Chicago – Michigan State brought all defensive players to Big Ten media days, no surprise when the Spartans are returning most of one of the top defenses in the nation from last season.
But with the Spartans, there aren’t many questions surrounding that side of the ball. They’ve been good. They’re going to continue to be good.
When it comes to the offense, however, that’s where the mystery lies heading into the 2019 season. Head coach Mark Dantonio addressed it to some degree by reshuffling the coaching duties, highlighted by elevating quarterbacks coach Brad Salem to offensive coordinator and moving Dave Warner back to quarterbacks.
It was all done in an effort to improve on the 18.7 points a game Michigan State averaged last season, which ranked 13th in the Big Ten.
How the coaching changes affect the Spartans remains to be seen, but Dantonio made clear once again on Thursday that those coaches will be working with senior Brian Lewerke as the starting quarterback, who is clearly first on the depth chart ahead of sophomore Rocky Lombardi.
“They’ll compete to some degree but right now Brian is our No. 1 quarterback and I expect great things from him,” Dantonio said. “I expect him to return to his sophomore status and I’m very excited to watch him play.”
That sophomore status was attained when Lewerke threw for 2,793 yards and ran for 559 as Michigan State won 10 games in 2017. However, things went the wrong direction in 2018 when Lewerke suffered an injury to his right throwing shoulder and threw for just 2,040 yards with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Lombardi started three games during the season, but outside of a win over Purdue, he didn’t seize the opportunity, leading the Dantonio sticking with Lewerke.
“Brian Lewerke, if you look back at his sophomore year he was the only player in Michigan State history that has passed for over 2,500 yards and ran for over 500,” Dantonio said. “So he was an extremely productive player as a sophomore. He got hit a little bit with the injury bug midway through the season, but I think his confidence is back. He’s certainly back and healthy, bigger and stronger, is faster, and comes into his senior year with a tremendous amount of game experience."
Lewerke was listed at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds on the MSU spring roster.
“Rocky Lombardi, our other quarterback who played a little bit -- in and out this past year, started some games -- is also back and will be a redshirt sophomore," Dantonio said. "So he brings another sense of experience as well, which is a good option.”