Mark Dantonio was very clear in regards to the quarterback situation during his weekly news conference Tuesday: Brian Lewerke will start against Ohio State Saturday, being listed as the lone starter on this week's depth chart.
“Brian is our starting quarterback, you can go with that,” Dantonio said. “That’s the foundation that he's built here.”
Lewerke said Dantonio's reaffirmation felt “great."
“It’s good, builds my confidence,” Lewerke said. “It’s great to hear him say that after I’ve been struggling the past couple weeks, just with the injury. So it’s good.”
Lewerke is 16-of-45 for 153 yards and an interception in two games (Oct. 20 against Michigan and Nov. 3 against Maryland) since suffering an unknown right-shoulder injury against Penn State on Oct. 13.
In the 18th-ranked Spartans’ (6-3, 4-2) 24-3 win over Maryland last Saturday, Lewerke went 11-of-20 for 87 yards and an interception, while running nine times for a season-high 45 yards.
And while assessing Lewerke’s performance against the Terrapins, Dantonio said he “didn’t see velocity issues relative to his arm strength,” and said the velocity criticism came from the outside noise and the "30-mile wind" in Maryland.
“If he was hurt, he would not be playing,” Dantonio said. “Is he 100 percent? Nobody’s 100 percent 10 games into the season. But, if he could not play, he would not play.
Lewerke said it was windy when he played at Maryland two years ago, which helped him prepare for last Saturday’s game.
However, Lewerke said wind still prevented him from having the return he wanted.
“The wind obviously didn’t help a lot, especially not being able to put as much on the ball,” Lewerke said. “But, it’s just how football is when you play in the Big Ten in November.”
And when trying to play hurt, Lewerke said he has to mentally “push through” it and not focus too much on his throwing shoulder.
“(You) let the adrenaline kind of take you places,” Lewerke said. “That’s kind of how I went through it when I got hurt, just with adrenaline. You got to try and block it out of your mind.”
Though Lewerke’s able to play through the pain, Dantonio said he’s “not afraid” to go to backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who went 26-of-46 for 318 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start in MSU's 23-13 win over Purdue two weeks ago.
Lombardi went in against Maryland after Lewerke threw an interception in the fourth quarter, and ended up staying in the for the remainder of the game.
“(Lombardi) made a big statement against Purdue in that football game, and we look at it as an ace reliever,” Dantonio said. “If we need to go to him, if we’re not having success, then we will go to him.”
But until then, Lewerke said he’ll keep trying to play through the pain.
“It’s not something that goes to my head,” Lewerke said. “If I can play, I’ll play. If I can’t, I can’t.”
LJ Scott possibly redshirting
Dantonio said him and running back LJ Scott are starting to have discussions about possibly redshirting this year.
“We have to see where he's at in terms of his injury, and sort of go from there,” Dantonio said. “So we have to look at those different things as we go, and we'll see how it all shakes out, and I'll talk with him this week and we'll see what happens.”
Scott has been dealing with an ankle injury since MSU’s loss to Arizona State on Sept. 8, and has missed five games and played in four (Utah State, ASU, Michigan and Purdue).
Since the senior hasn’t redshirted yet, he qualifies for one under NCAA rule, which allows players who play four or less games to redshirt.
Lewerke said it would be “great to have him back” next year if Scott decides to redshirt and come back for a fifth year.
“I remember saying the same thing last year after he decided to come back for his fourth year,” Lewerke said. “It’s never going to be bad to have him — an NFL running back — lineup behind you.”
But that’s only if Dantonio thinks it’s better to let him heal rather than play the rest of the season.
“We have three meaningful games left … a bowl game left, so really, you have almost a third of your season left to play, or a fourth,” Dantonio said.
While Dantonio and Scott discuss whether or not the senior should skip the NFL Draft and stay another year or play again this season, running back Connor Heyward said he’s ready no matter the decision.
“I think we’re a good one-two punch when he’s healthy,” said Heyward, who ran for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland. “So if he’s able to go, I’m excited. If he’s not, I’m excited.”