Rash of Injuries kick-start MSU's youth movement against Michigan

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — After a fifth straight loss, there was plenty of talk around the Michigan State locker room about recollecting and moving forward.

It’s fitting, then, that after Saturday’s 44-10 loss to No. 14 Michigan there was plenty of focus on the number of young players who continue to get significant action for the Spartans.

Twelve true freshmen saw the field against the Wolverines with three — linebacker Charles Willekes, defensive end Michael Fletcher and tight end Adam Berghorst — all playing for the first time.

Running back Brandon Wright was one of 12 true freshmen to play for the Spartans against the Wolverines Saturday.

“We've got a lot of guys out,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “So that necessitates younger players playing at times. Some other times they have had an opportunity because of what they've done. But yeah, we’ve got young players playing. That's the only way to get better.”

As Dantonio noted, injuries have played a significant role in many of the freshmen getting on the field.

On the offensive line along, center Nick Samac and left guard J.D. Duplain started for the second straight week while Devontae Dobbs played extensively at left tackle in the second half. They’re all getting time because of injuries to the likes of tackle Cole Chewins, guard/tackle Kevin Jarvis, guard/tackle Tyler Higby and center Matt Allen. All four did not play on Saturday while right guard Matt Carrick was also limited.

The trio is likely the heart of Michigan State’s future offensive line while Julian Barnett and Tre Mosley are the future at wide receiver. They’re getting more work with Darrell Stewart out, and on Saturday, Barnett had three catches for 29 yards.

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Running backs Anthony Williams and Brandon Wright also played, backing up redshirt freshman Elijah Collins, while Adam Berghorst played for the first time at tight end.

“I didn't predict that we'd have five offensive linemen out,” Dantonio said, summing up the depleted offense. “I didn't predict that we'd have two of our better wide receivers out. We’ve had a lot of injuries on our offensive side of the ball.”

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Charles Willekes and end Michael Fletcher got their first action with Tate Hallock contributing on special teams.

Of the 12 true freshmen that have played this season, four have already burned the redshirt with Samac and Tate Hallock at the four-game limit. Mosley, Wright and Dobbs have played three games each but will likely continue to play the rest of the way.

Hurting a lot

The injuries kept coming early on Saturday as junior cornerback Josiah Scott was injured on the second play of the game and did not return.

“I’m hoping it’s short term,” Dantonio said.

Both fifth-year senior Josh Butler and redshirt freshman Kalon Gervin filled in.

Dressed and ready

Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Nailor was dressed for the first time since the season-opener, however, he did not play.

“I think he’ll play next week,” Dantonio said. “We sort of left it up to him, but I felt like he hadn't practiced but really Thursday's practice. He was able to run this week but did not practice until Thursday. So too few practice reps and he hadn't been touched yet or hit yet so we just wanted to keep you it safe and have him ready (next week).”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau