Michigan State has 25 freshmen on its latest depth chart, ten of those being true freshmen. The Spartans played 12 true freshmen last week against Michigan, where they came up short 44-10. Although the inexperience and lack of veteran leadership is evident on the field, young players are taking advantage of the playtime.
“Young people I think are resilient,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “Probably far more resilient than we are as coaches or as adults. But that's the nature of it. That's the way it should be because it's sport, athletic contest.”
Due to injuries, transfers and a suspension, freshman have filled many holes in the roster.
“AJ Arcuri, his ankle got tired basically,” Dantonio said. “He was able to play. But in that fourth quarter, I wanted to play Devontae Dobbs. I think he needs to play. But we're playing with a true freshman, left guard, true freshman center and left tackle in the fourth quarter. That's tough duty sometimes.”
Players like Elijah Collins, Noah Harvey, Tre Mosley and Anthony Williams Jr. have all stepped up as Dobbs saw his first snaps Saturday. Redshirt-freshman Collins proved himself worthy of a starting spot.
Collins has scored five touchdowns this season and continues to push the ball, collecting 742 rushing yards thus far.
The hungry freshmen are utilizing every drop of playing time by staying resilient through disappointing games.
“Practice is way different from a game,” junior defensive lineman Antjuan Simmons said. “So those snaps are valuable, whether its 2, 3 snaps.”
Mosley and Williams have recorded their first Spartan touchdowns this season.
“Me and (Mosley) been locker mates since the very first day he got on campus and to see him go from where he started from, I think he came in like 170 ... He’s put on like 15 pounds since being here. Just his mentality, the way he goes about himself is just completely different now. I told him after the Penn State game I was proud of him," Simmons said.
The growth some players have already experienced shows great potential for the program.
“Yeah, we played a lot of young players,” Dantonio said. “We'll probably have to continue to do that. But they're good players. Two years from now, what kind of offensive line are we going to have? Should be pretty good. Those guys are very good athletes, good players, but they're young. You have to take that into consideration.”
Even though the rookies are making their mark in the stats book, they still have lots to learn.
“When we're playing players that are in their first experience in that football game,” Dantonio said. “It takes time to understand what it is. It takes time to understand what it's all about.”
Not only are the young guys learning by doing, but also by support from the veterans on the team.
“Young guys are stepping up and playing,” senior quarterback and captain Brian Lewerke said. “A ton of young guys are getting playing time … for the program, I think that’s great.”
With just two games left in the season, Michigan State will look to go 2-0 to achieve bowl game eligibility.
The Spartans head to Rutgers this Saturday; kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.