CHICAGO — With a record of 7-6 and injuries plaguing most of the 2018 Spartan team, MSU coach Mark Dantonio and his players look toward building off the No. 1 ranked defense in the country while also rebuilding the struggling offense this upcoming season.
Dantonio — along with defensive players senior linebacker Joe Bachie, senior defensive end Kenny Willekes and senior defensive tackle Raequan Williams — represented the Spartans at this year’s Big Ten Media Day Conference.
Here are the takeaways from Thursday’s press conference:
Joe Bachie and Kenny Willekes named to Big Ten Preseason Honors
Willekes was named Defensive Lineman of the Year before breaking his leg in the Redbox Bowl against Oregon.
“He's playing a little bit in 2016 and then busts out in 2017 and Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Big Ten Conference in 2018,” Dantonio said. “He's a guy that is very explosive, very tough, hard worker, prepares, rubs off on everybody around him and his intensity is contagious.”
MSU and Ohio State were the only two programs to have more than one player represented on the list.
Brian Lewerke coming in healthy
After struggling with an injury for most of the season, Dantonio announced that senior quarterback Brian Lewerke should be back to his regular self for the upcoming season.
Lewerke suffered a right shoulder injury after a 21-17 win at Penn State on Oct. 13. He played in ten games last season and completed 184 of his 339 passes.
“He certainly is back and healthy,” Dantonio said. “He's bigger and stronger, he's faster and he comes into his senior year with a tremendous amount of game experience.”
As for his teammates, they are noticing a difference in him as well.
Bachie mentioned that although many people are continuing to doubt the third season quarterback, he is back to where he used to be.
“He looks like he is comfortable throwing the ball,” Bachie said. “I’m excited for him and I think he’ll have another big year. I know a lot of people are counting him out, but he is our guy.”
Last season became a battle between the quarterbacks of Lewerke and sophomore Rocky Lombardi. Lombardi went 2-1 in his three starts last season out of the eight games played while completing 68 of his 154 passes.
This season, Lewerke will continue to be the starter for the upcoming season.
“They'll compete to some degree, but right now Brian is our number one quarterback, and I expect great things from him and I expect him to return to his sophomore status, and very excited to watch him play,” Dantonio said.
“Chase the Moment”
During the annual press conference, Dantonio also announced the team’s new mantra for this season, “Chase the Moment.”
Back in 2013, the team had another similar motto of “chase it” where they went on to become the Rose Bowl Champions.
“We talked about it a month ago on what we wanted it to be and we all said something about chase, whether it was just chase or chase the moment,” Bachie said. “[Dantonio] came out and said this and we’re ready for it.”
Bachie described the new saying as chasing something that is bigger than your dreams. For Dantonio and this Spartan team, that dream is making it as far as the 2013 team did this season.