EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When it comes to the roster Michigan State released, ahead of its first fall camp practice, there’s a lot of new names to get familiar with. There are close to 40 new faces on MSU’s roster this season, and a lot of them were brought in via the transfer portal.
It was all a part of the turnover Mel Tucker and his staff went through from the end of year one to the start of year two. With the team altogether, and the season-opener less than a month away, Tucker was pleased with how well the team has come together.
“I didn’t see a team full of transfers out there, from an operation standpoint,” Tucker said. “I didn’t see a difference, in terms of, these guys know what to do and these guys don’t know what to do. I didn’t see that. I saw a football team with a lot of new faces, but guys know what is expected.”
“I’d say maybe two or three weeks I felt like a transfer here. Then I started to learn everybody’s name, everybody started to learn my name. They were very, very, inviting here. Kind of took me in with open arms, took all of us transfers in with open arms,” Temple transfer and MSU senior quarterback, Anthony Russo said.
“Me personally, when I first got here everybody was open arms. They didn’t treat me like competition, they actually treated me like a brother,” Wake Forest transfer and MSU junior running back, Kenneth Walker III said.
The new guys are adjusting so smoothly, that even those that were a part of the program during the Mark Dantonio era can feel a difference in the team’s chemistry.
“I feel like this is the closest the team has been since my freshman year (2017), when we went 10-3,” senior running back Connor Heyward said. “The transfers, everybody is meshing together and everybody gets along. The team camaraderie is at an all-time high. We’re all just excited to get to work every day.”
Besides the transfers, there are a number of other storylines Spartan fans should keep their eyes on. Tucker has made it clear that his starting quarterback will be determined through competition in fall camp.
The frontrunners for the job are Russo and sophomore Payton Thorne, who played in four games for the Spartans in 2020. This is going to be the fourth offense Russo has had to learn in college and as he enters his 6th year playing college football, he doesn’t plan on riding the bench.
“I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been. Like you said I didn’t come here to sit around. I came here to play, I came here to win a championship. My goal from the time I started college was to win a conference championship. I was never able to do that at Temple and I have one year left, so this is the place to do it,” Russo said.
Thorne has the experience of playing under the Spartans’ offense on his side, and he welcomes the friendly competition between quarterbacks.
“I think that if we can work together as a team, that’s better for everybody. In a position like a quarterback, where only one guy plays, it’s good to have other guys around you that are pushing you. That brings out the best in you and, in the end, that’s good for the team,” Thorne said.