Terry is MSU's No. 2, but deWeaver, Lombardi turning heads

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News


Freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi hands the ball to running back Connor Heyward, who has his eyes on the hole.

East Lansing — While Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has made it clear that sophomore Brian Lewerke is the starting quarterback as preseason camp gets underway, that doesn’t mean the rest of the quarterbacks are putting it on cruise control.

As the old cliché goes, the backup is one snap from becoming the starter, and considering Lewerke missed the final four games last season after suffering a broken leg in the loss to Michigan, having more than one quarterback ready to get would be prudent.

For the Spartans, it appears fifth-year senior Damion Terry is the clear No. 2, but there will be pressure applied from both redshirt freshman Messiah deWeaver and freshman Rocky Lombardi.

DeWeaver was limited in the spring because of a back strain but was cleared and May and has spent the offseason working hard for camp. And while he missed spring practice, he had the benefit of enrolling early in 2016 and believes he’s in a good spot.

"I definitely feel more comfortable,” said deWeaver, who redshirted last season. “I know the playbook, know things throughout the system, know the defenses. So, I feel like everything is good and going smooth.”

More: Freshman CB Josiah Scott a Spartan with talent, swagger

As for the quarterback competition, deWeaver isn’t holding back.

“Just come out and compete every day and be the best guy for the day,” he said. “That’s all you can really do, take every day and try and win every day.”

While Lombardi seems destined for a redshirt season, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t turned heads already in the first week of camp.

“I’ve thrown a bunch with Rocky,” freshman wide receiver Cody White said. “He’s got a great arm and is a really smart quarterback. He puts (the ball) wherever you need it as a receiver. That’s really what you need if you’re a receiver.”

Lombardi, who at 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds is ahead of most freshmen quarterbacks physically, said he’s putting in plenty of time studying to know the playbook after focusing the offseason on getting his body prepared for Big Ten football.

“It’s going well,” Lombardi said. “Obviously, Michigan State is a pro-style offense, a real complex offense, a lot of verbiage. It’s a lot to learn but I’m picking it up day by day.”

Morten's big day

Former Michigan State kicker Morten Andersen will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday and Dantonio plans to be on hand for the ceremony.

“I want to congratulate Morten Andersen on going into the Hall of Fame,” Dantonio said after practice on Friday. “He’s one of three pure specialists to ever do that so I wanted to congratulate him publicly. It’s exciting. I get to go to that tomorrow evening and that will be an exciting event.”

Anderson, who kicked at Michigan State from 1978-81 was inducted into the MSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and remains the NFL’s career leader in points, with 2,544, field goals (565) and games played (382).

Late candidate

Freshman defensive back Shakur Brown is in camp and wore just a helmet and shoulder pads after his arrival was delayed by one day to get his paperwork cleared. 

He was a late commitment to the class and will have to get up to speed quickly. But the Stockbridge, Ga., native was a special teams standout in high school and Dantonio is not averse to having a true freshman return punts.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Dantonio said when asked if he’d consider Brown. “I think we’ve got a situation right now with Brandon Sowards returning but we’ve got to get more productivity out of our punt returner and he’s a guy that you can see him go back there and catch it off the Jugs machine and off the punt and he’s very sure of himself. Again, it’s very early in the process here so we’ve got to see how he does under duress in that stadium over there with 80,000 people watching him, but I think he has the skillset.”

Kicking hopefuls

Michigan State is spending the next few weeks determining who will replace departed kicker Michael Geiger. Redshirt freshman Matt Coghlin should have the inside track but Dantonio said former transfer Brett Scanlon and freshman Cole Hahn are getting a shot, as well.

“We’re working all three of those guys with Cole Hahn working as well and getting his feet on the ground,” Dantonio said. “All of them have been very good so far.”