Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio talks about the Spartans rallying to beat Indiana on homecoming. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — At least one Michigan State player is officially looking for a new school while the future of another is up in the air.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio confirmed after Saturday's 40-31 victory over Indiana that junior linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle is, indeed, in the transfer portal after reports surfaced this week that Bouyer-Randle had made that move.
Dantonio also said junior running back Connor Heyward did not play for “personal reasons.”
Heyward, who started the season-opener against Tulsa, has seen his role shrink each week as redshirt freshman Elijah Collins has emerged as Michigan State’s No. 1 running back. Heyward led Michigan State in rushing last season, gaining 529 yards on 118 carries with five touchdowns. This season he had just 79 yards on 24 carries.
His absence on Saturday comes after four games, which is critical under the new redshirt rules that went into effect last season, allowing a player to see action in four games before losing his redshirt. If Heyward were thinking of entering the transfer portal as Bouyer-Randle has, he would be able to take this season as a redshirt and have two years of eligibility remaining.
Bouyer-Randle wasn’t seeing significant playing time, either. He redshirted his first season, meaning he’d be a graduate transfer if he indeed ends up leaving Michigan State.
“Brandon's gone into the portal,” Dantonio said. “In this day and age, these things are going to happen. I'm just trying to be understanding with people and allow for them to make the decisions that they need to make. We’re not going to hold anybody hostage or anything like that. If people want to play a little bit more and they think they have an opportunity at another place, then sometimes they have to make those decisions.
“It’s unfortunate. I didn’t want him to do that, but this is his life in 2019.”
Wide receiver and former running back Weston Bridges was also not available on Saturday.
“Weston has a team rules type thing,” Dantonio said. “Minor thing but had to be off the sideline — has to be consistent.”
Bridges has battled knee injuries, tearing his ACL as a high school senior and again in his first year at Michigan State. He redshirted in 2017, then had 16 carries last season before moving to receiver in the spring. He hasn’t played this season.
Whether Heyward and Bridges join Bouyer-Randle in the transfer portal or not remains to be seen.
“You just got to make the best decision for yourself, whatever you think that is,” senior linebacker Joe Bachie said. “Maybe people need time away to think about things but it’s 2019, that’s what we’re in right now.”
Rushing load spread around
With Heyward out of the lineup, that created some issues in running back depth.
Collins started and had 56 yards on 17 carries with a 4-yard touchdown run while freshman Anthony Williams carried just once for 2 yards. And sophomore La’Darius Jefferson, who contemplated taking a redshirt season, carried twice for 5 yards and saw a handful more snaps than the last couple of weeks.
“La'Darius knows what to do with pass protection probably as well as anybody,” Dantonio said. “He's firm, he's tough; he can also run the ball and catch the football. We're going to always play the hot back, I don't care who it is. It's tough to play three and four, but we're going to play the hot back. He'll have his opportunities.
“He wanted to play, so this wasn't the redshirt thing, all that kind of stuff because it's been four games. But talked to him numerous times and he decided that he wanted to play, so we'll continue to play him.”
Quarterback Brian Lewerke finished with 378 total yards of offense — 300 passing, 78 rushing — good for the third-highest total of his career.
The fifth-year senior is now just one of two Spartans quarterbacks, joining Drew Stanton, to pass for more than 6,000 yards (6,539) and rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,039).
“I'm pretty good friends with Drew and talk to him a good amount of time,” Lewerke said. “So it's cool to be able to join him. It’s definitely an honor to be able to be in that club.”
… Junior tight end Matt Dotson returned after missing last week’s game with an undisclosed injury. He had one catch for 7 yards.
… Redshirt freshman tight end Trenton Gillison had his first career catch for 12 yards.
Michigan State's Brian Lewerke, Darrell Stewart and Matt Seybert talk about the offense's performance in the win over Indiana. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News