In the past articles in the Big Ten quarterbacks series, we’ve talked about the competitions between returning veterans and the new arrivals gunning to take their spots. That’s not going to be the case here. Michigan State under Mark Dantonio is perhaps known for making something out of nothing, but they won’t have to do that this year. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and that’s already been proven before the start of the season.
A look at Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke
Brian Lewerke was a 13 game starter during his sophomore year, and threw for 2,793 yards. He added 20 passing touchdowns and five rushing scores on top of that, compared to seven interceptions. Another thing that Michigan State is famous for is their running game. After all, this is the school that gave us Le’Veon Bell, only fairly recently. But Lewerke isn’t the type of quarterback that you usually see on a stereotypically run heavy team.
If the coaches need him to be, Lewerke can be an effective gunslinger. He threw 51 passes against Notre Dame and ended the game with 31 completions and two touchdowns to one interception. Against Northwestern and Penn State, he attempted 57 and 56 passes respectively.
Calling Lewerke a gunslinger just because he attempts a lot of passes would only be a surface level way of looking at it. A quarterback can rack up pass attempts and completions by throwing the ball into the flat over and over, or picking up short gains from slant routes early and often. Lewerke isn’t doing that.
Against Northwestern, he was willing to rifle the ball into coverage, even doing so a bit too much and nearly turning it over more times than his four touchdowns and one interception stat line would indicate. His deep accuracy also needed work in that game, and he missed several open receivers downfield after the receivers had beaten their defenders. Still, more times than not, Lewerke’s gunslinging play style worked out for the better.
In a tough division that’s part of a tough conference, dodging the pass rush is also a good skill for a quarterback to learn. While Lewerke is a pocket passer, he’s able to move around and prolong the pass rush while still finding targets down the field. You could make a strong case that his vision is his best trait, as this vision is just as good even when Lewerke is on the move.
A rough NFL comparison in terms of play style might be Russell Wilson, although at 6’3″ and 212 pounds, Lewerke is the QB with the larger frame. He’s also a bit more willing to use his legs as a regular part of his game plan, even if he’s not crossing the line of scrimmage with a scramble.
When his judgement improves in his junior year, Lewerke should have a better idea of when to gun the ball towards a covered area and when to hold onto it. That decision-making was dodgy at times this year, but it’s expected for a player in his first full season as the starter.
This year, though? MSU is out to capitalize on the off the field chaos happening in Columbus, and make it back to the conference title game. If they complete that feat, you can already be sure of which player will be at the forefront of the offense.