Michigan State mailbag: Why not Devontae Dobbs? More touches for Elijah Collins?

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

OK, we’ve taken the summer off, but the Michigan State mailbag has returned.

Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of consternation over the offense. And while it feels like 2018 all over again, we’ll try our best to give you some answers.

From the screaming for Devontae Dobbs to play to wondering about Mark Dantonio’s future, we cover a lot of bases this week.

Here you go:

Devontae Dobbs

Question: Why have we not seen Devonte Dobbs on a depth chart? @RandyCheadle

Answer: It's pretty simple — he’s a true freshman who’s been on campus all of about three months. I get it. The offensive line is not playing well and it’s full of guys that have been around for a few years with no sign of anything getting better. So yeah, you recruit a kid who is a five-star prospect and expect he’ll jump in right away. The only problem is if there is a position outside of quarterback that is the most difficult to play as a true freshman, it’s probably on the offensive line. And if folks think Dobbs will just slide into the left tackle spot, then that’s even tougher.

Dobbs is the name that comes up most often, but there are others that could be considered, as well. At 6-foot-6 and 326 pounds, Spencer Brown has left tackle written all over him while Nick Samac and J.D. Duplain were early-enrollees who could get on the field, though none of them appear on the depth chart. That doesn’t mean they’re not close. So have some patience. All of them will get a shot, and it might come soon, but let’s also not assume that simply inserting Dobbs will cure all of the offensive ills.

Question: One game in and they're already mixing and matching on the offensive line. Over or under five games before Devontae Dobbs gets in? @pfnnewmedia

Answer: So, Dobbs is like the new backup quarterback, it appears. Like it or not, the Spartans have been using seven or eight guys on the offensive line for a while now. It was something Mark Staten started, and Jim Bollman said before the season he likes to do so, as well. The bigger issue is left tackle and the fact Cole Chewins is out and apparently so is his backup, AJ Arcuri. That clearly led to some of the shuffling on Friday. With the current depth chart, I’d expect a similar rotation on Saturday against Western Michigan.

As for the over/under? Tough to say. I’d expect Dobbs to play at some point. I’d expect the same for Samac and Duplain. When that happens and whether or not they retain their redshirts is anyone’s guess.

Question: I know it's only one game but what are your thoughts of using (Rocky) Lombardi in the red zone? @thomas_bartel

Answer: Well, I guess I’d answer this one with my own question: Was there something that happened in the opener that makes you think MSU needs to use Lombardi in the red zone? Let’s be honest, it’s not like the Spartans were there often. The offense only got inside the Tulsa 20 four times and the first resulted in a touchdown. After a field goal in the second trip, the third ended with Lombardi getting stuffed on fourth-and-1. So, Michigan State used Lombardi and it didn’t work. Maybe running something other than the exact play they ran on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter would help, but nonetheless, it was Lombardi who was under center.

Look, I’m not on the anti-Brian Lewerke bus. This offense has problems, primarily along the line and some of the play-calling. It’s not because the Spartans aren’t playing Lombardi. You’ll probably keep seeing him and certain situations, but for now, there’s no quarterback controversy.

Question: How do our fans have such short memories? They’re aware that Coach D completely turned this program around, right? @matt7738

Answer: Well, I guess we’d have to do a survey of all who booed. There’s a clear line in this one. Some think you absolutely never boo at a college game while the rest believe everyone is fair game. I’m not sure where I land. Honest, I’ve never thought too much about it. But I will say this — the booing on Friday seemed directed at the coaches and the play-calling much more than at the players. To me, coaches are fair game. Yup, Dantonio turned this program around, but he’s also led it to a 20-18 record the last three seasons. That’s the mediocrity MSU appeared to leave behind.

Question: How could Coach D tell the media that this offense won a scrimmage against this defense? Could it really have happened? @daveholz

Answer: It’s been understood around the program for a while now that Dantonio tends to manipulate these scrimmages to create a sense of competitiveness. It’s not to make anyone feel better but simply to have the feel of something being on the line while trying to test the defense. The players understand it. In fact, here’s defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk after the game when asked about the scrimmages.

“Coach D, tries to, you know, create sudden change stuff like that,” Panasiuk said. “So we try to adjust to those things. It helps us out in the long run. We laugh at it, but we know in the end it's gonna help us out.”

So Dantonio will do things like suddenly give the offense the ball inside the 10 with less than a minute to play. That’s sudden change. It happens in a real game, usually, because of a turnover. It prepares the defense and if the offense happens to score, well, then the offense won.

Elijah Collins

Question: What’s your impression of Elijah Collins? Do you think he’ll be getting the bulk of the carries just a few weeks down the line? @chasetommy4

Answer: My impression was he was the one back who looked like he had a little burst, a little something extra. I asked Dantonio and Brad Salem about it this week and they both agreed. My guess is you see Collins get a few more carries earlier in the game.

Question: Scale of 1-10 for likeliness: After this season, Dantonio retires. MSU hires Pitt HC (Pat) Narduzzi on the caveat he bring in fresh blood for an innovative offense. Under Narduzzi, MSU is able to keep the fiery defense it's known for, now with a more modern, innovative offense. @dgill5581

Answer: Lot to unpack here. I’ll go 5 on the first question. It’s hard to guess before we know what happens this season, but there is a hefty bonus waiting for Dantonio if he’s still the coach in January. If he does retire — IF— Narduzzi would have to be high on the list and he’s never seemed like a guy that would be averse to hiring some offensive whiz and letting him go. That said, IF Dantonio moves on, don’t count out the guy running the defense right now — Mike Tressel.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau