Monday, January 25, 2021

An update on the quarterback question, Mel Tucker remains quiet on who starts under center

October 22, 2020
Redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi warms up his arm prior to the game against Purdue on Oct. 27, 2018 at Spartan Stadium.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi warms up his arm prior to the game against Purdue on Oct. 27, 2018 at Spartan Stadium. —
Photo by CJ Weiss | The State News

It’s a unique year with a unique football season in unique circumstances. 

Uncertainty is something people are accustomed to right now. MSU football has their fair share of that with the quarterback position unnamed and an unreleased depth chart as of Thursday morning. The Spartans open up the season Saturday against Rutgers, who haven't made a decision on their week one starting quartback either, according to their released depth chart. 

“At this point, I don’t anticipate releasing a depth chart anytime early in this week,” MSU Head Coach Mel Tucker said Tuesday. “This is a unique year, as you know things change daily, the emphasis that’s been with our coaching staff is to develop every player on our roster in anticipation of needing everyone at some point in time being ready to play. Our depth chart is more of a rep chart, this is who is going to take the reps first or second and then not so much a depth chart that is set in stone. We are trying to develop as many players as we can.”

Development is important and likely will come as the season progresses due to the shortened offseason. Especially at a position of need for the Spartans: quarterback.

Brian Lewerke isn’t in town anymore. 

Three quarterbacks on the roster are still in the competition, offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said early in October, which seems to be the narrative following Tucker’s press conference Tuesday. 

“I's been good. Right now, I think kind of the most veteran guys in Rocky (Lombardi), Payton (Thorne) and Theo (Day) are the guys that have been getting all the reps,” Johnson said on Oct. 2. “Quite frankly, I've been moving all three of them together, tracking them every day; they're very, very equal right now in terms of the total amount of reps.”

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the position, Tucker seems as though he is in no rush to release a depth chart heading into week one. From a strategic perspective, this can force an opponent to not be able to hone in on certain players when preparing for a game.

“We’re going to play who gives us the best chance to win,” Tucker said Tuesday.

Day, at 6-foot-5, Thorne, who redshirted last season and Lombardi are all still being tossed around in terms of who’s starting. It’s not clear whatsoever. Lombardi however, has three career starts: Nebraska, Rutgers and Purdue in 2018 among his 16 appearances overall.

Lombardi is the safe choice, the most live-game experience comes with his 6-foot-4, 225 frame. But the uncertainty of where MSU will go on offense might have to wait till the first drive on Saturday.

He just ‘flicks’ the ball out

Day is possibly the most intriguing physical specimen of the three candidates. Listed at 6 feet, 4 inches and 225 pounds, he’s the perfect size to play the position in many ways with what his high school coach said is a “live arm”.

“I’m more of a line guy than a quarterback guy, so a word or a term like ‘arm talent’ doesn’t really mean anything to me until you see it. And Theo has arm talent,” Dearborn-Divine Child John Filiatraut, who coached Day for two years in high school said. "That ball comes out, he can really throw it. Accuracy, velocity, he’s got a live arm. He just flicks it out there … in high school, he probably would’ve been our best guy at a number of positions."

Day threw and ran for double-digit touchdowns his senior year en route to being named one of the top pro-style quarterback recruits in the country. And Filiatraut knows a little about what playing at the Big Ten level takes, he was a backup during the early 90s on the Wisconsin Badger’s football team. 

But the position battle seemingly will come down to whoever can make the least amount of mistakes. Many say when you have multiple quarterbacks, you don’t have any, but that remains to be seen for the Spartans.

Even Johnson, early this month, admitted the competition could bleed into the season.

“I guess I could see it going that way if there's not a clear picture presented to us as a staff. I think there's always a chance of that,” Johnson said on Oct. 2. “I'd prefer not to, but if we have to get there because it's not a clear picture, we will.”


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