Although #5 Michigan Stateheads into the 2018 season as one of the most experienced teams in the country, the Spartans also remain as one of the youngest football teams, something that has head coach Mark Dantonio excited about heading towards the fall.
“We’ve got a young football team, I think last year, we maybe had the second youngest team in the nation,” Dantonio said in an exclusive interview with Spartan Nation in Atlanta. “I think we had 78 players who were sophomores or lower so we’re still a young football team and that’s exciting. There are really good guys, really good people on our football team right now and it’s going in the same direction. I think that’s what you have to have as a team and our university has to have as well. We’ll have to continue to move forward and clear the obstacles in the way.”
One of several young players who made a big impact a season ago and will return this fall with high expectations is Cody White, who finished the 2017 season with 35 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns.
Dantonio said that after an impressive freshman season, he expects White to have another strong year this fall and is one of many key contributors in the wide receivers group, which also includes Darrell Steward and Felton Davis.
“Cody had a great year as a freshman,” he said. “He’s a big athletic guy who can do a lot of different things, he was a quarterback in high school, he’s got good run after catch ability and he’s gotten bigger. He continues to grow so he’s about 6-3, 205, 210, something like that. Our receivers group is big, they’re talented, pretty deep. Stewart is back, Felton Davis is obviously an outstanding player as well, so it’s good and we’re excited about them.”
While Brian Lewerke is the unquestioned starter heading into this season, his backup, Rocky Lombardi, has turned heads throughout the offseason and while he’s just a redshirt freshman, many fans are wondering if they will see him in action at some point this fall.
Dantonio told Spartan Nation that the quarterback position is one that has no controversy surrounding it, but admitted that he hopes to find sporadic times throughout the season to get Lombardi on the field to get him some type of game experience.
“We want to get our quarterbacks experience, there’s no question about that,” he said. “Obviously, Brian Lewerke is the guy right now but Rocky has had a good spring, he’s going to be a redshirt freshman, Theo Day a true freshman, so that’s going to be exciting, to watch how they perform in summer camp and we do hope to get them experiences early on because it’s tough when you are called upon to go in there without any game experience, so we will try to do that.”
Considering he was in Atlanta and that the Spartans have a track record of recruiting the state of Georgia very hard, Dantonio was asked why he feels the state has produced so many high-level recruits. Michigan State currently has four players, senior Dillon Alexander, redshirt freshman defensive back Shakur Brown, sophomore running back Connor Heyward and sophomore safety Tre Peterson, from the state of Georgia on the roster and also has a 2019 commitment from Jordan Huff, a safety out of Morgan County, Georgia.
Dantonio said that he feels the reason for the state’s ability to produce top-level players is because of the type of coaches that are in the state as well as the fact that the state is committed to football in both the spring and the fall.
“The guys that come to Michigan State from Georgia do very well, we actually have seven coaches down here recruiting, so we’ve made a commitment to recruiting this state,” he said. “It’s good football, excellent coaching, there’s spring ball so you can watch them play. They’re willing to travel, especially out of the Atlanta area it’s a pretty transient type place where people are going to go, we have a lot of people down here.”
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