The War Room:  Go Inside Michigan State Football

2018 MSU Spartans (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
2018 MSU Spartans (PHOTO: MSU SID)

The War Room: Go Inside Michigan State Football

I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story. When I have a few that I can assemble together I will, and when I only have one or two I will post them on our Phalanx Forum board. So welcome to The War Room.

  • Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Brian Lewerke is getting the #1 reps in practice and he is your starter for the bowl unless he is injured.
  • There is zero intrigue. Lewerke and Mark Dantonio have not always communicated on the same wavelength and Lewerke was smart to just not comment.
  • The Redbox bowl is enormous for Lewerke. He didn’t play well in 2018. That isn’t a slam on him. He is a super kid from a great family. With a good 2018, he could have been leaving for the NFL right now. That didn’t materialize.
  • There was concern that had Rocky Lombardi emerged, he would have transferred. Those concerns have gone away, but if he has a poor bowl game, the heat could intensify on next season, but I am not implying he would jump ship.
  • I firmly believe, as do those in the program that he will return.
  • Lewerke doesn’t consult with me and wouldn’t for obvious reasons, but if he is NOT 100% he shouldn’t play. No reason to risk it. But if he is, an excellent performance slams the door on Lombardi or anyone talking about any other QB in 2019.
  • The MSU coaching staff, led by Mark Dantonio just signed a very good class. The fact that they held it together with all of the recruiting that was being conducted was by far the biggest win of the season.
  • Teams tried desperately to flip many of their top commits. While there was little belief that they would defensive players, many schools saw an opportunity to “get” some offensive guys. Dantonio’s early style paid off.
  • I know of one SEC program that told a defensive player, “Do you really want to go play somewhere where the offense has as their best play a pick six or a fumble return for a touch?” Now none of us believes that, but it is a reality of what schools are saying.
  • The Spartans are in desperate need of a blocking TE. That doesn’t mean that is the only hole they would like to fill, but it is the biggest.
  • Losing a recruit to Rutgers, regardless of his brother playing there or not hurts. Can’t sugar coat it, but they will be fine. He saw the MSU vs Rutgers game. Enough said.
  • A lot of people asking me about IL WR Alante Brown. He is fine and isn’t going anywhere. Has to take care of his business but all is well.
  • That gives the Spartans 19 either signed LOI & hard commits.
  • They are hunting and looking for more. With their season going as it did, the Spartans perennially struggle down the stretch and their style benefited them in the early signing, but will likely hurt them in February.
  • I have spoken with two head coaches of teams that regularly recruit against MSU for players. Both were complimentary of the Spartans 2019 early signing class. Both think there is headway to make against the Spartans in 2020.
  • One told me a short time ago, “No doubt about it. We are telling kids the truth. That isn’t negative recruiting. Why commit to MSU now, wait until next season if that is where you want to go. Wait and see the crowds next season.” I think it will be interesting to watch if the Spartans pounce on some guys early, that in the past they may have waited on, to see how 2019 unfolds.
  • The MSU defensive coaches have all earned raises. While I do not expect that to happen, they do. Lost in a subpar and disappointing 2018 they all shined.
  • I have talked with multiple coaches at multiple programs and one name that is getting a lot of attention, that isn’t from a lot of Spartan fans is Paul Haynes. If you look at what he did (granted he had Mark Dantonio) it was great.
  • One head coach told me, “If I had a job right now as a DB coach I would call Paul. Harlon is great, but they maybe got a little better this year when you look at how guys developed losing (Josiah) Scott early. I know the numbers were not as good, but (expletive) that defense wouldn’t let anyone run. People had to throw ten thousand times and he played a ton of backups.”
  • The Spartans need a win in the Redbox bowl desperately. They need to end this season on a positive note. It will be a very long offseason if they don’t.
  • Ticket sales are going to struggle. The natives are very restless. I would like to put by $.02 in on one thing.
  • Mark Dantonio deserves to do whatever he wants. With what that man has done here, he has earned it. I get that others disagree with that and that doesn’t make them bad people, we just disagree.
  • With that said, he doesn’t want to terminate anyone. Dantonio would like to roll the dice and that is his prerogative. If he does and they win 10 games next season all is well. If they do not, there is already going to be a drop in season tickets that could lead to a master disaster as the season progresses.
  • Any talk by people that AD Bill Beekman is going to do anything to Dantonio is absurd. He is not going to at all. Dantonio is 100% SAFE as he should be. Beekman would not be AD without Dantonio and Tom Izzo. He will get support from the AD and NOTHING else.
  • No sane Spartan wishes failure for Dantonio. He is a good and honorable man. As are his staff, but some have simply not performed well.
  • I asked Dantonio after the 2016 season about staff changes. I told him how one of you had said that if he had performed poorly at his job he would be fired on the assembly line. Dantonio’s response was that I would hope that they would take into account that person’s body of work and not just one bad year.
  • I think Dantonio’s answer at the time was justified and fine. But even last year they offense on a ten win season was ranked 91st in the nation. This has been a patter since 2015.
  • Dantonio said all offseason, multiple times, “We have to score more points.” That was off of a ten win season.
  • There are several young men that clearly have NFL interest, and could leave early. That said the mood inside is that they really only think one more is possible to leave and NO ONE thinks it is certain.
  • LJ Scott’s departure is not a shock. I do not think it shocked Dantonio. It was out there, the players knew he was leaving. I know there are people angry, but that makes no sense.
  • LJ has earned the right to go after his dream. He has given MSU so much (remember the TD in the Big Ten title game against Iowa?) and leaves here a great kid.
  • People are also angry at Justin Layne. Dantonio made it clear he didn’t like a late night text (I agree with him) and that he thinks people should, “Finish.”
  • BUT… I have another take.
  • I never expect fans to like it when the business side of the college or high school sport they love shows its head. We try to keep in in the shadows. But take recruits flipping. People rail on Urban Meyer or Nick Saban on signing day when they flip a player “committed” to another school, but there is no outrage when their team does it. I get it, they are fans, but it is a reality.
  • Same with Layne. He is a terrific young man. He chose to leave to prepare for the NFL draft. MSU got him ready. Some are angry about that. But how many were “Thrilled” when Dantonio left Cincinnati prior to his team's bowl game and came to MSU?
  • Fans everywhere were thrilled that he got to East Lansing to start recruiting. He made the right choice for the Dantonio family and Michigan State. I supported it. Layne made a choice to not risk an injury, to prepare for a chance to make generational wealth. I salute him, wish he was playing, but bid him a fond farewell. A great kid.
  • Not hating on Dantonio at all, he made the right move for his family. So did Layne. I know fans HATE the business side because they are THE ONLY ONES who pay money, but it is the reality side.
  • I can tell you right now that the MSU offense has made several substantial schematic changes for the bowl game.
  • Will they use them? They have spent a lot of time practicing them, so I assume so.
  • That is very good news considering that they desperately need this win.
  • MSU knows how dominant their D is. They also are not dumb and with the “Wolves at the door” (Angry fans and donors) they have to find a way to score enough points to win.
  • Justin Herbert, the Ducks star QB is a stud. No shock last week when Joe Bachie said, “He can make every throw.” He won’t get rattled. He is by far the best QB the Spartans have faced all year. I get the OSU QB is really good and that is NO slight to him, it is just the truth.
  • Kenny Willekes deserves all of the credit in the world for his career. ALL OF IT. He is a super kid and tireless worker, but he himself is quick to credit Chuck Bullough. In his first year, Bullough took an undermanned DE position and simply shined like a rock star. He and Ron Burton are simply studs.

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