackle Cole Chewins finally played a full game last week at Penn State to help end the revolving door at that spot that included junior Tyler Higby and sophomore Luke Campbell. Senior David Beedle and sophomore Kevin Jarvis — the starting guards — are both still out. The only constant has been sophomore right tackle Jordan Reid, and to a certain extent, sophomore center Matt Allen, who has solidified the No. 1 spot after Higby started the first two games.

So, yeah, Staten has hardly been dealing with a healthy group. Where he probably deserves at least some criticism is taking so long to adjust. Against Penn State the Spartans employed more zone blocking schemes, simplifying things for the linemen and allowing the backs some freedom and the ability to make a cut and go when the hole opens. It worked last week, which begs the question — why not do so earlier?

Michigan State running back LJ Scott could return soon.

►Q. Will LJ ever play for MSU again? — @mdeewayne

►A. Let’s dive into the LJ Scott story here. Will he play again? I’d have to say yes, even if it’s the last few games of the season. This isn’t a case where he’s simply trying to save himself while looking toward the NFL Draft — otherwise, why wouldn’t he have just declared at the end of last season? Scott would help Michigan State’s running game. There’s no doubt about that. Now, would he make it significantly better? That seems unlikely. And no, there is no way they keep him out in hopes of getting another season with a redshirt. If LJ Scott is playing next season, it will be in the NFL.

►Q. What’s your best guess on who will be active this week that was on the injury report last week? — @ddycio

►A. Not surprisingly, this was the subject of many of this week’s questions. It makes sense considering how many difference-makers have been out of the lineup, so, we’ll take a shot at who might be back this week. Let’s start with who won’t be back — cornerback Josiah Scott, wide receiver Cody White, guard David Beedle and punter Jake Hartbarger. The next level would probably be highly questionable and that would include probably only guard Kevin Jarvis.

Cody White pulls in a pass against Central Michigan.

The next group is in the we’ll see category, either because we’ve seen them back in limited action or we just don’t have a clear idea on their injury. This group includes Scott and wide receivers Darrell Stewart Jr. and Jalen Nailor. Scott we’ve covered while there has been little information provided on Nailor, who hasn’t played since his breakout against Indiana. Stewart has at least played since he first got hurt in the Indiana game. He sat out the Central Michigan game but played some vs. Northwestern. He didn’t make the trip to Penn State, but I’d guess he plays this week.

There’s always potentially a surprise, but outside of Stewart, I’m not feeling certain on any of the injured players getting back.

►Q. Why does Mark Dantonio continue to play Matt Sokol the majority of TE snaps over Matt Dotson? Dotson seems to get open more often and when he does, he holds on to the ball consistently better. — @SpartyH

►A. Well, I haven’t compared the snaps, but against Penn State, Sokol found himself on the sidelines more often than he has at any point this season while Dotson clearly appears to be getting more reps. Also, freshman Trenton Gillison saw his first action of the season at Penn State and could continue to work his way into the tight end rotation. It’s a tough spot for Sokol and the Spartans. He’s a veteran guy that is well-respected in the locker room but the production clearly isn’t there. I wouldn’t expect him to disappear from the rotation but Sokol’s snaps could continue to diminish.

Michigan State's Matt Sokol takes off with a catch against Penn State.

►Q. What happened to Luke Campbell? It seems he’s being penalized for poor performances when playing in a pinch in positions that weren’t his natural. Is Reid really better than him? Am I wrong claiming Reid getting beat quite often? — @Timo_Slice

►A. He’s not playing because of poor performance? Isn’t that how sports normally works. Yeah, they’ve moved Campbell around quite a bit and he’s been banged up, but it’s clear — if you’re not performing then that often leads to a change. As for Reid, he did struggle the first couple of games, but he’s been pretty solid since, especially for a first-year starter. There will be hiccups along the way for Reid, but MSU believes he’s the better option at right tackle now and in the future.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau