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Michigan State football: Open QB competition just what team needs

An open quarterback competition is ideal for the program.

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Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mel Tucker recently stated that Michigan State football will have an open competition for the quarterback position.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: 2022 was a nightmare for Michigan State football.

The Spartans began the season ranked in the AP Top 25 and some even saw them as a top-10 caliber team. After a 2-0 start to the season, that seemed to be the case. And then they traveled to Seattle for a showdown with Washington and Michael Penix had his way with the green and white (again).

That set off a string of four straight losses. Minnesota, Maryland, and Ohio State all had their way with the Spartans as Mel Tucker’s team went from preseason Big Ten contender to 2-4 after six games.

Michigan State bounced back to win three of the next four games, beating Wisconsin, Illinois, and Rutgers yet losing to Michigan in the middle of that to sit at 5-5 with a prime opportunity to make a bowl game with a home win over a bad Indiana team. A huge lead evaporated in the second half and the Hoosiers shocked Michigan State in overtime, crushing the Spartans’ bowl hopes.

The deterioration of the season could have been attributed to many reasons.

One of them was quarterback play.

Payton Thorne just didn’t live up to the lofty expectations everyone (including myself) placed on him before the season after he broke some MSU records in 2021. He just wasn’t himself, missing easy passes and making costly mistakes all season long, leading to a regression in yards as well as turnovers.

I defended Thorne for most of the season, but when it came down to it, it felt like he may have gotten comfortable with no one really pushing him for the starting job.

That’s going to change in 2023.

According to a recent interview on The Drive with Jack, Tucker stated that every Michigan State football position battle is open, including quarterback.

That job, like every other spot on the team, is fully open. Open competition.

This is something that he hasn’t said before and it’s encouraging. He’s said many times that Thorne is his quarterback and there’s no reason for a change, but after watching film from the season, he has changed his tune. And that’s a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, Thorne could very well end up as the starter, but if he wins the job, it’s because he earned it and not because he was handed the reins.

Katin Houser enters his second year as the favorite to push him for the starting job. He was a four-star recruit and one of the best quarterbacks at the Elite 11 camp. Fans are clamoring for the Houser era to begin sooner rather than later.

Noah Kim is a veteran who may be the odd man out in the competition and not for a lack of talent. He has a strong, accurate arm, but Tucker may opt to go with his guy.

Lastly, Sam Leavitt comes in as a four-star recruit in the 2023 class. He’ll likely redshirt.

An open competition is going to not only improve the offense, but it’ll make the starter earn the spot and play at a high level in order to avoid being replaced. This is what Michigan State needed in 2022.

FOOTBALL

Jayden Reed, Bryce Baringer both win weekly Senior Bowl practice awards

Bryce Baringer and Jayden Reed have made a big impression.

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Jayden Reed
© Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Both Jayden Reed and Bryce Baringer earned awards during this week’s Reese’s Senior Bowl practices, voted on by teammates.

What a week it’s been for former Michigan State stars Jayden Reed and Bryce Baringer.

It all started with videos surfacing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl of Reed absolutely cooking defenders in one-on-one drills. He was the favorite receiver prospect at the event of many NFL draft experts as they were raving about the Spartan wideout.

Then we heard about Baringer just booming punts left and right as one attendee at the event said that he’s a “top five player” at the Senior Bowl.

Both players saw their NFL draft stock rise drastically this week which is the sole purpose of the Senior Bowl and you love to see former Michigan State stars play the way we’ve all seen them play during their time in East Lansing. We know that Reed and Baringer are both elite-level players and now the rest of the country is realizing that.

On Friday, teammates were able to vote for practice players of the week, and Baringer, unsurprisingly, was named the National team’s special teams practice player of the week.

As if that wasn’t enough to make MSU fans proud, Reed was named the National team’s receiver practice player of the week, voted on by his defensive back teammates (who he’s been cooking all week).

It’s good to see both of these guys showing out with NFL draft stock on the line and this is what you get from Reed when he’s healthy. We didn’t get to see a fully healthy Reed all season long so he took a step back in terms of production, but before the season, he was considered an All-American candidate. Now everyone is seeing why that was.

As for Baringer, this is proof that he should have won the Ray Guy Award. The dude has a rocket for a leg.

Two NFL teams (or one) are going to get some steals in Reed and Baringer.

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FOOTBALL

Jayden Reed believes Keon Coleman is a top 10 receiver in the nation

Jayden Reed has high praise for his former teammate.

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Keon Coleman
© Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Jayden Reed has been making headlines left and right lately, but this time it’s for praising a now-former teammate in Keon Coleman.

Jayden Reed was supposed to be one of the best receivers in college football this past season but injuries and inconsistent quarterback play prevented that. Instead, Michigan State’s receiving corps was led by Keon Coleman.

The sophomore wideout finished the season with 58 catches for 798 yards and seven touchdowns. He had some breakout performances along the way.

Coleman, who was expected to be a star in the green and white, lived up to his potential but it feels like he’s just scratching the surface.

Earlier this offseason, there was a way-too-early preseason All-American team posted on Twitter and Coleman wasn’t listed. He quote tweeted it as if to say “OK, just watch.”

Confidence is brimming in Coleman and his teammates apparently have that same confidence in the star receiver.

Pro Football Focus posted its list of the top 10 returning receivers for the 2023 season and there was no Coleman in sight. Reed took offense to that.

Clearly Coleman is just going to have to fly under the radar this season. He was already underrated heading into his sophomore year because he didn’t do a ton as a freshman, but he proved why that was a mistake.

And now, he’s going to have to prove himself again just like his teammate (Reed) has had to do multiple times throughout his career.

Maybe it’s just a Michigan State thing.

Do I think Coleman should be considered a top 10 receiver in college football after finishing with 800 yards and seven scores? Probably not. But do I think he’s capable of being a top 10 receiver in the nation? Absolutely.

Heck, if Jayden Reed thinks Coleman is a top 10 receiver in college football, so do I. The dude knows a thing or two about being elite.

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FOOTBALL

Jayden Reed’s NFL draft stock skyrocketing at Reese’s Senior Bowl

This dude can flat-out ball.

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Jayden Reed
© Nick King / USA TODAY NETWORK

If you’re looking for a player to buy major stock in during the NFL draft process, you won’t have to look far. It’s Jayden Reed.

Jayden Reed is having himself one heck of a week.

Receiving a Reese’s Senior Bowl invite following a somewhat disappointing 2022 season, Reed knew that he was going to have to prove himself again.

Prove himself he has.

Through two Senior Bowl practice sessions, he has been one of the top players on the field and he’s been turning heads left and right. His NFL draft stock has gone from Day 3 pick to potential Day 2 selection with how well he’s performing.

Marcus Mosher, a Pro Football Focus writer, has been hyping Reed up all week long and he posted this clip on Wednesday of every one-on-one rep from his first two days of Senior Bowl practice.

And it’s impressive.

Mosher hasn’t been the only one in attendance that’s been high on Reed. In fact, basically everyone at the practices has been saying he’s the best receiver there.

Reed has been outperforming every other wideout invited to the Senior Bowl so far.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who watched him at Michigan State when he was fully healthy. Reed was able to make defenders look silly for a couple of years and until he started really battling injuries, he was dominant. He was Payton Thorne’s go-to target — although the two weren’t really on the same page a ton in 2022.

We’re now seeing what Reed looks like when he’s healthy, rested, and motivated.

And it’s scary.

Reed torched secondaries throughout the 2021 season — ask Michigan, Penn State, and Pitt — and finished that year with over 1,000 yards and some really cool Moss-ing highlights. But then he suffered a freak injury in 2022 and he and Thorne could never really get on the same page.

Now, he’s showing why he was a top receiver in college football before the season. He’s looking like his old self again.

The result? A massive jump in NFL draft stock.

It’s going to be fun to watch Reed on Sundays.

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