The War Room:  Go Inside #5 Michigan State Football

I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story.  When I have a few that I can assemble together I will, and when I only have one or two I will post them on our Phalanx Forum board.  So welcome to The War Room.

  • I expect the next football commitment to come as early as tomorrow or as late as this weekend.  Stay tuned.  A critical and key recruit.
  • Speed is the name of the game this spring and the Spartans have it. They are moving guys around trying to showcase as much as possible.
  • The Spartans respect the talent of Ohio State, but if there is one area that the Buckeyes have had the advantage at since Urban arrived in Columbus is team speed.
  • The Spartans know how good they are going to be next year. With that said to beat the Buckeyes on November 10, they know they have the talent, but they must match their speed.  That is why speed is the #1 priority this season.
  • I have already told you that Brian Lewerke has had a great offseason. Dantonio thinks he is totally different this spring from just one year ago.  “I said to him yesterday, belief is such a big thing I think when you play football and do things. So you have got to have belief that you can come in and do the job. He won 10 games last year, I think threw for 20 touchdowns, ran for (559) yards, threw for 2500 (2,793). So there’s a foundation there for his success level and I think that he’ll be prepared for that next step. It’s important that everybody comes with him, but we’ve got a very confident quarterback who’s played in a lot of games with a lot of experience and has done great things for us.”

  • DE Kenny Willekes is going to have to go from good to great if the Spartans are going to reach their goal of a College Football Playoff. I was told by a staff member earlier this month, “There is no one on this team who has benefited more from a coach so far this spring than Kenny and Chuck (Bullough).
  • Willekes says of his maturation that, “I’m never happy with what I do. I’m still looking back and finding where I can get better.” That is ALL Chuck Bullough.

  • Look for DeAri Todd and Jack Camper to get a great chance to compete next season. Both are sponges for what Chuck Bullough is selling.  Dillon Alexander and Jacub Panasiuk as well.
  • But here is a DE name that hasn’t got a lot of attention: “Justice Alexander.”  This is year four.  He is a physical specimen who truthfully has underperformed.  This time has a different feel.  He will not have as long of a leash, but he will get a chance and everyone is rooting for him.  He is a good kid and his time is not or never.
  • Willekes said of the team’s desire to get faster that, “We’ve just been working on pass rush every single day,”
  • In talking with scouts no one helped themselves at Pro Day more than Chris Frey. Some draft prospectuses had him running in the 4.7’s.  One scout I spoke to had him at 4.63 and said, “He made some money today.”
  • Brian Allen had a solid good day. People know what he offered from the All-Star circuit so there wasn’t more he could do to help, but he could have hurt himself.  He didn’t and his prospects are good.
  • Gerald Holmes didn’t hurt himself at all according to members of two organizations.
  • Demetrius Cooper did not help himself. I really like Coop and I feel bad for him.  He did 10 reps on the bench.  K Brett Scanlon did 13.
  • Perhaps no one player has the team and coaching staff as excited as LJ Scott. Scott is a good person but has not had the work ethic or maybe it would be better-said maturity to realize how great he can be.
  • I had one staff member who loves Scott tell me last year, “That kid (Scott) has all of the God-given talents in the world if he had Gerald (Holmes) or Madre (London) work ethic is he better than Saquon Barkley.”
  • To his credit, Scott came back this offseason with a different mentality. He told me this past week, “I gotta show a lot more maturity.”  Look out Big Ten, he is a beast and he seems to have finally really grasped how talented he is.  A super kid, you root for him to realize.

  • I asked Dantonio last week who has stood out so far. He had an impressive list.  “Shakur Brown had a pick yesterday, looking good. I think Noah Harvey is looking good for a guy that redshirted last year. I think those are names that probably nobody has really talked about much.  Xavier Henderson is impressive for what I would call a rookie – a guy that’s early enrolled – that’s been a big positive for us. Brandon Randle continues to improve as well as Tyriq Thompson is a much-improved football player from what he’s been. Byron Bullough has had a good spring thus far.  Rocky Lombardi is getting a lot of reps, as well as Theo Day. Kalon (Gervin) is another guy. Got a lot of young players out there, so Kalon has looked very well, No. 18 shows up. He’s very instinctive, reacts very well, tackles effectively, plays well to the edge and he can really run so I think there’s no question that he’s going to be a player here for us.”
  • Rocky Lombardi is on the big stage now. He has a monster arm, but he also is going against great players.  Perhaps no team on the Spartan schedule will have as good of defensive secondary as the one Lombardi faced every day on the scout team while redshirting last year.  While he didn’t like redshirting I thought it was brilliant instead of him taking meaningless reps against the scout defense since he wasn’t going to play.
  • Dantonio said of the expectations for his redshirt freshman with a howitzer for an arm, “Execution and not making mistakes as a quarterback – the least amount of mistakes you make, the better we’re going to be as a group. And I think turnovers always play into that, so we’ve got to be better with the football. Rocky is a coach’s son. He’s a guy that works extremely hard, he’s very talented, and I think his throwing motion has come a long way in a year. He’s still a freshman, so he’s done some things out there that have been very impressive.”
  • I asked Dantonio about position changes as well. One will not have shocked readers of Spartan Nation.  Dantonio confirmed what we told you last year, “Emmanuel Flowers is working wide receiver. He played wideout and defensive end in high school and so we moved him there. I think he’s found a place there, so he’s been fun to watch although he’s still learning.”

  • As far as replacing Brian Allen, Dantonio says the center spot looks like, “Matt (Allen) is playing well. Matt his brother, we’ve worked (Tyler) Higby in there, we’ve worked Jordan in there, Jordan Reid in there. David Beedle has the ability to go in there. Blake Bueter, I think Blake Bueter has taken steps pretty much like Connor Kruse (former MSU walk-on lineman) had maybe. Not a scholarship guy, but he’s 306 pounds. He’s athletic and so he’s done some good things in there.”
  • Dantonio wants his team to showcase speed and play violently this year. He said that he is looking for, “I’d just like to see shock. I’d just like to see people snap. I just like to see suddenness and so we’re always trying to get that to the next level. Regardless of what that is, whether you’re throwing and catching the ball, running the ball, or tackling you want to do it with sudden bursts and so that’s what we’ll continue to look at.”
  • Redshirt sophomore Austin Andrews moved to running back. That is for depth reasons, but I do not expect him to get any reps there barring injury in the fall.  Very similar to Brandon Randle playing OLB with Andrew Dowell and Antjuan Simmons sitting out the spring.

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