Brian Lewerke, Michigan State feel comfortable with Tyler Higby as left tackle
Minutes to go before halftime, Michigan State's offensive line went back into panic-mode. Left tackle Kevin Jarvis went down with an injury.
As Spartan Stadium went silent, Jarvis gingerly walked off the field, straight down the tunnel and into the Spartans' locker room.
Left tackle has been an inconsistent position for Michigan State this season.
Senior Cole Chewins hasn't dressed in any of the Spartans' three games with a lingering back injury. Junior AJ Arcuri didn't dress against Tulsa in week one, played sparingly against Western Michigan and didn't dress against Arizona State last Saturday.
Jarvis, a traditional right guard, was fluxed into the position out of necessity. But, when he went down, Michigan State needed a new answer.
In came Tyler Higby.
Higby finished out Saturday's game in MSU's 10-7 loss to Arizona State, and with Jarvis sidelined for six-to-seven weeks, he slides in as the Spartans' projected new left tackle.
Higby was listed as the starter on Michigan State's depth chart for its Big Ten opener at Northwestern this Saturday (12:00 p.m. EDT/ 11:00 a.m. CDT, ABC). True freshman Devontae Dobbs made his first appearance on the depth chart as Higby's backup. The highly-touted recruit from Belleville, Michigan made his Spartan debut late in their 51-17 win against Western Michigan.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in his weekly press conference that the decision to play Higby over Dobbs was a combination of both knowledge and youth.
"I thought Higby went in there and played pretty well from everything that was given to me and indicated to me," Dantonio said during his weekly press conference. "So he's first man up, but I would expect for Dobbs to possibly play, and you know, he's got to get ready to play. So, there will be a little bit more sense of urgency, maybe, is what I would say.
"When you're playing, it's different. When you get in the game, all of a sudden everything becomes a little bit more important in practice. We're going to push the issue there a little bit, especially on the depth chart, so that they understand that. We have not listed him on the depth chart in that capacity because we just haven't, but they have worked there as the twos, like I said, so they should be ready to go. We'll see. We'll see how it all shakes out."
Higby is no stranger to left tackle. Last season, he was one of only two players on Michigan State's offense to start all 13 games — and one of only two lineman in college football that started multiple games at three different positions. Higby started the Spartans' first two games at center before switching over to left tackle for games against Indiana, Central Michigan and Northwestern, before moving over to left guard for Michigan State's final eight games.
Though, Higby doesn't have tons of experience at the tackle position, Michigan State and quarterback Brian Lewerke feel comfortable with him filling into the needed position and guarding Lewerke's blindside.
“I think it's pretty good," Lewerke said after Tuesday's practice. "He’s played a ton of positions and tackle is one, so its not like its a terribly new spot for him, so he should be good.”
Expect to see Julian Barnett more involved in Michigan State's offense.
That is what Dantonio leaned toward after Barnett showed off his speed last week against Arizona State. Barnett — a true freshman receiver from Detroit — made his first collegiate reception against the Sun Devils and used his swiftness to turn a modest eight-to-10-yard gain into a 39-yard catch-and-run.
"I see him being a guy that could possibly be playing more plays," Dantonio said. "He's just, you know, some of the routes and things of that nature, he needs to become a little bit more maybe crisp in terms of where he's going but I think he's extremely capable."
Barnett has seen action in all three of Michigan State's games this season. He can only play in one more game before using up his redshirt year. He came into summer camp as a cornerback, but Dantonio moved him over to the offensive side of the ball.
Dantonio also said that true freshman Tre Mosley — from Pontiac, Michigan — could see time before the season is over as well. Mosley has yet to play this year.
"I think he's coming, as well," Dantonio said of Mosley. "Young players, good players, very good players."