Notebook: Spartan players focusing on gaining experience
Michigan State will be showing some changes for the program during the Spring Game on April 13.
“I think every spring you start fresh and try and reaffirm what you’ve done well and change things that you haven’t, so that’s what … we’ve done,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said about the coaching shifts he made in the off-season.
Offensive coordinator Brad Salem was promoted in Jan. 2019, after being the former quarterback coach for the past six seasons. Dantonio also decided to separate the OC and the quarterback coach, giving former OC Dave Warner the duty of quarterback coach while Salem will be the running backs coach.
“I think there’s a positive because it’s such a run-pass orientated position,” Salem said about the advantages of dividing the two positions. “The drills you need to be and have an understanding of pass-protection run game and what you want to do cause ultimately you have to run the football in order to win.”
The Spartans held their second scrimmage of spring ball under the lights on Friday, April 5. Dantonio said they played around 139 snaps and finished just before midnight.
“We’ve got a lot of work done, a lot of different things going on,” Dantonio said about the team's spring practices.
Sophomore quarterback Rocky Lombardi connected with junior wide receiver Cody White for some touchdown passes but ultimately the defense won the first night scrimmage of the year.
“For Rocky to play for us last year and get that game experience under his belt, a guy that started as a sophomore. We’re excited to have those two guys back,” Salem said about the importance of having an experienced play caller in both Lombardi and senior quarterback Brian Lewerke.
Lewerke was also able to showcase some his improvements since overcoming a shoulder injury that granted Lombardi the starting position for several games in 2018’s 7-6 season.
“I don’t think it’s really going to get hurt much more from doing this stuff right now,” Lewerke said about the 2019 spring practices. “Personally, I’m not too worried about it.”
Salem also said that Lewerke is looking good in practices and that the confidence is back for him as well as the arm strength.
On the defensive side, defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said that these practices have been very productive for his guys.
“We feel good about our first group, they’ve got a lot of experience there,” Tressel said about the first string defense the Spartans have been able to put together after losing starting linebacker Andrew Dowell and cornerback Justin Layne to the NFL Draft. “The second and third group were really big focuses this spring and they’ve been coming along.”
The Spartan underclassmen have really impressed Tressel in practice.
“We’ve got a lot of talent, but not a lot of experience.” Tressel said about the inexperience that this group has. “That’s been the focus (for spring).”
Sophomore safety Xavier Henderson was one of two Spartans in the second group, that has played 30 or more snaps as a Spartan.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to,” Henderson said about the positions that opened up with Khari Willis graduating. “Fighting for the boundary spot, it’s competition and competition brings success.”
The Spartans will hold three more practices including the Spring Game to wrap up 2019 Spring Ball.