Friday, February 28, 2020

As Michigan State's roster shrinks, opportunities for rookies grow

November 8, 2019
<p>Freshman wide receiver Julian Barnett (2) is tackled during the game against Penn State on Oct. 26, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions, 28-7.</p>

Freshman wide receiver Julian Barnett (2) is tackled during the game against Penn State on Oct. 26, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions, 28-7.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Most teams rely on their veteran players to lead in times of need. Most teams’ captains play in every game. And most teams become discouraged after a three-game losing streak. Evidently, Michigan State University football is not most teams.

The Spartans (4-4) are staying optimistic in the season that took a turn for the worse after senior captain Joe Bachie was declared ineligible due to testing positive for PEDs. That blow, on top of six Spartan names entered in the college football transfer portal, and a plethora of injuries, has made MSU into a younger team, in a sense. 

“We’ve got players that want to step up and make plays,” senior Raequan Williams said. “Because that’s exactly what he’s (Bachie) going to want us to do. We’ve got to respond.”

Throughout the season, many rookies have been given minutes due to the shrinking roster. Redshirt freshman Elijah Collins has been able to showcase his abilities as the Spartans go-to running back.

“We've got good players,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “Those players, even though they are young, those players now have an opportunity to step up and play and that's exciting. Sort of sets the tone.”

Other offensive tools the Spartans have like sophomores Blake Bueter, Matt Carrick will give MSU new looks on the field and try new things.

"Nick is a very athletic guy," Dantonio said. "He's been a guy that we've said great things about and has been working number two pretty much at center the entire season and now is his time to have an opportunity."

Star wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. is injured and was not on the Spartan depth chart as of Tuesday, as well as Matt Allen. Due to these circumstances, players like Nick Samac, Tre Mosely, and Julian Barnett will be eager to dig their cleats into some grass Saturday.

"You know, it's sort of out of my hands and I've got to focus on what I can control," Dantonio said. "What I can control is — or what we can control is putting next guy in there, getting ourselves ready to go, having a positive mental disposition in terms of what we do and bring energy."

Noah Harvey will be put to the test as he will step into the position of center linebacker. Filling Bachie’s shoes will be unachievable, but with everyone’s help, the Spartans could have a shot of making up for lost power. 

“Noah’s been the guy that has consistently improved since he’s been here,” senior linebacker Tyriq Thompson said.

Harvey has just eight tackles under his belt over the past two years, compared to Bachie’s 71 this season. Will the Spartan be able to step up?

“(Harvey) flies around and makes a lot of plays especially in practice,” senior David Dowell said. “For him, it’s just about being able to translate that to the game. I feel confidence in him.”

The pressure will be on the substitute, but MSU will have to work together to make up for lost talent.

"Everybody's got to pick it up," Dantonio said. "Everybody's got to play 1/11th better to make up for a guy that's lost."



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