The heart and soul of every great football team is its quarterback, but after a tumultuous offseason filled with lots of roster turnover and new acquisitions, the starting quarterback for Michigan State might not be as clear as it once was.
Two new and intriguing quarterbacks coming to East Lansing in 2021, including Temple transfer Anthony Russo and three-star true freshman Hampton Fay, have created a unique quarterback battle. However, with Payton Thorne winning the starting job by the end of the 2020 season after showing some skill and craftiness when coming in for an injured and struggling Rocky Lombardi (who recently entered the transfer portal), he seems to be the clear-cut favorite to be the Spartan starter come Week One.
With Lombardi transferring, and even though Thorne seems to be in the driver’s seat, the starting position is still up for grabs in 2021. Looking back at the Lombardi tenure at MSU, his career is defined by his dismantling of Michigan this year. He will be remembered not only for his luscious hair, but also his grit and leadership. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for Lombardi in East Lansing, though.
When looking at the options for who has a good shot of starting on opening day, it appears to be a two-man race. I believe that Russo (assuming he is eligible) and Thorne are the clear-cut candidates and get the most snaps next year.
However, two other quarterbacks that are on the roster are Noah Kim and Theo Day. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but, due to the fact that neither could really make a name for themselves this year, I highly doubt they will take the top spot from Russo or Thorne during the competition this offseason.
My dark horse candidate for the starting position is the true freshman, Hampton Fay, who is a 6-foot-5-inch gunslinger from All Saints Episcopal in Fort Worth, Texas and a very underrated prospect. He suffered an injury in his junior year which stalled his national rankings, but put together a solid senior campaign.
Perhaps head coach Mel Tucker will allow Russo to mentor Thorne and Fay for this year, then go into 2022 with a quarterback battle of Fay versus Thorne. With that said, looking at 2021, I think we can expect that Thorne will be the starting quarterback. His mix of throwing and running will provide a spark on offense as well as give us a glimpse of what Spartan football will look like under Tucker.
These top quarterbacks battling against each other will only improve the overall quality of play — and with them pushing each other at practice during the offseason, I expect great things. As many former Spartan greats have said, iron sharpens iron, and I expect that to be the case in the quarterback battle next season.