As the Michigan State football season creeps closer and closer, a few of us will be giving different viewpoints on different topics about the Spartans. The Spartan offense will undergo major changes this season, but has young players that should step up. Brian Lewerke will begin his first year as the full-time starter at quarterback and the Spartans also have to replace a few receiving weapons. Grant Essenmacher, Max Lapthorne and I give takes on who we think will breakout for the Spartans on offense.
Grant Essenmacher: There are a few options to go with here. Guys like Cam Chambers, Brian Lewerke, and even LJ Scott if he can go above the 1,000 yard threshold. However, I am going to go with Trishton Jackson. Jackson came to MSU as an athlete after a successful career as a high school quarterback and has shown flashes of excellence in his limited action.
Last season Jackson finished his freshman campaign with just five catches for 89 yards. One of those catches was an electric 50-yard touchdown in a Spartan victory against Rutgers. While his stats may be very typical for a freshman, expect big things from Jackson in 2017. MSU lost its top receiver from last year in RJ Shelton to graduation. They also lost their best young receiver in Donnie Corley to legal trouble. So Jackson should step in as a number one or two option for sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke.
Jackson has electric speed and playmaking ability. He tore up the MSU secondary in the spring game. He has shown the ability. He should, and is perhaps expected to by many MSU fans, step up as a top threat for Lewerke. I like Jackson to be the team’s leading receiver in his sophomore season.
Max Lapthorne: Trishton Jackson burst onto the scene at this year’s spring game, but it’s another young wideout who I see as this fall’s breakout offensive player for the Spartans.
Redshirt freshman Cam Chambers has yet to play a meaningful snap for Michigan State, but his lack of experience shouldn’t preclude him from making an impact this season since none of the receivers on the roster have much playing time under their belt. And given Chambers’ size and ability to catch the ball in traffic, he has a chance to separate himself in a crowded wide receivers room.
The former four-star recruit came to East Lansing as part of the heralded 2016 recruiting class, but Chambers fell behind on the depth chart and ultimately ended up redshirting. But having a year of college football under his belt — albeit without any game experience — should help the 6-foot-2, 211 pound pass catcher hit the ground running in 2017.
Chambers’ thick build makes him a threat after the catch and over the middle of the field as he won’t be intimidated by larger defenders. He’s also in the unique position of having a bit of rapport with the Spartans’ starting quarterback Brian Lewerke since Lewerke started last season third on the depth chart and Chambers was a reserve.
Chambers also hauled in a 32-yard snag from Lewerke during the 2016 Green and White Spring Game. He finished that game with two catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, and followed that up with a five-catch, 54-yard performance in this year’s spring contest.
There are plenty of players on Michigan State’s offense who have higher ceilings than Chambers, but his size and familiarity with Lewerke could turn him into the sophomore quarterback’s favorite target, so he is my choice to be MSU’s breakout offensive player in 2017.
Zach Manning: Grant and Max went with wide receivers, so I’ll change it up a little and go with Lewerke. Lewerke has received a ton of praise from the Spartan coaching staff through spring and summer camp, and rightfully so. The young quarterback possesses a rocket arm, a good pocket presence, and as we saw last year, the ability to take off and run.
Lewerke saw limited action last year due to Tyler O’Connor and an injury later in the season, but he showed flashes of brilliance in his short time on the field. He appeared in just four games, throwing for 381 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 149 yards, which surprised many people. Spartan fans didn’t expect him to run much, but his willingness to put his head down and run for first downs is right in line with MSU’s tough mentality.
While he has had limited game action, he did impress in the Green and White Game. Lewerke had no problem finding receivers all over the field. His favorite target was Trishton Jackson, who was mentioned by Grant earlier. Finding a new tight end target will be big for Lewerke, but he has the tools to be the next great Spartan quarterback.
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