This is the first of an eight part series, breaking down each position group for the Michigan State Spartans 2018 football team.
For the last two seasons, Michigan State had an enormous question mark at the most important position on the field. Two years ago, expected starter Tyler O’Connor fell apart and none of his backups could stay healthy. Last year, Brian Lewerke had the job, but started the season on an extremely short leash.
But it didn’t take long for that to change. Now, heading into his junior season, Lewerke is poised (and expected) to take the next big step.
Assumed starter: Brian Lewerke
Last season, Lewerke got battle tested. His skillset wasn’t complete, but his pure athleticism was enough in most situations. Now he has the experience he so clearly lacked last season, and after a night game against Notre Dame, and road games against Michigan and Ohio State, there shouldn’t be anything on the MSU regular season schedule that should be too daunting.
Lewerke gives MSU a facet of offense that they have never fully experienced under Mark Dantonio before. He has the arm to make the big passes, but just as importantly for MSU, he has the legs that force defenses to stay honest.
While last year was far from perfect, Lewerke finished on a high note and appears to be continuing that growth. He has started to show some consistency with his accuracy and his numbers after his first full season of starting are exactly where any MSU fan would want.
With an athletic quarterback who is always looking to make a play on the ground, MSU could be in a lot of trouble if Lewerke gets injured. There is no experience behind him, and no one who could run the offense with the same amount of expectations.
Additionally, Lewerke has yet to prove that he can win a game with just his arm. His passing ability is good and getting better, but that has been with the help of teams needing to constantly be concerned with him running. If a team has a strong enough run defense, they can force Lewerke to throw into full coverages. For someone who went through struggles with interceptions last season, that is a big concern.
Lewerke’s accuracy will be the difference in the Michigan State season. If he can consistently complete passes at a 60-percent rate, the Spartans offense will roll.
His accuracy will completely change how defenses prepare for the team, making them chose how to try and slow what could be an extremely explosive offense. However, if he goes through slumps again, the offense will become reliant on the running game and too one demential to beat one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
Behind Lewerke is a field of untested, inexperienced backups. Redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi will probably be the backup to start the season after his strong performance at the spring game. He has the talent to keep MSU alive if called upon in a small sample-size. Anything more than that, however, would likely be too much to ask.
Spartans fans will also be keeping an eye on true-freshman Theo Day. While he may end up being redshirted this season, Day was a three-star recruit who could be the future of the MSU program. The team has four games before they have to decide whether or not to redshirt the young quarterback.
The lone senior in the room is Mickey Macius, a graduate transfer from Austin Peay