Michigan State mailbag: Talking chop, championships and Heisman chances

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

It’s a busy week around the Big Ten, and that includes Michigan State.

The 11th-ranked Spartans are getting set to head to Rutgers on Saturday to try and remain unbeaten on the gridiron while the conference is holding its basketball media days on Thursday and Friday.

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker has the Spartans off to a 5-0 start and ranked No. 11 in the country.

So, yeah, things are heating up, but we wanted to knock out a quick mailbag.

From who can be back next year in football to whether Joey Hauser is ready for a big season, we tackle all the pressing questions.

Question. Who has eligibility remaining and who doesn’t for starters on both sides of the ball? Can Horst come back or not etc.? — @JayThelen

Answer. It’s probably easier to let you know who does not have any eligibility left. On offense, that includes center Matt Allen, tackle AJ Arcuri and guard/tackle Luke Campbell. Defensively, it’s limited to ends Drew Beesley and Drew Jordan, and throw in kicker Matt Coghlin, as well. Most were part of what was then dubbed “The Dream Team” class of 2016. Of course, that group — as a whole — never lived up to that billing. The only person not in that group is Jordan, who transferred in from Duke in December. Beesley was technically part of the class, but came to MSU as a walk-on.

There’s a bunch of guys who normally would be in their last season, but with the extra COVID year, could come back, including Jarrett Horst. Others to keep an eye on after the season include safety Xavier Henderson, tight end Connor Heyward, defensive back Emmanuel Flowers, linebacker Noah Harvey, defensive end Jack Camper and offensive linemen Kevin Jarvis and Blake Bueter.

Q. Is there a "puncher's chance" that MSU could win the B1G East? — @pfnnewmedia

A. Absolutely. Of course, I wouldn’t have said that a few weeks ago, and I’m not saying the Spartans will win the East. But when you look at the other contenders — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan — tell me a team Michigan State wouldn’t have a chance against? It might be a slim chance against Ohio State’s offense, as well as Penn State’s, but it’s far better than a stunning upset.

Q. Does Kenneth Walker or Jayden Reed have a legitimate shot at the Heisman? — @TheRealUDJG

A. This is a lot like the last question, and my answer is: Why not? The numbers are there to this point with Walker leading the nation in rushing and Reed tops in all-purpose yards, but you can’t discount the impact each is having on the team, either. Lose either guy and the Spartans are in trouble. Now, the schedule gets tougher from here and the production could start to level off, but if it doesn’t, you’d have to feel like both will be in the mix.

Q. Do you think (Greg) Schiano's answer to the planted question about the so-called chopping stuff will do what he intended — serve to motivate his team after last week? Would expect they're having a tough week of practice. — @NorthShoreRalph

A. I think it’s hilarious. And while I’m not buying the idea the question was “planted,” I’m sure Schiano was happy to answer. I have to be honest, until last week I had no clue Rutgers used that phrase. And more importantly, who is trying to claim ownership of a fairly mundane saying? It’s not exactly the most original thought. Anyway, if the Scarlet Knights need this to get fired up — yikes.

Q. Do you think Joey Hauser’s D has improved? — @HansJurgent

A. Aha, some hoops. Perfect timing with Big Ten media days this week. Has he improved? Maybe, but the bigger thing that will make it seem like Hauser has taken a huge jump is the fact he’ll be playing with a true point guard. That’s assuming Tyson Walker gets plenty of playing time, and when he’s not in there, that AJ Hoggard has taken a jump. Look, the Spartans, as we all know, were limited at point guard last season and that hurt nobody worse than Hauser. After two early looks at practice, Hauser looks much better with Walker on the floor. If the Northeastern transfer delivers, it could be huge for Hauser.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau