The War Room: Go Inside Michigan State Football New Facilities? More!

Hondo S. Carpenter

The War Room: Go Inside Michigan State Football

I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story. When I have a few that I can assemble, I will, and when I only have one or two, I will post them on our Phalanx Forum board. So, welcome to The War Room.

· One name to remember: Xavier Henderson. Stone-cold killer and could be the next Spartan DB superstar. Lots of people talking about him in the building.

· Dantonio said of Henderson, “Xavier Henderson is a guy that played as a true freshman, has a tremendous amount of ability, is a four-star player out of Ohio, out of Pickerington. And when you have a guy like Khari, he sort of wears off on you a little bit in terms of the next one up. So, I think he's taken on a lot of his habits, and we're very excited about his progress, and he should be an outstanding player. Great ball skills, great range, big, he's gained a little bit of weight. He's about 205 now, but he's played, and he has game experience.”

· I spoke with one of Mark Dantonio’s ON-FIELD COACHES recently. He said to me, “If we can get a top 50 offense, hell I say even a top 70 offense we can win the Big Ten. We have to produce.” I think everyone agrees, but it’s good to hear that the staff echoes the sentiments.

· It was a difficult time inside the Duffy when Mark Dantonio decided to shake his offensive staff up and move guys around. There were “Some bruised egos for sure” and by not making those coaches available all offseason, Mark Dantonio made a strategic mistake. This was a topic of discussion among several media members. Now, last year’s issues will be dragged into this year as each coach who was demoted is going to be asked about their demotion and the transition.

· NO ONE has got more sympathy than Terrence Samuel. Mark Dantonio had good cause to fire MOST of his offensive staff. I think he should have. But the demotion of Samuel makes ZERO sense, and that is something that has been talked about a lot. Samuel was THE ONLY offensive coach who had a performance last season worthy of retention.

· I spoke to a player who I believe has a very good chance to be a captain. I asked about his thoughts on the offense. He told me, “No one on this team dislikes Brian (Lewerke), but I know it was a tough spring and I don’t think he has the confidence he used to have. I want him to do well, but I’m not sure it (confidence) is there. I want him to succeed, and he is healthy, but I wanting him to is not the same as he has the confidence to. I have to see it.”

· According to multiple players and staff, Brian Lewerke didn’t have the spring they had hoped for. One coach told me, “This year they started tracking QBR (Quarterback Rating) and going into the spring game Rocky Lombardi had a 20 point higher rating. I do not doubt if Brian struggles early, he is on a short leash.”

· When asked about Lewerke, Dantonio answered and very positively. But, he also went right to Lombardi. He said, “Brian Lewerke if you look back at his sophomore year, he's the only player in Michigan State history that passed for over 2,500, ran for over 500, so he was an extremely productive player as a sophomore. Got hit a little bit with the injury bug midway through the season, but I think his confidence is back. He certainly is back and healthy. He's bigger and stronger, he's faster, and he comes into his senior year with a tremendous amount of game experience. With that being said, Rocky Lombardi, our other quarterback, who played a little bit in and out this past year and started some games, is also back and he'll be a redshirt sophomore. So he brings another sense of experience, as well, which is a good option, as well.”

· Lewerke is on a short leash in 2019. Dantonio all but said early on media days when asked about Lewerke. He answered, then brought up Rocky Lombardi. A quote referenced above. But look at what he also said. He added this nugget, “They'll compete to some degree, but right now Brian is our number one quarterback…”

· Spartan Nation has learned from a NON-Michigan State Big Ten player that the MSU quarterbacks (Lewerke and Lombardi) were in San Diego earlier this month training with Navy Seals for a leadership workout session that lasted a few days. In a series of several competitions that were based on leadership, strength, physical shape and other factors, QB’s from around the Big Ten and other conferences competed. According to that Big Ten player, “Lombardi was a baller. He won just about everything. He is tough as nails and was a great leader.” I plan to ask Lombardi and Lewerke about it next week.

· You may remember I broke the following information in previous War Rooms: The Spartan football program announced that they were going to bring a major upgrade and renovation to the football offices that was going to begin this spring. That is NO longer the case. That has been “postponed” until at least the fall. While never an issue before, according to folks inside MSU football, “The Spartan fund can’t raise the money.”

· Spartan Nation can now report via a source in MSU athletics that the project will now move forward following the 2019 season.

· The star freshman running back Anthony Williams is going to get a shot early to impress. He has had a super offseason and according to one staff member, “When this season is over, I wouldn’t be shocked with him being the go-to guy. He is a star.”

· The Spartans are struggling in recruiting right now at three specific spots: OT, QB, and RB. That is a major concern.

· As to the rest of the committed class, they are a very talented and solid group. It simply hurts recruiting brutally when QB, RB, and OT are struggling. That is the heart of your offense.

· Jim Bollman is going to make an IMMEDIATE IMPACT on the OL. It is going to be a tough transition for some of the players. Thankfully he is moving away from Mark Staten’s desire for smaller more athletic guys that made the MSU OL at points nearly ineffective, and he has made bulking up a priority.

· I asked Dantonio about Bollman’s immediate impact. He said, “Jim Bollman is a longtime offensive line coach, and we restructured our offensive staff, we had put everybody back to our positions of expertise. When we were able to hire Coach Bollman in 2013, he had an immediate impact. He's coached -- I think 44 is the acting number of professional football players in the offensive line, guys that have gone on to the NFL. So he brings great expertise there, and his teaching progression has been simplified a little bit from what I understand in talking to the players, and I look forward to watching the progress there. But he's a guy that has been able to calm the waters.”

· Multiple recruiting targets have told Spartan Nation Radio that Coach Dantonio has mentioned to them about a 70 million dollar expansion to the Spartan Football facilities, not the stadium, the actual facilities. So I started digging.

· Dantonio asked AD Bill Beekman and several other members of the athletic department to travel with him to Clemson this offseason to look at their new 60 million dollar football building. Dantonio worked Beekman, who has done everything Dantonio has asked, about the need for new MSU facilities.

· According to senior MSU administrators both in and out of athletics, Spartan Nation learned the following several tidbits.

· First from a member of the Board of Trustees, “With McLaren MSU wants to open a sports orthopedic clinic on campus. Near the football building. The entire project would cost around $70 million when you include new football facilities as well. Athletics would have to raise well into the eight digits to make it happen. I would have been updated if that was a possibility and I have not. I think at this time, it is a dream, but a long way off.”

· Spartan Nation asked Dantonio about his telling recruits about the new facilities, and he said, “I took our guys Allen Haller, Chuck Sleeper, and Bill Beekman over to Clemson because I’d been down there before and I saw the results of their program. I think what Clemson did, they were right where we were, in the playoffs and maybe didn’t make it, whatever, and then they capitalized on that, and they went further. They changed the game from there. They built a brand new facility. Those are the kinds of things that probably need to happen at Michigan State at some point. When you look around this room here (Big Ten Media Days), everybody is operating with new facilities with the new expansion. At some point and time, we are going to have to move on that. I would prefer that to be now, but that is not up to me. I do think that there is a grassroots movement, not within the athletic administration, but among others in the University that indicates there is a push for that. That is not for me to announce, I think that I am trying to be a guy that says hey, yeah, somebody says you want a new facility, and I’ll say I am down with that. Let’s go. So I want to try to do all that I can to make and keep Michigan State in a place of where they are a have and not a have not. ”

· The medical side of the school is trying to get the power of athletics behind it by tying it to “New” football facilities. Dantonio referenced that in the above quote, “I do think that there is a grassroots movement, not within the athletic administration, but among others in the University that indicates there is a push for that. That is not for me to announce, I think that I am trying to be a guy that says hey, yeah, somebody says you want a new facility, and I’ll say I am down with that. Let’s go. ”

· The new clinic is something that came out of a dream former President Lou Anna Simon had. Simon had millions (eight digits) pledged to an on-campus hospital that would have been more geared towards an MD oriented school and less osteopathic to steer the school away from the tarnish of Larry Nassar. She and former AD Mark Hollis were well down that road, but upon his leaving and her “Retirement” that went to the wayside.

· Hollis and Simon wanted to put the new McLaren hospital (of which the orthopedic clinic would be part of) where the Cherry Lane apartments used to be across from the Breslin Center. It is currently being constructed near the gold course.

· Hollis and Simon foresaw an orthopedic clinic (that is being discussed as part of the $70 venture) that would have been one of the top sports medicine units in the nation. Anyone in the public (not MSU Athletes exclusively) could use the clinic and have any surgical work performed at the new on-campus McLaren hospital.

· Spartan Nation has learned that under the old plan of Simon and Hollis, they had already lined up one of the nation’s most elite Orthopedic MD’s with a stunning national resume in sports medicine to run the operation, but again, with their departure, it fell apart.

· Spartan Nation has learned the identity of that doctor, but will not disclose it since it is not going to happen. The move would have instantly moved Michigan State University away from the lingering tarnish of the Nassar scandal that still plagues the school. That move that would have solidified to the nation the Spartans commitment to being a first-class operation in sports medicine.

· Norman J. Beauchamp Jr, MD, MHS is the new Dean, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine & Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President for Health Affairs at Michigan State University. He is taking the program in a different direction than Hollis and Simon foresaw. It is staying on an osteopathic route.

· There is a genuine interest in the new President, who is an MD, and whether or not he will let the program keep moving osteopathic or towards the MD driven side.

· Numerous people on campus are shocked at Beauchamp’s commitment to osteopathy over the MD side, considering he is an MD.

· Dantonio’s desire for new facilities has not sat well within the athletic department who feel football already has superior facilities with so many other Spartan facilities being “An embarrassment.”

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