That's one of those difficult-questions-they'd-like-to-have the Spartan coaching staff may soon face if former verbal commit Keith Nichol wants back in at MSU after recently leaving the Oklahoma Sooners, where he was buried in the depth chart after his freshman campaign.
First, the negatives.
Chemistry is surely at the top of that list. The present depth chart is stable for the Spartans, with a senior starter returning, two sophomores, locked in a competitive battle for the backup role, and a prized recruit committed early for next year.
Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins have battled for 2-slot behind Brian Hoyer for going on two seasons now. They have been model backups, supporting one another, using the competition to fuel their growth, and making strides in development. They have done as head coach Mark Dantonio has requested: they've made his job difficult — nearly impossible — when it comes to filling out the depth chart. He often refers to their positions as 2A and 2B, although one senses Dantonio has difficulty delineating that implicit hierarchy as well. (Perhaps 2X for the pair? Has a nice manly feel to it.)
The QB situation in Spartanland is humming along quite nicely, so why risk a monkey wrench in the works with the addition of Nichol, himself a soon-to-be sophomore? Which begets a second issue — scholarships. Can the Green and White afford to dole out schollies to three QBs in the same class? With future needs along the offensive and defensive lines, tying up that kind of talent at one position could be a drag on the team's depth elsewhere.
Ah, but the talent. There's no denying that, and Nichol will bring plenty of it wherever he ends up.
Sure, he got beat out in Norman, but he plays at a position which, ideally, only allows one person playing time. Brett Favre was a backup once, so was Steve Young. Kurt Warner was bagging produce and canned corn before leading the Rams to the Super Bowl.
Nichol in East Lansing would give the Spartans an enviable amount of talent at the most important position on the field. Drooling would not be out of the question.
But what about some in the fan base, who didn't exactly show the Nichols the classiest side of East Lansing when the 18-year old made the toughest, most important decision of his young life in a public forum. Quick question: You think even the harshest, most ill-bred Michigan fans would welcome Terrelle Pryor as a transfer? With arms open as wide as the Big House.
So what if it ties-up too many scholarships? This is big time football and the "best player on the board" mentality has to rule the day. Things will work themselves out elsewhere, and there are few positions that can be decimated by injuries or turnover quicker than QB. Load the position with as much talent as possible and the chances of consistent, quality offensive performance rises dramatically. There is no substitute for a great quarterback, even at four deep.
And if there's no crying in baseball, then there's not even whimpering in football. Nichol is licking his wounds now, saying the right things in public, knowing he had a chance at OU but things didn't turn out as planned, so it's off to a new challenge.
It's the same game for everybody, from the coaches and trainers to the professors and chancellors. Everyone knows this. Football, like life, is a fickle beast, so travel and change are par for the course. In theory, Dantonio could be coaching the Lions next year (God, please, no) and life would go on at Michigan State.
If an athlete is a good citizen, a good student, and a hard worker who shows up and competes for something open to all, there should be no chemistry issues. Dantonio and staff don't make a habit of promising positions or sugarcoating the competitive spirit on the recruiting trail.
In fact, MSU targets often report the seriousness with which the staff recruits, requiring prospects to have a desire to play for Michigan State, where championships are the goal. If nothing else, every scholarship player on the football team should know there is a constant battle being waged for the position they hold; there is no other road to a championship. Ultimately, both personal and team victories are determined by on-field performances, nothing else.
If Nichols wants to pick up where he left off at Michigan State, I say let him. In the Big Ten, against the kind of competition State faces, and with where the staff wants to take this program, you really can't get enough of those good-problems-to-have, can you?