Jalen Hurts was never going to transfer from Alabama to East Lansing. Tate Martell wouldn’t have been able to jump from Ohio State to MSU. However, the Michigan State Spartan’s are in a worse position by refusing to even give players like that the option.
During his end-of-season press conference, Mark Dantonio was asked about the possibility of bringing in a transfer quarterback. The head coach dismissed the idea entirely.
Dantonio doesn't anticipate or want a transfer quarterback. Calls it "pixie dust."— Kyle Thele (@Thele10) January 10, 2019
Monday, Martell announced his plans to transfer to Miami. Tuesday, Hurts officially transferred to Oklahoma. An 11 additional quarterbacks have already transferred, including Justin Fields transferring from Georgia to Ohio State. There are seven more quarterbacks still in the transfer portal, all leaving major conference programs.
It’s impossible to say if any of those quarterbacks would even consider Michigan State. The Spartans weren’t involved in the recruiting process of any of those seven players. But now we will never know if there was ever a chance that one of those players would be interested.
It was painfully obvious this year that it was the offense that held the Spartans back. The defense played at an elite level all season long, but due to injuries and poor play, the offense repeatedly cost the team games. It’s easy to see why a transfer may be interested in playing for the Spartans, knowing how good the defense is and the level this program can reach if the offense takes a step forward.
No matter who could have made the move to East Lansing, the Spartans likely wouldn’t be at the level of Clemson or Alabama from this past season. But there is no reason to believe they couldn’t return to the College Football Playoff, and in the right season, who knows what could happen.
Michigan State has been burned before by other teams in the Big Ten making a splash with a quarterback transfer. Last season, Michigan’s offense made a big improvement with Shea Patterson, and in 2011 Russell Wilson’s Wisconsin team beat MSU in the Big Ten Championship. This trend isn’t going to stop any time soon, and it’s clear the rest of the conference has no issue bringing in these new faces.
This decision isn’t out of character for Dantonio. His loyalty to those around him has already gotten him in trouble this offseason, deciding to keep Dave Warner on staff and shuffle coaching responsibilities instead of bringing in a new offensive play-caller. He’s also shown a propensity to stick with a senior quarterback through struggles and give them repeated chances to earn back the job. Even after Connor Cook led the comeback in the previous year’s bowl game, Dantonio started the 2013 season sharing snaps between Cook and senior Andrew Maxwell.
Michigan State very well may bounce back next year, get double-digit wins and compete for the conference title. They may do so with a big season from Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi (or a third option already on the roster). Fans may look back at this article and insist that Dantonio was right all along to trust his players.
But that misses the entire point.
Leaving the option open for a theoretically better player is always the right thing to do. No one is forcing Dantonio to bring in a new quarterback or telling him he has to start someone new. But it’s crazy to not leave that chance open.