East Lansing — Tre Mosley had a choice to make this week — sit out and take a redshirt season or keep playing and lose the extra year.
For the freshman wide receiver from West Bloomfield, the choice was a simple one. He wanted to play, and with Michigan State thin at wide receiver, Mosley’s emergence paid off in the 19-16 victory over Maryland on Saturday as Mosley had a career-high eight receptions for 73 yards, including a 13-yarder on the winning drive when Mosley danced along the sidelines and kept his feet in for a first-down grab.
“He (Mosley) plays like an older guy,” Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “He stepped up today big time and he had eight receptions, so he had a fantastic game, couldn't be more proud of him.”
Mosley has played in the last five games, including a start against Illinois, guaranteeing he can no longer redshirt. But considering how important he’s become in the rotation at wide receiver, it’s clear the Spartans need him.
With fifth-year senior Darrell Stewart out for the fourth straight game with a foot injury, Mosley and fellow freshman Julian Barnett have been relied on much more. Barnett, who had three catches for 49 yards Saturday, has played all 12 games while Mosley has only recently jumped in after the original plan was to hold the redshirt.
“He's an integral part,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “We tried early on with Darrell Stewart when he was still playing, we tried to hold a redshirt with him, but when Darrell went out that sort of went out the door, too.
“I think he's a money player. Guy has great hands, great skill set. He's very level like this as a person. He doesn't get too high or too low, very mature for a young freshman, got things to work on, but he can catch the ball.”
Heading into the bowl game, Mosley should expect to continue to get plenty of targets, even if Stewart returns. It’s been enough, at least, that Mosley is confident he made the right choice to keep playing.
“He was honest with me and told me what he thought was best for me in my future,” Mosley said of his conversation with Dantonio. “I listened to him because he's been around for a while, he knows what's going on. So I took his word, and so far it looks like the right decision.”
It’s probably a safe bet to say Kenny Willekes didn’t have the season he was hoping for, but with only a bowl game left in the defensive end’s career, he at least entered the record books.
With 2 1/2 tackles for loss Saturday, Willekes now has 49 1/2 career tackles for loss, the most in Spartans history.
“Obviously, that was on my radar a little bit, but the most important thing for me was to get a victory,” Willekes said. “But to have my mark in Michigan State history is really cool to me, it is an honor.”
Willekes surpassed Julian Peterson, who had 48 tackles for loss in just two seasons from 1998-99.
Mosley wasn’t the only freshman to burn the redshirt on Saturday as running back Brandon Wright played in his fifth game, carrying the ball five times for 7 yards.
Wright got plenty of work during the week and when redshirt freshman Elijah Collins “tweaked his ankle” in the second half, Wright was on for the final two drives.
“It wasn't a situation where we were coming into the game saying that, ‘Hey, Brandon, you weren't going to play,’ ” Dantonio said. “I think that when you play a guy and you practice a guy and you're practicing him and he's getting reps, I mean he took every rep this week in practice. He was very close to being a starter tonight. When you get to a point like that you have to play guys and they have to be prepared to play. If you don't play them then you can try and hang on to the redshirt.”
The Spartans now have three running backs in the same class with freshman Anthony Williams included, even though Williams is playing all over on the offense.
“I don't want to burn guys' redshirts,” Dantonio said, “but we're trying to win a football game, too. And the bottom line is, can he help us win a football game now?”
One freshman who looks like he’s headed for a redshirt is offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs. He has played four games and started last week, but an injury suffered during practice this week kept him out of the lineup.
The odds of him burning a redshirt in the bowl game seem slim.
“Probably would depend on a lot of things; who else has the ability to play,” Dantonio said.