Harlon Barnett says ‘it’s still competition mode’ for Michigan State’s quarterbacks

EAST LANSING – Eight games into Michigan State football’s season, six games into the Spartans’ ongoing losing streak, one big roster question remains: who will be MSU’s starting quarterback?

“It’s still competition mode. … It’s still a competition,” interim coach Harlon Barnett stated on Monday, highlighting the brewing battle between redshirt freshman Katin Houser and true freshman Sam Leavitt after Saturday’s 27-12 loss at Minnesota.

Barnett also confirmed the recent injury of Noah Kim, the starting quarterback for the first five games of the season. The move to Houser before the 27-24 loss on October 14 prompted speculation about a potential injury situation. Barnett doubts Kim will be available for the upcoming game against Nebraska, signaling a continued opportunity for Houser and Leavitt to prove themselves.

The quarterback battle for MSU (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten) against the formidable Cornhuskers (5-3, 3-2) now rests with the two youngest quarterbacks on the roster – Houser and Leavitt. As the only healthy scholarship options, they will have a chance to showcase their skills and compete for the starting position.

Barnett acknowledged the challenges of developing young players, emphasizing the need for steady growth and progress. As coaches, their role is to guide and nurture players, assisting them in reaching their full potential.

Houser, in his third consecutive start, struggled once again to lead the offense. The Spartans’ offensive struggles persisted throughout the game, with only eight first downs through the first three quarters. Despite his efforts, Houser was unable to score a touchdown, leaving the offense stagnant. However, he managed to avoid turnovers and ran the offense efficiently.

Despite Houser’s performance, the Spartans gained just 174 total yards. They have now gone eight quarters without a touchdown with Houser as quarterback, and have had 12 three-and-out drives in their last three games.

During the fourth quarter, Barnett decided to give Leavitt an opportunity to prove himself. The young quarterback displayed glimpses of promise, leading the Spartans to their first touchdown drive in multiple games. Despite two turnovers, Leavitt showed confidence and provided a spark to the offense.

With running back depth weakened by injuries, Leavitt showcased his versatility by effectively using his legs to extend plays and escape pressure. He finished the game as the team’s leading rusher, gaining 52 yards on six attempts. Leavitt completed 8 of 12 passes for 73 yards, including a touchdown.

The ongoing battle between Houser and Leavitt will be pivotal for MSU as they navigate through a challenging season. With the offense struggling to put up points, the team is relying on their young quarterbacks to step up and lead.

As the season progresses, Houser has completed 57.3% of his passes for 509 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Leavitt, on the other hand, has completed 14 of 21 passes for 114 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He has also shown his ability to contribute on the ground, rushing for 65 yards. Kim, who has been sidelined due to injury, boasts a completion rate of 56.9% with six touchdowns and six interceptions.

As the Spartans await Kim’s potential return, the quarterback situation remains uncertain. The coaching staff is focused on the development of their young players and hopes for continued growth and improvement. The quarterback battle will be a key factor in MSU’s future success.


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