Healthy Brian Lewerke ready to command Michigan State's destiny
East Lansing — Brian Lewerke is sure of at least one thing — he knew exactly what to bring when he checked into the dorms on Wednesday night.
That was when Michigan State’s players reported for preseason camp, and with it being the fifth time Lewerke has been through this, he’s got a handle on how things go.
“I don’t have to go running back to my apartment every other day to get stuff,” Lewerke said
In other words, the Spartans quarterback will be able to put his entire focus the next few weeks on rebounding from a difficult 2018 and helping the Michigan State offense rediscover its ability to score points.
Last season, the Spartans were among the worst offenses in the nation. Along with then-coordinator Dave Warner, Lewerke took much of the heat, even as he battled through the second half of the season with an injured shoulder. He threw 11 interceptions and had just eight touchdown strikes.
Now healthy and playing for a reshuffled offensive coaching staff, Lewerke said he feels like he and his teammates are getting a fresh start.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Lewerke admitted when asked if 2019 represented chance to put last season behind him. “Just to be able to come back and work with the team again and throw. It feels good.”
Throw — that was the key word in Lewerke’s response. It’s not something he was able to do much last season, and beyond the poor numbers, it had a longer-lasting affect that he had to work hard to correct.
“When your arm is hurting, you may throw different, mess up your form a little bit, just trying to get the ball out a different way,” Lewerke said. “So that maybe affected it a little bit, but even then, there's always times when you can fix something about your mechanics, whether you go to a quarterbacks coach or just figure it out yourself, there's always little things you can fix.”
Still, it was difficult for Lewerke to keep the injury from affecting him.
“Definitely;” he said. “During the season I was thinking, ‘Aw man, this is tough. I can't throw the ball like I want, or raise my arm like I want, all that stuff.’ You take the small stuff for granted, let alone being able to play football, just wanting to feel healthy about your body. It feels a lot better now.”
Lewerke insists the shoulder was fine by the time Michigan State went through spring practice.
So the offseason has allowed Lewerke to focus solely on returning to the form that saw him throw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2017 while running for 559 yards and five more scores.
Lewerke will attempt to find those numbers again with Warner in the quarterback’s room after Brad Salem was promoted to offensive coordinator. So far, it’s been a good match.
“Coach Warner is a lot more relaxed in his role now,” Lewerke said. “He seems a lot more comfortable and seems a lot less stressful with us now. It’s been awesome. He’s been a great coach for us. Each coach has their different style and I think Coach Warner fits our quarterback room really well.”
As the comfort level with a new position coach grows and the arm is feeling good, Lewerke was able to spend a few days last month working on his leadership skills.
He was a captain last season and likely will be again, but he got a new perspective on leadership when he and backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi attended Commander Camp near San Diego, going through several days of drills and work with Marines and Navy SEALs.
“It was a ton of fun,” Lewerke said. “We got there Sunday and left Friday night. We got to hang out with some U.S. Marines and some SEALs, and Navy midshipmen. It was a ton of fun, but they definitely worked our butts off, both the SEALs and the Marines. We did a bunch of obstacle course-type things, but it was a ton of fun.”
Lewerke said there were about 15 other quarterbacks taking part, all who overcame the tension of their plane missing its first attempt at landing on and aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.
“He missed the first time,” Lewerke said with a chuckle. “His hook missed the line, so we kind of hit the runway and had to go back around and catch it again.”
From there, Lewerke stole the show, earning MVP honors at the camp.
“There was a combination of a bunch of stuff that went into that,” Lewerke explained. “There were obstacle courses that you had to get the best time, there was a shooting range, and had to get the best score. I think I was pretty good all around. There were some guys that were really good at one thing or other guys that were really good at another thing, but I think I was kind of solid in everything and that's what helped me win that.
“I was just trying to be a better leader and be a vocal guy in the group competitions, I think that all just helped me.”
Lewerke hopes all of it has helped lead to a memorable senior season.
“I'm trying to make sure everything is as perfect as I can for my last year,” he said, “because there's not another chance after this one.”