The Michigan State mailbag is back, and with a bit of a break in the basketball schedule, the attention is back on the football team as the Spartans prepare to take on Oregon in the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Can Michigan State score, who is healthy, what young players should everyone keep an eye on? Those are some of the hot topics, as is the status of the coaching staff. But, that’s always a topic.
We also hit some basketball with many wondering what sort of leap the freshmen, namely Foster Loyer, can make over the next few weeks.
►Question. Is there a way MSU scores more than 6 points against Oregon? Or, can MSU win if they only score 6? Which is more likely? — @Adam_Burke_
►Answer. Of course, there’s a way Michigan State can score six points. How about a pick-six? OK, I’m only kind of joking there, but it’s not like Oregon is a powerhouse defense — the Ducks are OK on that side of the ball — and if there’s anyone out there who has bought into the idea that part of Michigan State’s problems on offense were because of injuries, the Spartans should have everybody, outside of Felton Davis, back for the bowl game.
So, I think Michigan State absolutely scores more than six points. Like, at least seven, OK? But honestly, I find it hard to believe any team can have this much time to get healthy, prepare for one team and not find some momentum offensively. Just look at last season when the Spartans didn’t exactly light it up in the regular season and scored 42 against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Of course, this could all be nonsense and MSU loses, 6-3.
►Q. Any inside scoop on what former starter might be returning to MSU’s lineup from injury and could prove to be a significant contributor on offense in time for the Redbox Bowl? Matt Allen? David Beedle? Brian Lewerke? Jalen Nailor? — @SpartyH
►A. I’m sure everyone will love to hear this, but I have to expect Brian Lewerke will be the starting quarterback when Michigan State takes on Oregon on Dec. 31. We’ve been led to believe that time is simply all Lewerke needed to get that shoulder healthy, and not playing in the last two games outside of holding for kicks means he will have had more than a month-and-a-half to get that shoulder closer to 100 percent. And considering how Mark Dantonio clearly puts plenty of faith in Lewerke, I’d expect to see him in there.
As for the others, Dantonio seemed to indicate last week that no one who has been out would continue to be for the bowl game, meaning you’d expect to see Beedle and Allen, as both played against Rutgers. Also, Nailor should be healthy along with plenty of others on offense who have been banged up, including the bulk of the receiving corps, a few more offensive lineman, and, of course, LJ Scott. All of this is barring any injuries during bowl practice.
►Q. Has Mike Tressel been linked to any head-coaching openings? If he left, who do you think would take over as DC? — @spartanswill86
►A. Haven’t heard any hot rumors relating to Tressel and potential head-coaching openings. Like his former boss, Pat Narduzzi, I wouldn’t expect Tressel to jump at just any job. So I wouldn’t expect there to be much concern about Tressel leaving right now. A few more years of this defense playing like it did this season, and that move could come quickly. As for who would take over, that’s a tougher question. If Dantonio were to follow his pattern of promoting from within, Chuck Bullough has obviously had extensive experience as a defensive coordinator and he’s been a big part of Kenny Willekes’ emergence this season. Paul Haynes has also been a defensive coordinator in the past at both Ohio State and Arkansas.
►Q. Odds Warner returns as OC? — @EricJGuerin
►Q. Possibility Treadwell becomes OC? — @l_clax
►A. I figured we’d put these two questions together as they essentially deal with the same subject. I’ve said this consistently all season, and nothing has happened in the last few weeks to change my mind: I’d be surprised if there are any significant changes to the staff. That means I fully expect Dave Warner to continue as the co-offensive coordinator next season. Does that mean there couldn’t be some changes in everyone’s responsibilities? Nope. One of those could be narrowing Treadwell’s focus to the offensive game plan, but that’s just a guess at this point.
Could, say, a Jim Bollman retirement affect that? Sure. But, again, there have been no indications of those sort of moves happening at this point.
►Q. Of the freshmen who are redshirting, who do you like to have a real shot at starting next year? —@DavidJa88692244
►A. Obviously, some of the guys we’ve seen play this season but won’t see action in more than four games will be expected to play much bigger roles next season, even if that doesn’t mean starting. That includes tight end Trenton Gillison, running back Elijah Collins, defensive tackle Jacob Slade and cornerbacks Kalon Gervin and Davion Williams. Also, a few other names that were close to seeing action and still might in the bowl game include linebackers Jeslord Boateng and Edward Warriner, as well as defensive lineman Dashaun Mallory. Of course, some of those things could be adjusted by players potentially leaving early like defensive tackle Raequan Williams and cornerback Justin Layne.
►Q. What position changes do you foresee happening to the football team next year? -- @TheRealUDJG
►A. Good question, but a tough one to answer. It’s never a real stretch to see guys on either the offensive or defensive line make moves to one side or the other, so I’d keep an eye on that one. We saw Jack Camper do it last season from tight end to defensive end, so I’d have to think there is some experimenting going on now. We’d have a better idea already most year, but things have been shut down around there since the end of the season. Why? I’ll let everyone else draw that conclusion.
►Q. Thoughts on Foster, Kithier? I know it’s probably too early to tell. But I’m curious about your thinking. Foster needs to spruce up his defense. — @redwingandy1
►A. What the rest of the season holds for Foster Loyer is probably one of the most popular questions surrounding the basketball team, and this wasn’t the only one we got this week. It’s clear even 7-8 minutes a game from Loyer would be big in order to give Cassius Winston a break. But, it’s also clear he has a ways to go both defensively and handling bigger, stronger guards who are in his face on the offensive end. Expect those minutes to increase the next three games before Big Ten play returns. As for Thomas Kithier, I think the role he’s had so far will continue this season as a guy who can provide spot minutes, primarily when the other big men are in foul trouble.
►Q. Is Isaiah Stewart going to be the next great basketball recruit for the Spartans? — @DavidJa88692244
►A. If he commits to Michigan State, then yes. Obviously getting a top-10 recruit would accomplish that and Michigan State has a decent shot with Duke and Washington also in the mix. Some recruiting folks I’ve talked to seem to indicate Stewart isn’t keen on following Vernon Carey Jr. to Duke, and believe this is down to MSU and Washington. So, there’s a decent chance but it’s far from a guarantee.