Freshmen Corley, Panasiuk see action for MSU

Matt Charboneau, and Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Earning the first victory of the season was goal No. 1 as Michigan State took the field Friday night in the season-opener against Furman.

That was taken care of with a 28-13 victory. However, there are plenty of other items to check off the list in week one, and one of those is trying to figure out which true freshmen might be regular contributors this season.

“It’s sort of a minute-to-minute situation for certain positions,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “Most especially the receivers and a guy like (offensive lineman) Thiyo (Lukusa). We’ve talked about it, no decision has been made.

“I think it’s a situation you go through and, come game time when you want to put guys in or think about putting guys in, you have to go through the head coach and get his impression on it. For example, if there’s an injury situation and some guy looks like he might be in the situation where he can play throughout the whole season, then you obviously play him. You don’t want to put a guy in there for a couple of plays and lose a year of eligibility, though.”

Wide receiver Donnie Corley plenty of action, even more than anticipated when senior R.J. Shelton missed the second half with an injury. Corley caught two passes for 17 yards and carried the ball one time for a yard.

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“I thought Donnie played pretty well,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “I saw him get jammed up one time on a route. I think he got a little confused maybe or something. I thought he made some plays and he is going to be a good one for us. We got him rolling. First game out there.

“It is a big step for a lot of redshirt freshman or guys that are playing for the first time or true freshman. It is a big step to play that first game and move forward.”

There’s no doubt Corley will see significant action this season, but he was just one of several highly recruited receivers to begin their Michigan State careers this fall. Cam Chambers, who enrolled early like Corley, as well as Trishton Jackson and Justin Layne have been pushing for time as well.

There will be plenty of freshmen to keep an eye on over the first handful of games. On offense, five true freshmen are listed on the depth chart, including all four receivers and Lukusa as well as quarterback Messiah deWeaver, though at No. 4 he is unlikely to play.

On the defensive side, another six freshmen are listed with defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk seeing some action on Friday. Defensive ends Josh King and Auston Robertson each flashed during preseason camp while Brandon Randle is No. 3 at STAR linebacker, Joe Bachie is No. 3 at middle linebacker and Kenney Lyke is No. 3 at safety.

It’s the result of a solid recruiting class as much as filling positions of need, something that hasn’t always been the case for Dantonio and his staff.

“We were laughing about this earlier,” co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett said. “When we were at Cincinnati back in 2005, we looked out and we’re playing Penn State and we had like eight or nine freshmen on the field — on the defense — at one time and we’re like, ‘Whoa, what are we doing, man?’ But it panned out for them later in years. Obviously, we didn’t get the fruits of those labors, but to be so young and talented, this is the best I think we’ve been in the years I’ve been with coach Dantonio.”

Hail, Hartbarger

Jake Hartbarger’s leg is well-regarded. The man can punt. And he has a touch, too, when necessary.

He had three first-half beauties Friday, sending an opening rocket high and deep 58 yards to the Furman 9.

He was obliged to punt with a bit more finesse on his next two kicks. With MSU at mid-field, Hartbarger stuck each kick deep and pinned Furman inside its 10.

Depth tested

Junior Jon Reschke, the starter at SAM linebacker for all 14 games last season, did not play Friday and there was no official word on why. He was in uniform and took part in player interviews on Tuesday, giving no indication he was injured.

In his place, junior Chris Frey moved over from the weak side while sophomore Andrew Dowell started at the STAR linebacker spot and had eight tackles and an interception.

Fifth-year senior Riley Bullough started and saw most of the action in the middle, though his brother, sophomore Byron Bullough, played as well and made a key third-down stop in the first half.