Michigan State Football: Potential QB transfers to watch
The Spartans could add some QB depth.
With Payton Thorne entering the transfer portal, could Michigan State football be in the marker for quarterback depth?
With Sunday’s news that starting quarterback Payton Thorne will enter the transfer portal, Michigan State football down to three scholarship quarterbacks on the active roster.
The starter is expected to be either Noah Kim or Katin Houser. Redshirt junior Andrew Schorfhaar and freshman Sam Leavitt will likely compete for a backup role. While the Spartans should be happy with either Houser or Kim as the starter, depth at the position does become a bit of a concern. An injury to either Kim or Houser could leave MSU in a really vulnerable spot.
These depth concerns combined with Mel Tucker’s activity in the 2020 offseason are why it’s perceivable Michigan State will look to add a veteran quarterback from the transfer portal. If you remember, Tucker brought in Anthony Russo to compete with Thorne and others as a grad transfer with limited eligibility remaining. I suspect they’ll do something similar.
The trick for Tucker and his staff is to find somebody that is good, but not too good. They likely want Kim or Houser to win the job, but they also need to fill out the roster with capable players if called upon. So, who are some names to watch for?
I’ve listed five candidates that I could see MSU pursuing in the spring window.
1. Ben Bryant, Cincinnati
I think Ben Bryant might fall into the “too good” category when compared to MSU’s current situation. But with limited options available at this point, he’s worth considering.
Bryant comes with a ton of experience and has only one year of eligibility remaining. He could serve as a capable backup while also not posing a threat to Kim or Houser’s long-term prospects. And if by chance if he does win the job, that should say more about Kim and/or Houser, which you’d want to know sooner than later anyway. Bryant has shown to be serviceable at a solid program like Cincinnati.
The question is whether or not Bryant is comfortable potentially being a backup. He sat behind Desmond Ridder for three seasons at Cincinnati before moving to Eastern Michigan for a season. After a nice year in Ypsilanti, he returned to Cincinnati in 2022 to become the starter. His recent transfer intention, combined with his movement from Cincinnati to EMU then back to Cincinnati would suggest that he’s only interested in starting. But it’s unclear what kind of starting prospects he may be looking at after a solid, but not tremendous 2022 season.
Emory Jones (who is on his third team in three years) just beat out Bryant at Cincinnati. So, if he wants to be a starter with no competition, he may have to dip to the lower levels of Group of Five programs. If not, there are likely a number of Power Five programs that would love to have him as a depth option. MSU should absolutely explore that possibility.
2. Chase Wolf, Wisconsin
It’s a little unclear at this point what Chase Wolf’s status is. After announcing that he would return to Wisconsin after the bowl game in December, it was recently reported that he is no longer with the team. Given that this would be his sixth year of college football, it’s unclear if Wolf is looking to continue his athletic career or not.
Wisconsin is currently going through a regime change with new head coach Luke Fickell. They added a number of new faces to the quarterback room. So, it’s not a surprise to see Wolf depart. If he does decide he wants to keep playing, this is the kind of player that is most realistic for MSU to add.
Wolf has spent his entire career as a backup and has one year of eligibility remaining. His most extended playing time came in the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bowl against Oklahoma State. Wolf was pretty unremarkable in that win, going 16-for-26 for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
There is very little upside with Wolf, and he wouldn’t be a realistic threat to challenge Kim or Houser. He also proved to be somewhat reliable in a pinch for the Badgers last December.
3. Logan Smothers, Nebraska
Here is another guy that has spent his entire career as a backup. Smothers is from the class of 2020 and played sporadically in 2021 and 2022. With Matt Rhule taking over for Scott Frost, Smothers could be looking for a fresh start. The one deterrent that MSU may see with Smothers is his eligibility. After not playing in 2020, Smothers could have as many as three years of eligibility left. That may not line up with MSU’s vision at the position.
However, as noted, at this point in the offseason, Tucker can’t be as picky as normal if he feels like they need to add someone. Outside of that, there are reasons to think Logan Smothers might be able to play a little bit. A four star recruit out of high school, he possesses dual threat ability at the position. He spent two seasons backing up Adrian Martinez and Casey Thompson. Both are good players.
Similar to Bryant, Smothers would probably inject himself into the competition more than MSU might like. But at the same time, MSU can’t put themselves in a position where they are holding themselves back at the position out of loyalty.
4. Harrison Bailey, UNLV
A big-time recruit out of high school, Bailey actually received his most extended playing time as a true freshman at Tennessee. After losing the job in 2021, Bailey then transferred to UNLV. He appeared in six games for the Rebels but only attempted 58 passes on the season.
At 6-foot-5, Bailey has tremendous size to pair with great arm strength. But after losing out on the starting job at UNLV to Doug Brumfield, it’s fair to wonder if Bailey will ever find his way back to becoming a starter at the Division I level. He’s played in all three seasons in college, so he’d have two years remaining if you assume he takes the extra year from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Physically, he fits the description for the type of player Tucker prefers. His timeline lines up with what MSU would be looking for in a depth option at the position. For Bailey, it could be an opportunity to reset expectations for his career and accept a backup role at a power five program. This could be a match for both parties.
5. James Foster, Charlotte
Similar to Harrison Bailey, Foster was a big-time high school recruit as well. He spent his first two seasons at Texas A&M, where he attempted just nine passes. After transferring to Charlotte, he saw more playing time, but sat behind Chris Reynolds for two seasons.
With one year of eligibility remaining, Foster could be the exact kind of stop gap Mel Tucker is looking for. Accuracy has been the biggest problem for Foster, as he’s completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes over his four-year career. This path would be similar to the one with Wolf. There isn’t a lot of upside here, but that could also be what MSU is looking for.
Foster would bring experience and be an “in case of emergency” option for 2023. If there is interest from Michigan State, you’d have to believe Foster would jump at the chance. His age, lack of playing time, and statistics would suggest he will have limited offers. As mentioned, it’s not impossible to see a path to meaningful snaps at MSU given that from day one he’d be no worse than QB4 on the depth chart.
Mark Dantonio, 3 other Spartans on CFB Hall of Fame ballot
This one should be a no-brainer.
Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio, along with three other Spartans, are on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
It’s that time of the year when the College Football Hall of Fame releases its ballot and Mark Dantonio, along with three other Spartans, have made the cut for the 2024 class.
Former MSU coach Mark Dantonio debuts on the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame ballot. OT Flozell Adams and and coach Darryl Rogers also on it again, as is former player Gideon Smith in the divisional coaching category.
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) June 5, 2023
Dantonio is one of nine coaches on the ballot at the FBS level and Flozell Adams is one of five offensive linemen — he’s joined by former Michigan lineman Steve Hutchinson and the famous Michael Oher from Ole Miss. Four of the five offensive linemen on the ballot are from Big Ten schools. Darryl Rogers joins Dantonio as one of nine coaches and Gideon Smith is one of 32 coaches from the divisional ranks but he was a trailblazing player for the Spartans in 1915.
Many have been clamoring for Adams to make the Hall of Fame for years while Dantonio feels like a surefire selection and he compares favorably to the other coaches on the ballot.
Let’s take a look at his resume compared to the other FBS coaches on the ballot:
- Dantonio: 132-74 career record, 7-6 bowl record, 3 Big Ten titles
- Larry Blakeney: 178-113-1 career record, 2-3 bowl record, 8 conference titles
- Jim Carlen: 107-69-3 career record, 2-5-1 bowl record, 1 SoCon title
- Pete Cawthon Sr.: 98-50-10 career record, 0-2 bowl record, 2 conference titles
- Larry Coker: 86-47 career record, 4-2 bowl record, 1 national title, 3 Big East titles
- Ralph Friedgen: 75-50 career record, 5-2 bowl record, 1 ACC title
- Darryl Rogers: 129-84-7 career record, 1-2 bowl record, 2 conference titles
- Frank Solich: 173-101 career record, 7-9 bowl record, 1 Big 12 title
- Tommy Tuberville: 159-99 career record, 7-6 bowl record, 2 conference titles
Compared to the others, Dantonio has the fourth-most all-time wins, he’s one of four with a winning bowl record, and he is tied for second-most conference titles.
Dantonio is credited for turning around the Michigan State football program after years of irrelevance. Following the departure of Nick Saban before the 2000 Citrus Bowl, Michigan State was a non-factor in the Big Ten. All Dantonio did was lead Michigan State back to the top of the conference and to its first playoff ever. He also won two BCS/New Year’s Six bowls.
This should be a no-brainer.
Mark Dantonio lists top favorite 25 plays during his MSU tenure (Video)
This is an awesome list.
Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio carefully chose his top 25 favorite plays during his tenure.
Former Michigan State Football coach Mark Dantonio is arguably the greatest coach in program history. Dantonio is highly regarded by all Michigan State fans even with the poor state the program was in when he retired. He gave us some of our programs greatest moments in history. Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, College Football Playoff and countless massive regular season wins are just a few of the great moments he brought us.
Recently Dantonio sat down with Michigan State and the Big Ten Network. During this meeting, Dantonio gave his Top 25 plays during his Michigan State tenure. This list was made solely by Mark Dantonio. He not only looked at the play itself, but also the impact it had on our program.
Lets dive into them 25-1:
25. Brian Lewerke TD to Madre London at Michigan (2017)
In a game that Michigan State was not expected to win, this was a perfectly run screen pass that scored easily with two linemen leading the way.
24. Connor Cook game-winning TD pass in Cotton Bowl (2015)
This game is one of the greatest in Michigan State history. Michigan State defeated Baylor in the Cotton Bowl after being down by 20 points in the fourth quarter. This pass was the game-winning touchdown in this classic.
23. Brian Hoyer third TD pass to Devin Thomas vs. Penn State (2007)
The play itself seemed pretty normal on its own. But three touchdowns to the same receiver in a win against Penn State definitely deserves to be on this list.
22. Three touchdown runs vs. Michigan
Nothing is sweeter than scoring against Michigan. In the No. 22 spot, Dantonio selected three key touchdown runs in wins against Michigan over the years. This includes touchdown runs from Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell, and Jeremy Langford.
21. Three touchdowns vs. Wisconsin (2011)
This game is another all time classic in Michigan State history. This selection includes two touchdowns from Keshawn Martin and one from BJ Cunningham. These massive plays all helped setup the magical ending to this game. More to come later on this one.
20. Three interceptions for touchdowns
Dantonio selected three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the No. 20 spot. The first was by Darqueze Dennard in the 2012 Outback Bowl victory against Georgia. The other two were massive in big wins over Michigan. Dantonio prioritized the Michigan game ever year, so it is no surprise seeing plays against them all over this list.
19. Game-winning FG vs. Wisconsin (2008)
This game was not as big as others, but a game winning field goal is always exciting. In this one, Brett Swenson hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Badgers.
18. Defensive stop to beat Iowa (2008)
I always think defensive plays deserve more love. In this selection, Adam Decker stops Iowa on fourth-and-1 to seal a Spartan victory over the Hawkeyes.
17. Fake punt at Iowa (2013)
Mike Sadler is one of the greatest punters in Michigan State history. In this play, he showed off his legs in a different way. To start the fourth quarter, he successfully ran for 20 yards to pick up a key first down in a very tight game.
16. Another TD run at Michigan (2008)
This play was one of the biggest in this rivalries history. A long run by Javon Ringer helped lead Michigan State to victory for the first time in Ann Arbor since 1990.
15. Blocked FG in 3OT Outback Bowl vs. Georgia (2012)
Another special teams play, this time a blocked field goal in triple-overtime to beat Georgia in the Outback Bowl. I believe winning this game was a turning point for our program, and this play sealed the win.
14. Acrobatic interception vs. Iowa (2015)
Everyone remembers how unbelievable this play was. In the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game, Demetrius Cox pulled off an interception I have never seen before. After a fellow teammate broke up the pass in the end zone, the ball ended up lying on his back. Cox saw the ball, scooped it off his teammates back and helped kill a promising Hawkeyes drive.
13. Negative-48 rushing yards vs. Michigan (2013)
This is another combination of multiple plays. In Michigan States 2013 domination over Michigan, the Spartans’ defense held Michigan to negative-48 rushing yards. Yes, you read that correctly. That is a number I doubt we ever see again.
12. Larry Caper TD run vs. Michigan (2009)
Larry Caper’s 24-yard overtime touchdown run is one of my personal favorite plays of all time. Nothing about the play itself was memorable, but the meaning behind it is everything. This was the first time Michigan State won consecutive games over the Wolverines since 1967. This game also helped springboard the Spartans into their dominant run over Michigan.
11. Brian Hoyer TD pass to Blair White at Michigan (2008)
Another memorable play against, you guessed it, Michigan. This was a 61-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to Blair White early in the first quarter to help the Spartans defeat their in-state rivals again.
10. Connor Cook TD pass to Tony Lippett in Rose Bowl (2014)
The greatest stage in all of college football saw the Spartans beat Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl. This touchdown pass ending up being the game-winning score in one of the greatest games in program history.
9. Blocked FG in Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor (2015)
This is another play from Michigan State’s historic comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Marcus Rush blocked the Baylor field goal attempt to keep Michigan State only down by six. This setup the game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter.
8. Walk-off Hail Mary vs. Wisconsin (2011)
This is another iconic moment in Spartan Stadium history. As time expired, Kirk Cousins threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass to Keith Nichol to upset the Badgers.
7. Jeremy Langford TD run vs. Ohio State (2013)
In the 2013 Big Ten Championship game vs Ohio State, Jeremy Langford sealed the Spartans victory with this long touchdown run. This touchdown put the Spartans up by 10 with two minutes left in the game, ending Ohio States chances and clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl.
6. Walk-off FG at Ohio State (2015)
This play not being higher shocks me. On a night when star quarterback Connor Cook was out injured, Michigan State was still able to pull off the upset road win against Ohio State. Michael Geiger knocked in the winning field goal as time expired. Afterwards, he celebrated with his iconic windmill celebration that I’m sure you all are replicating right now.
5. Little Giants (2010)
I would argue this play is easily the best play call in Dantonio’s career. In overtime against Notre Dame, Michigan State lined up for the tying field goal to force a second overtime. Instead, they faked the field goal, threw the touchdown pass and the rest is history.
4. Trouble with the Snap (2015)
I, for one, am shocked this play isn’t No. 1. Do I even need to remind you what this play is? Jalen Watts-Jackson returned the muffed Michigan punt for a touchdown in 2015 as time expired to win the game. This play will be remembered forever.
3. Game-winning TD vs. Iowa (2015)
Who can forget the iconic final drive against Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. In a drive that was 22 plays long and took over nine minutes, LJ Scott capped it off with his short touchdown run. The mantra that season was “reach higher” and that’s exactly what he did on the run to avoid a Hawkeye tackler. College Football Playoff, here we come.
2. Fourth-down stop vs. Ohio State (2013)
This is the play when we knew we were Rose Bowl bound. Denicos Allen stopped Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller on fourth down to seal the Spartans victory. I always think defensive plays deserve more credit and I’m glad Dantonio put this play so high on his list.
1. Rose Bowl-clinching stop (2014)
Did you guess this play was coming? Kyler Elsworth’s fourth-down stop against Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl is Mark Dantonio’s top play from his tenure. There is no bigger non-playoff stage in college football than the Rose Bowl, so it is no surprise to see the game-winning play at No. 1.
To see the full list on Twitter with a video highlight of each play, click the link below.
This will be fun.
We asked @DantonioMark for his favorite @MSU_Football plays. 💚
He ranked them, 25-1, and we're threading them here. ⚡
— Michigan State on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) May 31, 2023
Michigan State football: Washington game time, channel announced
Fans won’t be too thrilled about the channel.
The Washington vs. Michigan State football rematch is on Sept. 16, and the Spartans have revenge on their minds.
The game time for the Washington vs. Michigan State football game was just announced and is one I think most Michigan State fans will be happy with. The game will kick off at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 16.
MSU-Washington will be a 5 p.m. kickoff at Spartan Stadum on Sept. 16 and air exclusively on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform.
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) May 31, 2023
This is a great start time for Michigan State fans. That will give fans plenty of time to travel to East Lansing, enjoy a tailgate and get into the stadium. On top of that, the game will get down around 8 p.m. ET which is good for the crowd that does not like to be out late.
However, I think a lot of fans were hoping for a noon start time in this game. A noon start would have been a 9 a.m. local time for Washington, likely giving the Spartans a slight advantage. It’s no surprise seeing this big of a game scheduled in the evening to avoid that.
On top of the game time announcement, where the game will be aired on TV was also announced. This is where the good news ends. The Spartans game against Washington will only be available for streaming on Peacock. That means Spartan fans at home will have to pay to watch this game. However, a simple Google search showed me that Peacock currently only costs $20 for the entire year. A lot of Big Ten football and basketball games will only be available on Peacock this season, so that may not be a bad investment to make right now if you can.
What would a win mean for Michigan State football?
Michigan State will have revenge on its mind in this game. Washington beat the Spartans last season in Seattle 39-28. The game however did not feel that close. Michigan State made a late comeback to make the final score look respectable, but a lot of fans will tell you we never really stood a chance.
Washington will likely be a top 10 heading into this matchup, so Michigan State has a great opportunity in front of it. A win would would help spring the Spartans into the conference season with a lot of positive momentum.
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