Breaking down the game's finer points on film benefits MSU's Foster

By Jayna Bardahl
Special to The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State wide receiver Montorie Foster isn’t used to watching film.

Not football film, that is.

The Cleveland product played varsity basketball before joining the St. Edward’s High School football team his senior year. He hadn’t been on the gridiron since sixth grade.

Michigan State receiver Montorie Foster is still learning the game.

But the sport came back naturally. He quickly picked up an offer to join the Spartans’ 2020 recruiting class.

Foster came to East Lansing with goals to get stronger, faster and master the MSU playbook.

He stepped into a larger role last Saturday in the Spartans’ 40-29 loss to Purdue in place of redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Nailor had suffered a right hand injury the week prior against Michigan and didn't make the trip to West Lafayette.

That left Foster, the 6-foot, 180 pound sophomore, with a job to do on the field and an even bigger one in the film room afterwards. He had three catches for 33 yards against the Boilermakers.

“I felt like the physicality of the game was totally different from practice and our coaches talk about it all the time,” Foster said Tuesday of his evaluation of the Purdue film. “Just getting better at the little stuff like hand placement and getting on top of routes and stuff like that. (I want to) focus on that in practice before the game so I can be prepared and ready to go for Maryland.

“I’m pretty athletic but athleticism can only get you so far. I realize that, and I chose to tighten up the screws on the small ends of my game to get better.”

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MSU senior safety Xavier Henderson said he noticed improvement in Foster’s game, especially when it comes to the maturity and control he plays with on the field.

“When he first got here it was easy to see how explosive he was, he can really jump out of the gym,” Henderson said. “I think he’s got a lot better just with his route running. ... Montorie’s the best when you kind of just throw the ball up and let him go get it. He makes some crazy plays.”

Against Purdue, the Spartans and Foster agreed, not mastering the little things proved problematic.

Tight ends coach Ted Gilmore said MSU players identified issues before hearing from the coaches.

“I’m confident every single kid watched (film) more than one time before they even got to us,” Gilmore said. “It was one of those meetings where, at least for me, I didn’t go in there yelling at them on this and that. It was pointing out the obvious which we do every week. ... It was one that they accepted the coaching, nobody got offended and they were ready to move onto the next and try to get this nasty taste out of our mouth.”

The return to fundamentals isn’t a new approach for the Spartans (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten). Many of the mistakes against Purdue were ones the team had seen before.

“If you look at the (previous) games, we’ve given up passing yards before, we’ve given up some big yards to some teams, we’ve had too many penalties. ... So there were little things in the games before that we have addressed,” Henderson said. “It’s just a slap in the face when you lose a game. ... When you win games it makes everything better. So you talk about it, but you don’t really nail it like you need to.”

The focus this week is the Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) and drilling down on the finer points.

No better way to do so than with some film study as Foster is learning.

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Jayna Bardahl is a freelance writer.