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Michigan State football stock report: Who’s up, down after spring game?

Which Spartans are on the rise?

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Michigan State football
© Robert Killips / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State football opted for a spring ‘practice’ instead of a scrimmage, but there were still some risers and fallers.

Much to the chagrin of fans, Michigan State football once again opted to hold an open ‘practice’ in lieu of a spring game this year. There wasn’t nearly as much data to gather as there would have been from a game, but there were still plenty of conclusions to draw.

Some of what we saw was good, some was bad, and some was in between.

In terms of stock, let’s break down some good and bad from the spring practice.

Stock up: Noah Kim

In what’s been presumably a three-man race until now, quarterbacks Noah Kim and Payton Thorne separated themselves at the top. Both the incumbent starter and the backup made plenty of pretty throws, spreading the ball around the field with some nice-looking passes.

As the previously established starter, Thorne’s stock doesn’t jump as much, but Kim made himself up a lot of ground and turned some heads with his performance. He more than held his own against Thorne and some would argue that Kim even looked like the better of the two.

As it stands, it looks like Thorne and Kim are on relatively equal footing heading into the summer, but it’s still anyone’s guess as to who ends up with the job.

Stock down: Katin Houser

As mentioned previously, it appears that former four-star recruit, Katin Houser, may be out of the running for the starting quarterback job this fall — for now.

While upperclassmen Kim and Thorne both had nice days through the air, the redshirt freshman just wasn’t that impressive. He had some good reps, sure, but otherwise didn’t display the same level of accuracy, poise, and playmaking that the other top candidates did. His performance was certainly disappointing for the fans hoping to see the celebrated recruit take the helm this fall, but it would be foolish to disregard Houser now. He’s still young; give him some time before forming a real judgement.

At the end of the day, though, in such a tight battle, it’s imperative for the hopefuls to make their mark. Houser just didn’t do that this year.

Stock up: The WR room (past Coleman, Mosley)

Considering the departure of Germie Bernard, there’s been some concern about who Michigan State’s WR3 will be. After presumed starters Keon Coleman and Tre Mosley, there’s hardly any clarity, and it’s been a guessing game for the most part.

While the spring practice didn’t necessarily answer that question, it did give fans reason to believe that the spot would be in good hands regardless. The top four candidates — Montorie Foster Jr., Tyrell Henry, Christian Fitzpatrick, and Antonio Gates Jr. — all had their moments, looking better than many believed they would at this point. The absence of Bernard and the graduation of Reed has given the younger guys a chance to step up, and it appears they could be doing just that.

If I had to put money on who the WR3 would be, I’d hazard a guess at either Foster or Henry, but it’s a long summer. A few drills are hardly rationale to declare someone locked into a spot, but watching those four make plays on Saturday gave me a lot more confidence than I previously had that MSU could effectively replace the departures.

Stock down: Team depth and the training staff(?)

According to Mel Tucker, the reason that MSU did not have a proper spring game for the second straight year was lack of healthy bodies. I can definitely see it, too — there were plenty of notable absences from the scrimmage.

Not only were WR1 Keon Coleman, defensive tackles Jarrett Jackson and Dre Butler, defensive end Khris Bogle, and offensive linemen Gavin Brocious and Kris Philips absent, defensive tackle Alex VanSumeren and linebacker Ma’a Gaotete went down with injuries during the practice itself.

One could argue that injuries are becoming a concerning pattern. Last year, as well, Michigan State football struggled mightily to keep any amount of starters consistently on the field with how many injuries the team sustained at any given position. It’s entirely possible that it’s still just bad luck, but if the Spartans record another year with an atypical number of injuries, it could be time to have a closer look at the training staff.

There are coincidences, and then there are patterns. I’m hoping it’s the former.

Stock up: The running backs

Michigan State’s running back group more or less disappointed over the course of the past season. If the spring practice is any indication, though, that could change by September. All three of the Spartans’ presumed top running backs — Jalen Berger, Nathan Carter, and Jaren Mangham — looked good on Saturday, making plenty of nice runs while showcasing power and speed.

I still expect Berger to be lead back, but Carter and Mangham will both certainly have sizable roles in the MSU offense next year. A great running back room with enough depth can make a massive difference for a football team’s success, and Berger, Carter, and Mangham could form such a group.

Closing Thoughts

Without a proper spring game, it’s difficult to get a concrete idea of where players stand. The practice was a nice sneak peek at this year’s roster, but was hardly evidence enough to make any proclamations. That being said, I liked a lot of what I saw at Spartan Stadium this past weekend, although I still have some concerns. However, there’s really no telling how any of this will translate to the actual season, so once again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Let’s hope this season is better than the last one.

See y’all in September.

Aspiring sportswriter/analyst, lifelong MSU+Detroit fan, currently contributing here at Spartan Shadows. Always looking to provide insightful and entertaining work. Featured on Bleacher Report, Yardbarker, and elsewhere. Always open to feedback or comments!

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