Offensive linemen fighting for last two starting spots
The Spartan offensive line will look to bring in new leaders to join with junior quarterback Brian Lewerke, senior running back LJ Scott and senior wide receiver Felton Davis III.
The second offensive line unit is where it looks different, with the new Spartans taking over.
“Our second offensive line is made up of freshmen, walk-ons, so we've got a lot of bodies out there that have played a year of football or haven’t played any college football,” co-offensive coordinator/running backs Dave Warner said.
Assistant head coach and offensive line coordinator Mark Staten’s expectation for his offense is consistency, which is something they have been focusing on throughout the spring practices.
Head coach Mark Dantonio puts his trust into his veteran coaches and the newer coaches, such as defensive ends coach Chuck Bullough, secondary coach Paul Haynes and assistant secondary, special teams and freshman coach Don Treadwell.
“I think every coach you bring in has different ideas and brings something new to the table. and I think it keeps us fresh,” Dantonio said. “And we’re always looking for new ideas and things to implement, and we’ve always done that.”
Four returning starters will rejoin the team this season, but still have some ways to go, Staten said. Even though they have played in previous games, they still have to prove to him what they have.
Now, the key moment is finding the player to replace former center and captain Brian Allen.
“They were freshmen last year, sophomores,” Staten said. “There are ways to go, but you can’t say that they haven’t been out there and they haven’t been in the fray because of so many returning, and as you look at it, we lost that key piece in the middle. We've got guys like Matt Allen, Tyler Higby and Jordan Reid fighting for that spot.”
Staten admitted it is a hard decision for him to pick someone who has surprised him so far, but said he feels he will be able to pick his starting lines.
Five of the returners will be a part of his seven starters, but the last two spots will be up for grabs by Matt, Higby and Reid.
“That’s a tough one because, you as a coach or anybody who is a parent, you believe in your kids, and I’ve always tried to believe in my kids,” Staten said. “Right now I feel seven strong, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
They'll also be fighting to protect some young faces in the backfield, as sophomore running back Connor Heyward and redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi have stepped up.
Lombardi knows the offense and executes plays, while Heyward can run tail back and is extremely versatile, Warner said.
The one who sticks out the most to Warner, after only being here for two months, is freshman quarterback Theo Day. Warner said the upcoming spring game Saturday is an opportunity to show off the two rookie quarterbacks in a game situation.
“We’re anxious to see what they do,” Warner said. “Especially Theo. Again, he has been here two months, and guys who are here for two months don’t know the offense yet."