Back issues sideline Michigan State left tackle Cole Chewins for opener vs. Tulsa
East Lansing — Cole Chewins has been battling injuries for the better part of the last two years.
Entering his final season at Michigan State, it appears the ailments are continuing to get the best of the fifth-year senior left tackle.
Chewins was not listed on the depth chart for the Spartans’ opener Friday against Tulsa, and coach Mark Dantonio confirmed he would not be available.
“He struggled with his back here throughout preseason,” Dantonio said. “Right now he's sort of on a day-to-day basis, see where he's at. We anticipate he'll be able to play at some point. Has had some time off here as of late.”
Chewins has started 25 games in his career, including all 13 games at left tackle as a sophomore in 2017. That led to high expectations entering last season, but an injury hampered Chewins early in the season. He missed the first game against Utah State before starting in week two at Arizona State. However, he was out after the first series and didn’t return to the starting lineup until Week 6 at Penn State.
Chewins finished the 2018 season with nine starts and played 663 snaps, but by the time spring practice rolled around, he was once again being held out. It appears that has lingered into August, and now Chewins’ status is unclear moving forward.
“It is definitely tough,” Chewins said when asked about injuries at the start of preseason camp in early August, “especially when you have somebody go down. But at the same time it provides an opportunity for someone else to step up and be a part of the team, and I think everybody understands that it's a team game. When someone goes down, people have to step up.”
Stepping up to take Chewins’ place, at least on Friday, is junior AJ Arcuri. The 6-foot-7, 306-pound Ohio native has played primarily on special teams the last two seasons, but played well in the spring and has continued to solidify his spot over the last few weeks.
“He's athletic and he's adapted well to the left tackle position,” Dantonio said of Arcuri. “He's a big, strong guy. Almost 6-6, 300 pounds or so. He's learned that position. I think he could play across the board probably any position with the exception of center.”
Junior Kevin Jarvis, the starter at right guard, is listed as the No. 2 left tackle. Other players who could move to that spot include junior right tackle Jordan Reid and junior Luke Campbell, who is listed as the No. 2 left guard but has played multiple positions along the offensive line.
The other offensive line starters from Tuesday’s depth chart release include fifth-year senior Tyler Higby at left guard with junior Matt Allen and sophomore Blake Bueter both down as co-starters at center. Higby bounced back quickly from offseason surgery to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup.
“He got back after about a week of camp,” Dantonio said of Higby. “He's been involved, has played. He's played well. Again, another guy that is a fifth-year senior and looking to have a great year from him.”
As for some of the young talent along the offensive line, none of Michigan State’s true freshmen were listed on the depth chart, but Dantonio said there’s a chance some of them could play.
“There's a chance that guys who are dressed are going to play,” Dantonio said. “We worked a lot of guys in different situations from an offensive line perspective around different positions. Our freshmen are talented. Devontae Dobbs, J.D. Duplain, Nick Samac have done a nice job. They're working in there. We'll see whether they play or not.”
Dobbs was Michigan State’s top recruit this season, while Duplain and Samac enrolled early and have been drawing high marks throughout camp.
Running backs pecking order 'pretty fluid'
Junior Connor Heyward is listed as the starting tailback with sophomore La’Darius Jefferson and redshirt freshman Elijah Collins both listed as his backup. Freshman Anthony Williams, who was injured early in preseason camp, is the fourth player listed at that position.
“Pretty fluid,” Dantonio said. “I see that running back situation as very fluid. Guys are going to get opportunities especially in the first game of the season. Connor has had a good summer camp, been impressed with really all of our running backs in summer camp. They've adapted to some of the new things, been able to retain other things. We’ll see how they play.”
Nailor gets shot at punt returner
Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Nailor is listed as the No. 1 punt returner with junior wide receiver Cody White No. 2. Nailor is the sort of game-breaker that most have been hoping would get a shot returning punts.
“He's got great speed, great hands back there,” Dantonio said of Nailor. “I think he's an aggressive-type player that will try and make something happen.”