MSU freshman QB deWeaver faces uphill climb

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
From left, wide receivers Cam Chambers, Donnie Corley and Trishton Jackson walk off the field after Michigan State football practice Wednesday.

East Lansing – Preseason camp can be difficult for any true freshman, which makes the fact Michigan State had eight players enroll early and go through spring workouts all that more beneficial.

One of those players was quarterback Messiah deWeaver.

After the Spartans went through their first workout in full pads on Wednesday, deWeaver was counting stock in how important it was he already had an entire spring under his belt.

“When you see guys in your own class that came in and are struggling with the playbook when they first get here, I know exactly how they feel,” deWeaver said. “So I am comforting them and stuff like that. There was a real big benefit to coming in January and I am so happy that I did that.”

He's part of the quarterback competition, though he faces an uphill climb.

Fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor is the favorite to win the job in time for the season-opener against Furman on Sept. 2 while junior Damion Terry and redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke also have the experience advantage.

But deWeaver already sees the benefit of his spring work.

“It has been better in the offense,” he said. “I am more comfortable in the offense and things like that. It is a grind, but I am happy I came early and got 15 practices in. Right now, I am just a little more comfortable with where I am at.”

Dantonio puts Spartans in full pads for first time

With a spring full of practice to help deWeaver understand the offense, the native of Huber Heights, Ohio, spent the offseason preparing his body to play at the college level.

“I feel a little stronger,” deWeaver said. “In the weight room with Coach (Ken) Mannie and the weight staff, they have one of the best strength coaches in the country, so we have just been working really hard in there and conditioning in the summer time, I got better on that.”

Legitimate shot

While it might be difficult for deWeaver to find playing time as a freshman, there are several others who have a legitimate shot.

The wide receiver position seems the most likely with Donnie Corley, Cam Chambers, Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson in the mix, but there’s also a chance for a group of defensive linemen. Josh King and Auston Robertson are working at end with Mike Panasiuk and Naquan Jones at tackle.

“It is too early to tell, but I think our defensive front, our young players in our defensive front look impressive,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “Stature-wise they are very impressive, and they work. When you work and you have those God-given abilities, then usually good things follow.”

King stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 267 pounds while Roberston is 6-4 and 275 pounds. With the departure of both Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas, they’ll each have a chance to play.

“I wasn’t coming in expected to be given anything,” King said. “I knew I would have to come in and work for every little thing. I’m just doing that and grinding every day.”

MSU receiver Corley intends to live up to hype

On the interior

Panasiuk understands it’s tougher to play right away on the interior, but he’s working to make the progress necessary.

“It is harder with the interior linemen because it is all about strength and technique,” he said. “Coming in, not a lot of people have great technique. Usually when you get to college, it is all about strength coming out of high school, but now when you get here it is all about technique, so it is definitely something different.”

After one day in full pads, Panasiuk has already had the first big hit that made him realize he wasn’t in high school anymore.

“Yesterday I got a big hit from LJ Scott,” Panasiuk said. “It was a pretty big hit. He came up to me after and was like, ‘Wow, that was pretty big.’ ”

Spare minutes

What does Dantonio do when he has a few spare minutes while eating lunch? He watches a little bit of the Olympics.

“I was watching swimming the other day,” Dantonio said. “My favorite event would probably be track and field. I am waiting for that one.”