QB Rocky Lombardi joins other prominent Michigan State players in transfer portal

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
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Rocky Lombardi’s run at Michigan State has come to an end as the junior quarterback entered the NCAA transfer portal on Friday.

Lombardi was the fourth Spartan to do so a day after Michigan State’s season officially came to an end after its scheduled game with Maryland was canceled because of COVID-19 issues within the Terrapins program. He also becomes the ninth Michigan State player to enter the portal since the season began under first-year coach Mel Tucker.

Rocky Lombardi

While players like offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs and cornerback Julian Barnett had plenty of buzz that was never seen on the field, Lombardi is the one player in the group who was a key part of Michigan State’s roster the past three seasons.

Lombardi was the backup to Brian Lewerke in 2018 and 2019, a run highlighted by the victory at home against Purdue in 2018 when Lombardi stepped in for the injured Lewerke and threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns.

After seeing limited action last season, Lombardi started Michigan State’s first six games and led the upset victory over Michigan in the second game. He threw for a career-high 323 yards and three touchdowns in the Spartans’ 27-24 victory, going two straight weeks with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns.

However, the momentum didn’t last as Lombardi threw two interceptions the next week at Iowa and was just 3-for-7 for 21 yards with two more interceptions against Indiana. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Payton Thorne in that game but was back in the starting lineup the next week in the upset win over then-No. 8 Northwestern, throwing for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

The next week against Ohio State, Lombardi was knocked out of the game in the second quarter and did not return. Thorne finished the game then started what ended up being the final game at Penn State, and as Michigan State prepared for the Maryland game, Tucker said Thorne would be the starter.

Aside from Thorne’s play – he threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns at Penn State – there were other signs Lombardi’s days with the Spartans were numbered.

In addition to signing three-star recruit Hampton Fay on Wednesday, the Spartans secured a commitment from Temple graduate transfer Anthony Russo.

Lombardi’s decision capped a day that also saw Dobbs, sophomore linebacker Jeslord Boateng and sophomore cornerback Davion Williams enter the portal. Barnett, linebacker Luke Fulton, running back Anthony Williams, linebacker Marcel Lewis and linebacker Charles Willekes also entered the portal earlier.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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