Michigan State Football: Theo Day, Payton Thorne or Rocky Lombardi for QB1?

Rocky Lombardi, Michigan State football (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Rocky Lombardi, Michigan State football (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

There’s going to be a massive debate going around this fall about Michigan State football’s QB1 and we’re going to make a prediction.

The Big Ten is coming back, baby.

Fall football is about a month away for Michigan State and the rest of the conference and that just means that there are going to be some incredible position battles to keep an eye on, led by the most important one at the quarterback position.

Mel Tucker is taking over with a clean slate and he has a big decision to make.

There are three quarterbacks in the running for QB1 this fall: Rocky Lombardi, Theo Day and Payton Thorne. I would also including true freshman Noah Kim, but I just don’t see him passing up the other three for that starting spot in year one.

So who should get the starting nod? Let’s look at all three and see what they bring to the table.

Lombardi is the veteran of the group. He’s entering his redshirt junior season and if Mark Dantonio were still in town, he’d probably go with Rocky simply because he’s the oldest. Times have changed, however, and now that Tucker is making the decision based off the eye test, he’ll likely be more realistic. Sure, Rocky is a great leader, but as a passer, he’s lacking.

The offseason can fix that, but he is a sub-50 percent career passer and that’s not going to cut it in the Big Ten. He needs to work on that accuracy, but I just don’t see it happening in one offseason. He does have an incredibly strong arm, so if he figured out accuracy, he’d be a great fit.

Also, he’s a tough runner and isn’t afraid to take hits while trying to pick up that extra yardage.

Now what about Day? The sophomore quarterback has been patiently waiting for any sort of opportunity and he got a small one against Penn State last season but was abruptly pulled, presumably for not calling a certain play correctly. He didn’t look bad, though, and even completed 2-of-3 passes for 12 yards. He wasn’t phased by the opponent.

As someone who has seen Day compete at the high school level, I can tell you that I was excited for the Spartans when he picked MSU. His ceiling is incredibly high and he reminded me of a younger, more mobile version of Connor Cook. He has the stature and the arm and also the confidence, as long as the staff returns that sentiment to him.

Lastly, there’s Thorne. He already has one of the best first names in football (spelled differently, however) but he will have a tough road ahead if he wants to win the job.

Being the youngest of the group doesn’t help, but he’s definitely not lacking in the talent category. He has a little Brian Lewerke in him with some mobile capabilities and the ability to sling it deep every now and then and he looks incredibly calm under center. He sometimes comes off as nonchalant, but that’s not a bad thing if he’s making the right decisions.

Thorne has a good command of the offense and has a high IQ for the position as well as a good relationship already developed with former high school teammate Jayden Reed. Major positives there.

Prediction for QB1

I’ve thought about Rocky starting the season as QB1 and while that’s not what a lot of fans want, it might just go to show just how much he’s improved. With that being said, I don’t think it’ll be enough to beat out the high ceilings of Day or Thorne.

I’m going to go with Day as my prediction as the starting quarterback for 2020 and Thorne will make a serious push and even get some split snaps.

Day has the size, strong arm and running ability to give the Spartans a fresh look on the offensive side of the ball.

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