Michigan State mailbag: Looking at roster movement on football, basketball teams
It’s been a while, but what better time to bring back another edition of the Michigan State mailbag?
Spring football has wrapped up, the NFL Draft is behind us and basketball is well into the offseason. Both teams have gone through their share of roster shuffling thanks to the transfer portal, and we’re getting a better idea of what these teams will look like next fall.
We do our best to tackle all of the roster questions, from the number of football players transferring out to how the basketball team approaches recruiting after the Emoni Bates decommitment.
► Question: A bunch of players in the portal haven’t announced where they are transferring. Is there a deadline for that? Any coming back to MSU or just calling it a career? — @Aurelius291
► Answer: There is no deadline when a transfer has to announce anything. They simply have to be enrolled in whatever school they’re planning on playing at. It’s the case with a big chunk of the 15 players Michigan State has landed commitments from — six are already enrolled and went through spring practice — and all are expected to be on campus soon and ready to take part in any offseason conditioning. As for the chances of anyone coming back, that seems unlikely. Of the 25 former Spartans who have entered the portal, 14 of them are committed or already enrolled at their new schools. Of the remaining 11, it’s hard to imagine what their role would be at Michigan State. So, no, I don’t see any of them coming back to Michigan State.
► Q. What are the chances we land Palaie Gaoteote (Ma’a’s brother) from the transfer portal? — @tvanceflint
► A. There’s been very little buzz about the elder Gaoteote since he entered the transfer portal. There was early speculation he could land at Michigan State, especially after his brother signed as the highest-rated member of Mel Tucker’s first recruiting class. His name also came up relative to a few other schools out West who might love to land him. But really, it’s been quiet. And based on what Tucker has done in the portal since, I’m note sure Gaoteote remains a priority. With the addition of Minnesota’s Itayvion Brown and Michigan’s Ben VanSumeren, as well as last week’s commitment of Tennessee’s Quavaris Crouch, the Spartans are suddenly in much better shape at a position that looked really thin at the end of last season. Would they say no if Gaoteote wanted to come? Of course not. I’m just not sure it’s something the Spartans are chasing.
► Q. Tell me why I shouldn’t be upset that our 80-year record for NFL drafts is now broken and why I shouldn’t put the responsibility on Tucker’s regime? — @MOHR_2_Life
► A. I can’t imagine how anyone could put the responsibility on Tucker. He still hasn’t coached a game with a player he recruited. I’m not trying to knock Mark Dantonio’s tenure. After all, he took Michigan State to unprecedented levels. But the recruiting in the last two-three seasons fell off dramatically and the streak ending was a direct result of that. Be upset if you want, but if the streak of not having anyone drafted lingers, then it’s time to worry. But based on his first class, and even more so the players coming in out of the portal, it’s hard to imagine the Spartans will continue to get left off the board.
► Q. The 80-year streak is sadly over. Any recent MSU UFAs that have made an impact in the NFL, that this year's crop can look to for encouragement? — @RickDarnell8
► A. It’s tough to find too many undrafted free agents who have made a huge impact, and that’s true for most schools. So, it’s best safe to say it will be a tough road for Shakur Brown and Naquan Jones — linebacker Antjuan Simmons still hasn’t signed, as of this posting. There’s a group of guys from last year’s draft — DT Raequan Williams, DT Mike Panasiuk, WR Cody White, LB Joe Bachie — who have been back and forth between practice squads and active rosters. The same goes for guys like TE Matt Sokol, LB Andrew Dowell and DT Joel Heath, who is currently on the Lions roster. In terms of a guy who proves them all wrong, though? That’s tougher to find.
► Q. What happened to Shakur Brown in the NFL draft? Was it his lack of speed that did him in? — @SpartyH
► A. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where that didn’t hurt him. Reports after Michigan State’s spring game had his 40-yard dash time between 4.6 and 4.7 seconds. Does that mean he can’t play at the next level? Not at all. But when general managers are getting in the later rounds and are deciding between guys that are very similar, they’ll rarely pick a guy that posted those sorts of times. Brown’s production on the field is hard to argue with, but for a guy that seemed a safe bet to get drafted, the slow 40 seems like the culprit.
► Q. How do you expect the offensive line to shake out? Will they be any better? Will MSU (finally) be able to get a little ground game going and avoid leading the league in 2nd and 11? — @TimD56
► A. Based on the final spring workout, the offensive line is clearly still a work in progress. It didn’t help that guard J.D. Duplain, tackle AJ Arcuri and veteran inside guys like Luke Campbell and Blake Bueter were all out. There is hope that Arkansas State transfer Jarrett Horst proves to be the nasty tackle everyone expects, and if Arcuri is good to go, it allows Kevin Jarvis to move to guard. With a healthy Duplain, that’s a solid start. The center spot is interesting as sixth-year man Matt Allen appears to be pushing junior Nick Samac. I’d expect Samac to be the guy, but you never know. The key will be keeping that group healthy and allowing the likes of Campbell, Bueter, Matt Carrick and some younger players — think tackle Spencer Brown and guard James Ohonba — to be used sparingly. With the new life injected in the backfield, there is at least some optimism the running game will improve.
► Q. If I want to hang myself from my office roof as a result of Emoni Bates de-committing, how long of a rope should I purchase? — @JaChryss
► A. That might be a bit harsh. I get that it stinks a guy who is that good likely isn’t coming, but let’s be honest, who really thought he was anyway? I sure didn’t. My sense is Tom Izzo and his staff weren’t counting on it. So, outside of rival fans poking fun, it’s not something I’d get too worked up about.
► Q. What are we gonna do with the spare scholarships in basketball? — @TroyBrinkel
► A. With Bates decommitting and Enoch Boakye off to Arizona State, Michigan State doesn’t have a commitment for the 2022 class with, at this point, three open scholarships. Don’t expect that to last. The Spartans are in the mix for plenty of high-end prospects, and 6-foot-9 forward Kijani Wright, a five star who’s ranked the No. 11 player in the country by 247Sports, has the Spartans in his top seven. Others to keep an eye on include forward Jalen Washington from Gary, Indiana, a five-star recruit who is rated No. 20 in the nation, as well as forwards Isaac Traudt (Grand Island, Nebraska) and Tarris Reed (St. Louis). Traudt is ranked No. 51 in the nation and Reed is 95th. There’s also interest in Grand Blanc forward Ty Rodgers, the 50th-ranked player, and point guard Tre Holloman (St. Paul, Minnesota), who checks in at No. 52.
► Q. What’s the word on Foster Loyer? Why silence from him and MSU re: entering the portal? — @TJMurrray19
► A. Good question. It’s hard to say on this one. There was never any bad blood with Loyer and Izzo or any of the other coaches. Was it hard for Loyer not playing? Sure. Did he get frustrated at times? Yup. Still, I’m not sure where to put the relationship with Loyer and the program at this point.