After being named the full-time starter at quarterback this spring, Brian Lewerke will enter the fall looking for new top targets after the Spartans lost R.J. Shelton and Josiah Price to graduation.
And there were a handful of underclassmen that caught the attention of the sophomore signal caller, most notably sophomore receiver Trishton Jackson.
As a true freshman last season, Jackson saw time in nine games, recording five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and continued improving throughout the offseason and spring.
“He was awesome this spring,” Lewerke said. “His routes are very crisp, he can get open even when there’s good coverage on him, so that’s something that I really like about him.”
Now that Lewerke is entering his first full season as the starting quarterback, he has spent much of the spring identifying receivers he feels can be difference makers this fall.
Along with Jackson, Lewerke felt that he built a strong rapport with junior Felton Davis, who also had a strong spring after playing in all 12 games for the Spartans a year ago.
“I think Trishton was awesome throughout the entire spring,” he said. “I could definitely tell he’s going to be one of the top guys, he can make catches that are exceptional. I think Felton is another one of those guys, me and him got a pretty good relationship during the spring, so I think that will just continue to grow.”
Davis has 14 catches for 200 yards in 19 career games in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Another underclassman that could be a difference maker for the Spartans at receiver is Justin Layne, however it is not yet known how the Spartans will utilize Layne this fall after playing him on both sides of the ball throughout the spring and exclusively on defense as a freshman.
But Lewerke said that he anticipates Layne playing both receiver and defensive back during the 2017 season and when he does play on the offensive side, the Lewerke plans to do what he can to make Layne successful.
“I’d probably guess he’d split it, that’s what he was doing in the spring,” he said. “Coach D wanted him to get time at both, so I’m doing my best to make him the best receiver he can be right now.”
While Layne, Jackson and Davis are returning players who have gained the praise of the Spartans’ quarterback, there are a couple of newcomers who Lewerke can see being difference makers in the future.
Wide receiver Hunter Rison and tight end Jack Camper, both freshmen, have already made noise in their first months on campus in East Lansing, according to Lewerke, citing their ability to catch on to Michigan State’s playbook quickly since arriving.
“I think Hunter was a guy who was thrust into the role because of our limited amount of receivers,” he said. “He did very well, I think he learned the offense really quickly, he’s easily become one of my favorite targets with him being from Arizona too, it’s kind of nice. Also, Jack, I think he did a great job, tight end is probably the second hardest position to learn other than quarterback, because he’s got to know routes, protections and blocking schemes and he’s got to be perfect at them, and I think he did a great job of that.”
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