2018 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: Mark Dantonio (100 – 45)
CAREER RECORD: 118 – 62
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jim Bollman
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dave Warner
STADIUM: Spartan Stadium (75,005)
August 31 Utah State
September 8 at Arizona State
September 22 at Indiana
September 29 Central Michigan
October 6 Northwestern
October 13 at Penn State
October 20 Michigan
October 27 Purdue
November 3 at Maryland
November 10 Ohio State
November 17 at Nebraska
November 24 Rutgers
Bowling Green 35 – 10
Western Michigan 28 – 14
Notre Dame 18 – 38
Iowa 17 – 10
Michigan 14 – 10
Minnesota 30 – 27
Indiana 17 – 9
Northwestern 31 – 39 ot
Penn State 27 – 24
Ohio State 3 – 48
Maryland at 17 – 7
Rutgers 40 – 7
Washington State 42 – 17
2017 OFFENSIVE STATS
2017 DEFENSIVE STATS
FIVE YEAR WINNING TREND
2013: 7 – 6
2014: 7 – 6
2015: 3 – 9
2016: 6 – 7
2017: 4 – 8
RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 10
RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 9
PASSING: Brian Lewerke, 246 – 417 –2,793 – 20TD – 7INT
RUSHING: LJ Scott, 201 – 898 – 8TD
RECEIVING: Felton Davis III, 55 – 776 – 9TD
TACKLES: Joe Bachie, 100
SACKS: Kenny Willekes, 7.0
INTERCEPTIONS: David Dowell, 5
TOP 10 RECRUITS
Kalon Gervin, CB Detroit, Michigan
Trenton Gillison, TE Pickerington, Ohio
Xavier Anderson, ATH Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Theon Day, QB Dearborn, Michigan
Chase Klein, LB Chadron, Ohio
Michael Dowell, S North Ridgeville, Ohio
Davion Williams, CB Belleville, Michigan
James Ohonba OT , Stockbridge, Georgia
Chris Jackson, CB Marietta, Georgia
La’Darius Jefferson, ATH Muskegon, Michigan
Michigan State has a deep, veteran roster with top 10 potential and yet they could be just the fourth best team in their own division. The Spartans are good enough to make a very, very serious run at a conference championship in 2018. There are established players at just about every position and very few weaknesses.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke has the ability to throw from the pocket or use his feet in a run – past option. He has excellent touch, a strong arm and creative downfield vision. He has the luxury of joining nine other starters on a unit that ranked 35th in the country in points per possession.
It helps when you have wide receivers Felton Davis and Cody White returning along with tight end Matt Sokol and running back LJ Scott. Darrell Stewart is another dangerous receiver who caught 50 passes in a backup role in 2017. Davis is a monster at 6’4” who is now a huge mismatch for opposing defenses. White is another tall receiver who had 35 receptions as a true freshman.
Scott has led the team in rushing for three straight years and provides a big – back power, but needs to be more consistent. Connor Heyward is expected to be Scott’s backup.
The line returns three starters including right guard Kevin Jarvis, left guard David Beedle and left tackle Cole Chewins. Jordan Reid is expected to get the start at right tackle and sophomore Matt Allen is the leading candidate to step in at center.
Michigan State’s defense is expected to be of force again in 2018. They return nine starters from a defense that ranked seventh in the country in total defense and second in a rush defense. Three of four lineman return including stout tackles Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams. Naquan Jones and Gerald Owens are solid backups. Jacob Panasiuk and Kenny Willekes will be the starting defensive ends.
The Spartans will be solid at linebacker with Joe Bachie Manning the middle along with Andrew Dowell and Tyriq Thompson on the outside. If there is one weakness in this defense it would be depth at linebacker.
The secondary could be the best in the Big Ten led by Justin Layne, Josiah Scott, David Dowell and Kahari Willis. Josh Butler, Tyson Smith, Dominique Long and Matt Morrissey are solid off the bench.
Matt Coghlin is very consistent after hitting 15 – 19 in the field-goal department. He is also shown he can hit tough kicks under pressure after beating Penn State in the final seconds last season. Punter Jake Hartbarger ranked seventh in the conference at 42 yards per punt but he has excellent hang time. The return game will be solid with several players getting the chance this fall.
The Spartans had a solid rebounds season after going 3 – 9 in 2016. When you have 19 returning starters from a team that went 10 – 3, there is no doubt Michigan State is a very dangerous team and a true contender in one of college football’s best divisions. In terms of pure talent, Michigan State stacks up with anyone in the Big Ten, but to the have enough to get by Ohio State?
PROJECTED RECORD: 9 – 3, 6 – 3 Big Ten
MARK DANTONIO TALKS ON MEDIA DAYS:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.
MARK DANTONIO: Good morning. First of all, this year as a football program we centered ourselves. Had a big bounce-back season after last year after 2016, and we’re prepared to move forward.
We return 10 starters on offense. I think nine on defense. All of our special teams performers. I think the biggest thing I’d like to say I guess about our football team right now is that I feel a great sense of leadership, chemistry and focus from our football team.
And it’s exciting to watch them come to work day by day every single day. And as we get ready to play and get ready to transfer to the season to our August camp, it will be very, very exciting to watch them interact with each other every single day. Questions?
Q. LJ has gone through a transformation where I’m sure there were moments throughout his career where you weren’t sure he was going to get to this point representing your team at Big Ten Media Days. How has he matured to get to this point?
MARK DANTONIO: I think when you bring players here, it’s an opportunity for them to come. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for growth. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to take another step in their leadership.
For LJ, I wanted him to see the size, the scope of the Big Ten Conference and understand what playing at Michigan State and playing in this conference means. He’s been extremely successful. He made a statement that he was coming back immediately after our bowl game, after our bowl win this past season, our tenth win. And I think that warranted this opportunity.
He’s done a nice job academically. He’s played for us for four years. There’s no question that he’s a guy that is an outstanding football player. And I wanted to see him grow as a person.
I think this is an opportunity for growth to be able to listen stand up here and talk to people. It’s something that he’s going to have to get to used to. And he does it at home obviously and he does it after games. But this is another scope.
So that was my thought process in bringing him here today. Along with him being a great player and a great person as well.
Q. Obviously you’ve had success during your tenure there with quarterback such as Brian Hoyer, Cousins and Cook. With Brian Lewerke, he has a different skill set, but how do you see him going to the next step to the NFL like those guys did?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, first of all, I think Brian brings a unique skill set to Michigan State. From my perspective, as a quarterback, you have to be able to create. When things break down, you have to be able to create, through leadership, whether it’s quick decisions and throwing mechanics, or whether it’s with his feet.
He does a combination of both. Was very successful last year, very productive last year to get 2800 yards, 20 touchdowns, and maybe ran for 500-plus and five touchdowns.
Very productive football player. What he brings to the table, though, is the ability to stay calm and collected in times of uncertainty, I guess.
That’s what’s very impressive from day one when he started out there as a true redshirt freshman quarterback in ’16 before he was injured to last season.
He just has that ability. He has the ability to get out of problems. Doesn’t take himself too seriously, which sometimes that’s a positive as well. And I think he has a great future ahead of him.
He’s got some work to do before he gets to the NFL like those other guys. Those other guys are proven commodities. But I think that he’s a rising star.
Q. We haven’t seen a roster yet; do you have any update on — do we have any update on Jon Reschke’s status and any other personnel updates right now?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, we’ll put out a roster here later on this morning, I think. But in regards to Jon Reschke, he was an individual player that played for us in ’16, was injured. Made a statement and was suspended from our football team in the spring or in the winter of 2017 and was done.
Publicly apologized for insensitive remark that he made. Graduated from Michigan State. Was intent — blew out his knee was intent on going to another school. Had to apply for a sixth year. At that point in time, we started asking ourselves as a program, not me, but as players as well, did we want him back in our program or did we not.
I’ve always tried to do what’s right, and I’ve always tried to look at everything that was — always tried to look at everything in its completeness, what best affects that young man and his future, whether it was Demetrius Cooper last year or whether it was situations at other times.
So I put it to our football team and allowed them to take part, become part of the process, and that’s what it’s been, it’s been a process, and it’s an ongoing process.
Whether it comes to fruition or not remains to be seen. But it’s been a step-by-step process. And I talked to our football team and our players and said: Hey, if you guys want him back, then you have to bring him back. It has to be a decision made by our African-American players, led by them. It has to be — they have to support that.
But I think college football, and teams in general — when I talk about “teams,” talking about soccer teams, football teams, whatever — they have an opportunity to step forward collectively as a group and make statements relative to society, I think, year by year. Sometimes they’re impactful. Sometimes they’re not.
But the one thing I want our football players to understand and to learn from is that — and to grow as people from is that they’re going to have to handle big, big issues at times, such as standing for the flag or not, things we’ve endured at Michigan State in this past year, they’re going to be a part of that, and they’re going to have to weigh in on things.
And I’m going to have to listen to them and listen to them weigh in on it and make decisions, ultimately. I’ll ultimately have to make decisions.
But I have individuals that I’m concerned about. I’m concerned about people’s families. I’m concerned about how they live their life. Jon Reschke makes the decision he wants to come back, he’s trying to look things in the eye and ask for forgiveness.
Our football team has forgiven him, I think. If they haven’t, that’s something we’ll deal with on an ongoing basis. It’s been a step-by-step process. Brought him back, let him be around a bit in summer camp and watch, not summer camp, but our conditioning areas, then we let him partake in that conditioning. We watched to see how he interacted with players that listened to our football team since January, our leadership group, our entire team. Every month I’ve revisited the situation and asked them how do they feel; do they still feel the same; they’ll need to speak up and talk about this issue.
And I’m allowing, hopefully allowing, healing to take place among our players and this situation. So I’ll always do the best I can in that endeavor, and we’ll take a step-by-step approach. But these things occurred over a year and a half ago. And he’s not on scholarship, nor will he be on scholarship.
And I think that’s a big thing. He paid an ultimate price by being out of football for a year. And he’s lost his scholarship. He’s suffered a knee injury. We’ll see how he comes out of it. And this will be a story to watch maybe as we move forward.
But I think it’s a learning opportunity for our football team and it’s an opportunity for growth as people and as a society. So that’s what we’re going to do, and we’re going to see what happens.
Q. Is he on the roster?
MARK DANTONIO: Right now he’s on the roster, but it’s a step-by-step process, the first step was for him to be able to complete what we call our bottom line program which has been completed. Next step will be does he come to camp or not. But at this point in time, all indications from my players is that they want him in camp.
And I’ll try and honor our football team and see what we can do. But that’s the process. Step-by-step process.
Q. Year over year you talk about learning. What did you learn most from last season?
MARK DANTONIO: We were able to get up off the mat; that’s what I was most proud of. That we were able to deal with the problems that were at hand, all the different situations that we had to experience after last season coming off a tough season, coming off a season where we had situations last spring we had to deal with. All the things that Michigan State has encompassed, the change.
And yet we were able to refocus ourselves. And, again, winning is just a product of what you do and how you do it. Winning doesn’t just happen. It involves so much more than just catching a pass.
But our ability to work as a group and to overcome, and we’ve had very little experience last year, to overcome our challenges and be in the hunt for a championship in November told me a lot about our people as individuals.
Told me that we had winners off the field, not just on the field. And incredibly proud of our players, the decisions they’ve made on and off the field, the opportunities they’ve taken to be part of the healing process at Michigan State, to our survivors, things of that nature, and how they’ve gone about their business.
Ultimately it’s about choices, and our guys are making good choices every single day right now. We’re asking them to make critical — that critical moment of choice, make the right decision. And our guys are doing that, and I couldn’t be proud of who they are as people and how they’ve responded.
And the ten wins last year is just an indication of that response.
Q. You talked about the ten wins, the number of starters that you have coming back, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of talk outside maybe the program about Michigan State this year. Do you feel that you’re flying still under the radar a little bit?
MARK DANTONIO: I don’t know. I think that somebody said we were No. 5 ranked in the country. Another one said 10, another said 12, another said 15. It just so happens we’re in a great conference. Very strong conference. On the East side there’s a lot of strength in that area as well.
We’re in a very competitive conference that will be decided by inches in a lot of ways. So that’s the nature of it. But I think that we get more than our share of publicity, good and bad.
Q. You’ve touched on a little bit of the upheaval and controversy that’s happened at Michigan State over the last year plus. One of the things you and coaches have talked about over the years is the consistency across the leadership at the university. That’s changed, of course, with Bill Beekman taking over as athletic director. How do you see the framework of Michigan State’s athletic leadership helping you and the rest of the athletic program to grow from everything that’s happened over the course of the last couple of years?
MARK DANTONIO: First of all, I think Bill Beekman has been on a five-month interview process, which is challenging in itself. I think now he has the opportunity to become a — have one focus, as I said last week. He’s got a unifying presence within our athletic department and I think within our university. He’s very well versed relative to our deans, our administration, our athletic department, our coaches.
He’s made an outstanding effort to get to know everybody personally, spend a lot of time with everyone. I’ve seen him make decisions as an interim athletic director and have been very impressed with those decisions to try and keep the ball moving.
We need one person right now at that position that is full time, one focus, full time, to be able to move the rock, be able to move our program, which is a big program. As is all the programs here. He’ll move these people forward.
And I think he’s the guy. He’s a Michigan State alum. He understands Michigan State thoroughly. And it would be as if a guy came in and knew everybody here and their families, everybody here and their families as opposed to somebody walking in and not knowing the people.
So it gives him a tremendous advantage where to look for resources and where to look for help to be able to push this thing forward and help us unify to move forward. I’ve been impressed.
52 Dillon Alexander DE 6-4 234 SR Forsyth, Ga. – Lambert
82 Javez Alexander WR 6-2 187 FR Sandusky, Ohio – Sandusky
97 Justice Alexander DE 6-5 257 JR Macedonia, Ohio – Nordonia
64 Matt Allen OL 6-3 296 SO Hinsdale, Ill. – Hinsdale Central
16 Austin Andrews RB 6-0 181 SO Columbus, Ohio – St. Francis DeSales
76 AJ Arcuri OT 6-7 283 SO Powell, Ohio – Olentangy Liberty
47 Ryan Armour SN 6-0 225 JR Traverse City, Mich. – St. Francis
35 Joe Bachie LB 6-2 230 JR Brook Park, Ohio – Berea-Midpark
85 Khylin Barton WR 6-1 195 SO Zeeland, Mich. – Zeeland East
59 David Beedle OG 6-5 333 SR Clarkston, Mich. – Clarkston
86 Drew Beesley DL 6-2 246 SO Rochester Hills, Mich. – Warren De La Salle
27 Weston Bridges RB 5-11 201 RS FR Copley, Ohio – Copley
29 Shakur Brown CB 6-0 176 RS FR Stockbridge, Ga. – Woodland
66 Blake Bueter OL 6-4 300 RS FR Howell, Mich. – Detroit Catholic Central
38 Byron Bullough LB 6-1 232 SR Traverse City, Mich. – St. Francis
41 Reid Burton FB 6-1 230 SO East Lansing, Mich. – East Lansing
19 Josh Butler CB 6-0 175 JR Mesquite, Texas – West Mesquite
57 Collin Caflisch SN 6-4 280 JR Canton, Mich. – Canton
62 Luke Campbell OT 6-5 290 SO Lewis Center, Ohio – Olentangy
91 Jack Camper DE 6-4 225 RS FR Virginia Beach, Va. – IMG Academy
56 Matt Carrick OG 6-4 328 RS FR Minerva, Ohio – Perry
21 Cam Chambers WR 6-2 215 SO Sicklerville, N.J. – Timber Creek Regional
61 Cole Chewins OT 6-8 288 JR Clarkston, Mich. – Clarkston
4 Matt Coghlin K 5-9 192 SO Cincinnati, Ohio – Archbishop Moeller
18 Felton Davis III WR 6-4 195 SR Richmond, Va. – Highland Springs
84 Noah Davis TE 6-4 244 SO Cincinnati, Ohio – St. Xavier
6 Theo Day QB 6-5 217 FR Canton, Mich. – Divine Child
89 Matt Dotson TE 6-5 249 SO Kenwood, Ohio – Archbishop Moeller
77 Dimitri Douglas OL 6-4 274 FR Saline, Mich. – Saline
5 Andrew Dowell LB 6-1 225 SR North Ridgeville, Ohio – St. Edward
6 David Dowell S 6-1 196 JR North Ridgeville, Ohio – St. Edward
14 Emmanuel Flowers WR 6-1 186 RS FR Chino Hills, Calif. – Ayala
18 Kalon Gervin CB 5-11 186 FR Detroit, Mich. – Cass Technical
94 Chase Gianacakos TE 6-6 296 SR St. Charles, Ill. – St. Charles North
98 Cole Hahn K 5-10 200 RS FR West Des Moines, Iowa – Valley
30 Tanner Hallock LB 6-1 232 RS FR Grand Rapids, Mich. – Forest Hills Central
25 Jake Hartbarger P 6-4 200 SR Waterville, Ohio – Anthony Wayne
47 Noah Harvey LB 6-3 221 RS FR Hartland, Wis. – Arrowhead
4 C.J. Hayes WR 6-1 206 RS FR Bowling Green, Ky. – South Warren
3 Xavier Henderson DB 6-1 194 FR Reynoldsburg, Ohio – Pickerington Central
74 Jack Henrichs OL 6-6 268 RS FR Thiensville, Wis. – Homestead
11 Connor Heyward RB 6-0 228 SO Duluth, Ga. – Peachtree Ridge
70 Tyler Higby OG 6-5 284 JR Houston, Texas – The Kinkaid School
83 Mufi Hill-Hunt DT 6-5 301 SO Sandy, Utah – Taylorsville
97 Tyler Hunt K 6-2 215 RS FR Gobles, Mich. – Gobles
75 Kevin Jarvis OG 6-4 312 SO Chicago, Ill. – Maine South
93 Naquan Jones DT 6-4 342 SO Evanston, Ill. – Mount Prospect
79 Mustafa Khaleefah OT 6-5 280 RS FR Dearborn Heights, Mich. – Dearborn
12 Nick Krumm WR 5-10 184 JR Commerce Township, Mich. – Walled Lake Central
2 Justin Layne CB 6-3 185 JR Cleveland, Ohio – Benedictine
20 Davis Lewandowski WR 6-0 197 JR Okemos, Mich. – Okemos
14 Brian Lewerke QB 6-3 215 JR Phoenix, Ariz. – Pinnacle
69 Tommy Liesveld OL 6-6 280 SO Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Saginaw Valley State
45 Ben Line FB 6-2 250 SR Oxford, Mich. – Robert Morris
63 Noah Listermann OL 6-8 304 JR Cincinnati, Ohio – Winton Woods
12 Rocky Lombardi QB 6-3 219 RS FR Cliva, Iowa – Valley
9 Dominique Long S 6-2 185 SO Westerville, Ohio – Westerville South
40 Collin Lucas FB 6-1 234 SR Avon Lake, Ohio – Avon Lake
13 Mickey Macius QB 6-2 210 SR Arlington Heights, Ill. – Austin Peay
19 Julian Major WR 6-2 171 FR Pittsburgh, Pa. – Penn Hills
43 Jack Mandryk S 6-0 187 RS FR Hudsonville, Mich. – Hudsonville
93 Jack McKenna K/P 6-0 179 RS FR Commerce Township, Mich. – Walled Lake Northern
44 Grayson Miller LB 6-3 208 SR Georgetown, Ky. – Scott
10 Matt Morrissey S 6-3 204 SR Lincolnshire, Ill. – Adlai E. Stevenson
42 Brent Mossburg LB 6-2 218 RS FR Carleton, Mich. – Airport
13 Laress Nelson WR 5-8 182 SO Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – American Heritage
36 Jiah Norman CB 5-11 194 RS FR Houston, Texas – Hotchkiss School
41 Gerald Owens DL 6-2 306 SR Thorofare, N.J. – West Deptford
96 Jacub Panasiuk DE 6-3 269 SO Roselle, Ill. – Lake Part West
72 Mike Panasiuk DT 6-4 296 JR Roselle, Ill. – Lake Park West
24 Tre Person S 5-10 165 SO Atlanta, Ga. – Westlake
32 Corey Pryor DB 5-10 208 SO Jackson, Mich. – Jackson
26 Brandon Randle LB 6-2 225 SO Battle Creek, Mich. – Battle Creek Central
37 Dante Razzano LB 6-2 221 SO Niles, Mich. – Edwardsburg
55 Jordan Reid OT 6-4 281 SO Mt. Clemens, Mich. – Detroit Cass Tech
44 Max Rosenthal FB 6-2 244 RS FR Winnetka, Ill. – New Trier Township Winnetka
36 Noah Sargent RB 6-0 198 SO Fenton, Mich. – Saginaw Valley State
22 Josiah Scott CB 5-10 170 SO Hamilton, Ohio – Fairfield
3 LJ Scott RB 6-1 226 SR Hubbard, Ohio – Hubbard
80 Matt Seybert TE 6-4 249 JR Traverse City, Mich. – Buffalo
34 Antjuan Simmons LB 6-0 221 SO Ann Arbor, Mich. – Pioneer
15 Tyson Smith CB 5-11 171 SR Southfield, Mich. – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s
81 Matt Sokol TE 6-6 255 SR Rochester, Mich. – Adams
54 Mitchell Sokol LB 6-3 226 RS FR Rochester, Mich. – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s
16 Brandon Sowards WR 6-0 189 SR Wyandotte, Mich. – Roosevelt
25 Darrell Stewart Jr. WR 6-2 214 JR Houston, Texas – Nimitz
39 Alante Thomas RB 5-9 189 SO Detroit, Mich. – Saginaw Valley State
17 Tyriq Thompson LB 6-1 244 JR Detroit, Mich. – Martin Luther King
92 DeAri Todd DE 6-2 274 RS FR Lorain, Ohio – Clearview
31 Edward Warinner LB 6-0 219 FR Powell, Ohio – Olentangy Liberty
87 Jahz Watts WR 5-11 176 RS FR Belleville, Mich. – Belleville
88 Andre Welch WR 5-9 175 SO East Kentwood, Mich. – East Kentwood
7 Cody White WR 6-3 214 SO Novi, Mich. – Walled Lake Western
67 Bryce Wilker OL 6-5 306 JR Belding, Mich. – Belding Area
48 Kenny Willekes DE 6-4 250 JR Rockford, Mich. – NorthPointe Christian
99 Raequan Williams DT 6-4 295 JR Chicago, Ill. – DePaul College Prep
27 Khari Willis S 6-0 214 SR Jackson, Mich. – Lumen Christi
Mark Dantonio – Head Coach
Mark Staten – Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line
Mike Tressel – Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Dave Warner – Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs
Jim Bollman – Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends
Chuck Bullough – Defensive Ends
Ron Burton – Defensive Tackles
Brad Salem – Quarterbacks
Paul Haynes – Secondary
Terrence Samuel – Wide Receivers
Don Treadwell – Assistant Defensive Backs/Special Teams, Freshmen
Tim Allen – Assistant Athletic Director / Director of Football Operations
Brad Lunsford – Director of Executive Football Operations
Dino Folino – Director of Personnel/Player Development
Sheldon White – Executive Director of Player Personnel & Recruiting
Cody Cox – Assistant Director of Football Operations/Camp Coordinator
Butler Benton – Director of On-Campus Recruiting
Ken Mannie – Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
Tommy Hoke – Associate Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
Mike Vorkapich – Assoc. Head Strength & Conditioning Coach / Director of Sport Science
Lorenzo Guess – Associate Strength & Conditioning Coach
Bill Burghardt – Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach
Steve Gardiner – Defensive Analyst
Nick Ruffing – Offensive Analyst
Garrett Briningstool – Recruiting Operations Assistant
Jesse Johnson – Graduate Assistant/Defense
Blake Treadwell – Graduate Assistant/Offense
Ethan McGuire – Graduate Assistant/Offense
Matt Adolph – Defensive/Special Teams Intern
Dave Rayner – Special Teams Intern
Jairus Jones – Recruiting Intern