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Payton Thorne transfer may help growth of young QB room

The young QB room should grow quickly this year.



Michigan State football
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Payton Thorne hit the transfer portal on Sunday and people immediately panicked. His transfer may not be the worst thing.

Payton Thorne entered his name into the transfer portal on April 30 which sent shockwaves through the Michigan State fanbase. The two-year starting quarterback was not alone in entering his name into the portal on the 30th as starting receiver Keon Coleman and starting cornerback Charles Brantley also entered their names.

It’s safe to say that Spartan Nation was not happy on Sunday. However, Thorne transferring may not be such a bad thing in the long run.

Thorne has been the starter for two seasons, but it was not a guarantee he would be the starter in 2023. He set the single-season Michigan State passing touchdown record in 2021 with 27 total passing scores but took a step back in 2022 throwing for only 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

A lot of his success in the 2021 season in my opinion is due to star running back Kenneth Walker III. Although Walker was not involved much in the passing game, the defenses we faced had to devote more attention to stopping the run which made it easier for Thorne in the passing game. Once K9 left for the NFL, we immediately saw a step back in quarterback play from Thorne. He also only averaged a 61.5 completion rate in his two years as a starter which, to me, is not good enough.

I listed all of these stats to say one thing: we know who Thorne is as a QB. Could he have improved some going into this next season? Absolutely. But how confident are you that he would improve enough to take our team to the next level and compete for Big Ten titles? I, for one, am not confident in that at all.

With that being said, I think it was time to see what others have to offer in the quarterback room. I think Thorne knew this and maybe had an idea that he would not be named the starter this season, so he made the business decision to take his talents somewhere where he will be the starter. Thankfully, MSU is not short on options to replace Thorne.

Michigan State football has three other quarterbacks on the roster that will compete all summer and into fall camp for the starting job.

One of the two likely candidates to win the job is sophomore Noah Kim who has completed 14 of his 19 attempts in his MSU career, totaling 174 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Even with such a small sample size, some of those 14 completions were very impressive and had some wanting Kim to take over the starting role during the season last year. He was also impressive during the spring game/practice and left a lot of fans thinking he would be the starter this year.

The second player to keep an eye this offseason is freshman Katin Houser who was one of the top prospects in Michigan State’s 2022 class, ranked No. 215 in the country and as the 14th-best quarterback, according to the 247Sports Composite. Houser only threw two passes, completing one, in his first season in East Lansing, but the hype surrounding him is real. Houser blew up on the recruiting trail late in the cycle with some thinking he should be ranked even higher than he already is. Katin has all of the tools needed to be MSU’s next great quarterback, but the question is if he is ready to take over the job or if he needs more time to develop and get used to the college game.

The last quarterback I will mention is true freshman Sam Leavitt. Similarly to Houser, Sam was also a four-star recruit and one of our top recruits in the 2023 class, ranked No. 310 in the country and the 20th-best quarterback. Being a true freshman, I do not see Leavitt seriously competing for the starting job this season, but he will be given plenty of chances to go up against Kim and Houser this summer and will be a serious contender to win the starting job in the years to come.

Losing a two-year starter and veteran quarterback to the transfer portal is never a good thing. But Thorne transferring may not be as bad as people initially think. Time to give the young guys a chance to show what they are made of and see if the next great Spartan passer is already in our quarterback room, ready to take us back to winning Big Ten titles.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.


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