It has been quite the past week for the Michigan State football program. It all started last weekend when three major names all declared for the transfer portal within about a 24-hour period of one another. One of them was CB Charles Brantley, who is probably most famous for his game-sealing interception against um in 2021. Another was WR Keon Coleman, who last year became at least WR1B (though you could argue he was 1A) and was clearly the top receiving target going into next season. And lastly there was QB Payton Thorne, who needs no introduction. For most of us, Thorne’s portal entry was probably the most shocking; who leaves after being starting QB for the last 2 seasons?
It was the close proximity of the timing of these 3 announcements that led to a whirlwind of panic and speculations by the fans and media alike. For many, there was a sense that the wheels were coming off. Everyone needed to have a theory. “Thorne was leaving because he knew he was going to lose his starting position.” “Thorne was leaving because Coleman didn’t want to play with him anymore.” “Thorne was leaving because Coach Tucker made him play hurt last season.” I cannot offer any clarity on the situation as neither Coach Tucker nor AD Alan Haller have returned my calls. What we do know at this point is that Brantley has decided to return to MSU, Coleman was scheduled to visit Florida State this weekend (and does not feel like he will be coming back to East Lansing), and Thorne has committed to play at Auburn next season.
A quick note on the Auburn QB room, it is not a foregone conclusion that Thorne will be starting at quarterback for the Tigers in 2023. That room also features Robby Ashford, who started last season as the backup but became the starter in week 3 due to an injury (the prior starter, TJ Finley, is no longer in the program), redshirt freshman Holder Geriner, and 3* true freshman Hank Brown. Presumably, Ashford is the main competition for Thorne. Ashford seems like a dual-threat option as he ran for 700 yards last season. “Threat” may be a generous word, however; he only completed about 50 percent of his throws in 2022, and only had 1,600 yards and 7 TD passes. It is not the stiffest competition for Payton, but he will still have to go into camp and prove himself.
Back to the situation in East Lansing, there are now two quarterbacks competing for the starting job next season. Junior Noah Kim is the only one with any significant experience, though that is limited. He has 38 career snaps, has gone 14-19 on his throws including 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Then there is redshirt freshman Katin Houser, who only saw the field once last year in the early-season blowout of Akron. He threw it twice, getting one two-yard reception, and also had a 13-yard scramble. If we are to try to gain any clues into this competition from the Spring Game, it would feel like Kim is in the driver seat. He was given more opportunities to show his skills that day, including being the only one of the two who worked in the hurry-up offense. Kim did throw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates Jr. in the “game”.
It certainly would be easy to say that the QB situation for MSU does not feel very promising at this point. But let’s remember this. Every year in college football we see a few quarterbacks in their first year as the starter go off. Even Payton Thorne looked great two years ago in his first year as the man for the Spartans. So to everyone who feels like the sky is falling in East Lansing, just take the advice of Darius Snow. “Relax.”
MSU still has a lot of experience coming back in the trenches, has some weapons at the skill positions, including some new entrants from the portal, and, per 247 Sports, has the 23rd ranked recruiting class coming in. That class includes 16 total players, 4 of which are 4* recruits. We have been surprised by the success of this team before (recently and repeatedly). Let’s hope Coach Tucker can make it happen again.
In other news:
I just wanted to include this sad piece of news that I saw as I was writing this article. Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavs owner and MSU graduate, lost his son yesterday. Nick Gilbert was 26 years old and had a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis. TOC wishes to extend its condolences to the Gilbert family.