MSU football looks to rebuild after down year

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke throws a pass during an NCAA college football spring scrimmage, April 1, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — After struggling its way through a rough year on and off the field in 2016, the Michigan State football team is hoping to rebound in a big way this season.

MSU will enter this season with low expectations for the first time in the last few years following a 3-9 2016 campaign.

“We’re not that far away, we’re not as far away as some would believe, we’re a lot closer,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “But you’ve got to make plays on the field and there’s got to be W’s, that’s just reality.”

MSU returns 11 starters from last season’s team, only three of which are on the offensive side of the ball. The Spartans released their first depth chart Tuesday with multiple unproven young players in starting positions.

Despite the lack of returning experience on the roster, Dantonio is confident in the talent his players have.

“We’ve got some players that can play at anywhere in the country and I feel very strongly on that,” he said.

Included in the that group is sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke, who was recently named the starting quarterback. He appeared in four games last season, completing 31-of-57 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s shown a lot of growth as a person, he’s responded in terms of his leadership abilities and then also on the field,” Dantonio said. “He knows our offense. He’s got a great arm, a quick release, he can get out of problems, he’s elusive and he’s calm under pressure.”

When it comes to moving on from last season, Dantonio said he feels good about the leadership on the team and the mindset the players have heading into the first game of the season.

“At some point, you’ve got to make plays on the field, but you can control the direction you’re going with the mindset and the energy,” he said. “Our energy is right and that’s all I can concern myself with.”

Michigan State opens its season at noon Sept. 2 in East Lansing against Bowling Green.