Tyler Higby in the lead to be No. 1 center for MSU football
Redshirt junior quarterback Brian Lewerke and redshirt junior offensive guard Tyler Higby have been roommates for four years.
They have friendly arguments from time to time. Nothing too serious, Lewerke said, who usually wins about 50 percent of the arguments.
“It’s good fun, nothing too serious,” he said. “It’s fun to joke around with him.”
They might be getting more used to each other on the football field, however, as head coach Mark Dantonio said before practice on Aug. 14 that Higby is in the lead to replace ex-center and current Los Angeles Ram Brian Allen as the starting center when the Aug. 31 season-opener against Utah State arrives.
“Right now Tyler is the No. 1 center,” Dantonio said. “I think (sophomore center) Matt (Allen) is gonna play. He’s a young center, and he continues to improve. He’s very capable. We’ll see how it all shakes out.”
Higby has 13 starts in his 23 career games at MSU, all coming at left guard. When he was being recruited in high school, he was listed as an offensive tackle by 247Sports (No. 85 in the nation) and ESPN (No. 49 in the nation), while being listed by Scout.com as a guard (No. 55 in the nation).
The Houston native has been moving more inside on the offensive line since he stepped foot in East Lansing, which Lewerke said is not what Higby originally wanted.
“He’s definitely accepted it,” Lewerke said. “He likes to play tackle and guard more, but he’s accepted his role and I think he’ll perform at a high level at it. Recognizing points, where to go and doing all that stuff. He’s doing pretty well at it.”
Now, Higby said during MSU’s media day he now loves being at center. And Lewerke, being his roommate, isn’t quite sure why.
“Maybe he just likes touching the ball every play. I mean, I like doing that,” he said. “It might be that aspect, it might just be him being the centerpiece of the O-Line now. So all those aspects. I think, like you said, has done a great job so far.”
Lewerke said Higby has had no issues with knowing what player to point out on the defense or communicating it on the line. But now Higby has to make the call, which Lewerke said is different for Higby.
“But it’s kind of a collective whenever we need to figure out who the point is, it’s kind of everybody helping him out and helping each other out to make sure we get the right guy,” he said.
And spending time with Higby for “almost every day now” off the field while in East Lansing for the past four years has made it easier to communicate to each other.
“I’m not afraid to go talk to him about something,” Lewerke said. “Not shy or anything like that, like I would be with somebody else, possibly.”
Which will more likely than not end up in some more arguments.
“We’re getting a good feel for each other,” Lewerke said. “Obviously, he’s my roommate and we’ve been roommates for four years, so I know him very well. We have our arguments a lot and that’ll be interesting with him being a center. But it’ll be fun.”
Finding starters for defensive end and SAM linebacker
With Higby being the No. 1 at center — for now — that leaves two starter spots up for grabs: defensive end and SAM linebacker.
Dantonio said Tuesday sophomore defensive end Jacub Panasiuk is the lead guy to oppose junior defensive end Kenny Willekes.
But the SAM, or strong-side, linebacker spot, isn’t so narrowed down.
“That’s just gonna work itself out,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got guys who can play. We can go three or four deep at that position, so that’s been a positive.”
Some possible replacements for Chris Frey are seniors Grayson Miller and Byron Bullough, junior Tyriq Thompson and sophomores Brandon Randle and Antjuan Simmons. Randle, who was a defensive end in 2017 as a redshirt freshman, said the experience at the end will help him deal with bigger offensive lineman at linebacker, especially on third down.
“It helped me use hands better,” Randle said. “I feel like I’m going to get to the quarterback a lot this year.”
Also in the mix is sixth-year linebacker Jon Reschke, who was recently put back on the team after leaving the team in February 2017 after sending a racially-charged text message that involved one of his teammates.
Dantonio said Reschke is healthy, and can play any of the three linebacker positions and has been practicing in all three. Junior middle linebacker Joe Bachie said Reshcke is “looking better everyday” and wouldn’t be surprised if he was a starter at some point during the season.
“He’s still quick, he’s still explosive and he’s strong as could be,” Bachie said.