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Rehash&Analysis: Aidan Chiles solid as offense wins Michigan State spring scrimmage, 31-24

On3 imageby:Jim Comparoni04/20/24


East Lansing, Mich. – The Michigan State football team closed spring practice feeling pretty good about itself following the Spring Showcase scrimmage, Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

The offense played its best of the three scrimmages this spring, the first two of which were closed to the public. First-year head coach Jonathan Smith said the offensive line played its best of the spring, on Saturday. 

A smattering of newcomers had a big impact, on Saturday, including quarterbacks Aidan Chiles and Tommy Schuster, freshman wide receiver Nick Marsh, freshman running back Brandon Tullis and defensive end transfer Quindarius Dunnigan.

Meanwhile, Nathan Carter, who led Michigan State in rushing in 2023, scored a pair of touchdowns, through the air and on the ground.

“I thought it looked like football out there,” Smith said. “I think we got some things established in all three phases, in how we practice, how we communicate. I really like the work we got done, but there’s a ton of work to do. It’s a huge summer for us.”

Chiles was reasonably productive, operating Michigan State’s first-string offense against the first string defense.

Back-up quarterback Schuster was a bright spot for the second-string offense, utilizing true freshman wide receiver Marsh and others, while having a good day against the second-string defense. 

It amounted to a 31-24 victory for the offense in a 61-play scrimmage, played with four 10-minute quarters and a running clock.

The only negative was the weather, with windy temperatures in the mid-40s. The blustery conditions kept crowd numbers low, with SpartanMag unofficially estimating the crowd at less than 5,000 for the outset of the practice, and maybe 20 percent of that staying for the entire scrimmage.

“It was cold, it was terrible,” said Chiles, a native of Long Beach, Calif. “Before the game started, we were talking about how we are playing in the coldest spring game in America right now. We powered through it. It’s football. Like we say around here, we own the weather. I had goose bumps every time I walked out on the field, but overall it was fun.

“First of all, we beat the defense, being down 14-0, so that’s something we haven’t done all spring. To play as one, as a unit, showed that we can do this at a high level.”

Defensive tackle Derrick Harmon (4) and quarterback Aidan Chiles (2) shake hands after the offense’s victory over the defense in the Spring Showcase, Saturday at Spartan Stadium. (Photo by Nick King | USA Today Network).


The defense was spotted a 14-0 lead at the outset of the scrimmage. The offense overcame that lead with four touchdowns, scored by Nate Carter (2), Nick Marsh and Jalen Berger.

SpartanMag unofficially had Chiles at 7-of-14 for 104 yards with one touchdown pass. He had one rush for 17 yards.

“He threw it accurately, moved his feet well,” Smith said. “I think it helped that he got a little bit of a run game going and had a nice carry.”

Schuster was 6-of-9 for 134 yards, including a 75-yard TD pass to Marsh to open the second half.

Third-string quarterback Alessio Milivojevic was 3-of-4 for 8 yards. 

Fourth-string quarterback Ryland Jessee was 2-of-3 for 3 yards. 

Fifth-string quarterback Andrew Schorfhaar, a walk-on, attempted three passes, one of which was intercepted by third-string cornerback Khary Crump. That interception netted seven points for the defense.

Jonathan Kim missed a 44-yard field goal to cap the second offensive possession of the day, giving three points to the defense. The Michigan State defense wasn’t awarded with points for other stoppages.

Nathan Carter rushed three times for 48 yards, including a 48-yard TD run on the second play of the scrimmage. On that play, he cut behind a Brandon Baldwin block on an inside zone play. Baldwin kept play-side rush end Khris Bogle out of the B-gap. Bogle and defensive tackle D’Quan Douse looked like they were supposed to execute a twist exchange, but Bogle hesitated before trying to get into the B-gap, and it went un-hosted. Carter found the daylight and went the distance.

Carter also had a 17-yard TD reception from Chiles on a wheel route against linebacker Wayne Matthews.

“We think Nate is explosive and that fits well in the scheme,” Smith said. “He has had a lot of carries in camp, learning the thing.”


True freshman mid-year enrollee Nick Marsh had three catches for 103 yards (unofficially), including a 75-yarder, a 13-yarder and a 16-yarder, mostly against the second unit. 

“He’s young, he’s a baller and he derives a lot out of talent,” Chiles said of Marsh. “I see a lot of me in Nick. This summer, we have to get into the playbook. I have to help him get into the playbook because I think he can really help us in the fall.”

Marsh’s touchdown came on a deep double move to the post against a cover-three blitz. Deep middle safety Jaylen Thompson, a true freshman mid-year enrollee, was influenced up and of position by a Jaelen Smith intermediate crossing route. That left the middle of the field open for Marsh’s deep post cut. 


Schuster was on target with his pass, although Schuster benefitted on that play from the no-hit rules for quarterbacks. Rush end Bai Jobe was bearing down on Schuster as he made the throw, but wasn’t allowed to tackle him. Jobe dropped into coverage initially as part of a blitz drop, and then rushed the quarterback from the inside. Schuster set his feet after a play action half roll. 

“In live football, I think he is taking a pretty good hit on that,” Smith said. 

But Schuster, a fifth-year senior transfer who holds all the school passing records at the University of North Dakota, has been solid and trustworthy all spring. 

“He completes passes, man,” Smith said. “He’s been this way. He plays with poise. Decisive. Recognizes coverages really well. He understands concepts and can be accurate with it. He plays with a ton of composure and competitiveness.”

True freshman running back Brandon Tullis was a bit of a pleasant surprise. He rushed seven times for 48 yards. At 6-1, 217, Tullis looked like a solid, promising college football player, especially for a guy who enrolled at mid-semester.

“Early on, in the first practices, he was getting his feet wet but I think in the back half of it he got more and more comfortable,” Smith said of Tullis. “He is physical. All of those guys had good carries.”

Wide receiver Montorie Foster had three receptions for 81 yards. 

Running back Jalen Berger had a 2-yard TD run.

“We wanted a base package, but not show too much,” Smith said. “I thought they played really hard (on defense) for the limited amount of calls we had out there. Penalties hurt them.”

An illegal hands to the face penalty by defensive tackle D’Quan Douse prolonged a drive by the second-string offense, which eventually ended with Berger’s 2-yard TD run. But Douse, a transfer defensive tackle from Georgia Tech, was an overall plus on the day. 

Douse, Derrick Harmon and Maverick Hansen were the main rotation at defensive tackle, with walk-ons Ben Nelson and Jaxson Wilson the only others available at the position.

Michigan State had some mixing and matching going on with the defensive starting lineup. Senior Avery Dunn started the game at defensive end, opposite Khris Bogle at rush end. When the second defensive unit entered the field, Jalen Thompson (at rush end) and Quindarius Dunnigan were the defensive ends. In actuality, Dunn is likely the fourth of those four in the pecking order, but technically he got the start today.

Jordan Hall and Cal Haladay were the starting inside linebackers.

Wayne Matthews and Jordan Turner were the second-unit linebackers, with Darius Snow playing nickel back in the base defense. Snow also played some outside linebacker when Michigan State occasionally showed a true 3-4.

Presumptive first-string safety Jaden Mangham was out with an undisclosed ailment. Dillon Tatum started in his place at free safety, next to strong safety Malik Spencer.

Angelo Grose started at nickel back.

Douse had a big play on third-and-goal at the 1-yard line when he penetrated the backfield and stopped walk-on running back Joseph Martinez for a four-yard loss. Douse was untouched on the play. It appeared that right tackle Ashton Lepo stepped the wrong way on a zone play, creating daylight for the one-gapping Douse.

Lepo was the first-string right tackle on Saturday. Ethan Boyd, the presumptive first-stringer heading into the spring, was unavailable. 

Dunnigan had a touch sack against Schuster on the second-string offense’s first possession of the day. Dunnigan beat second-string left tackle Jacob Merritt, a walk-on, for the sack. Merritt (6-6, 286, R-Soph., Northville, Mich.) served as the second-string left tackle throughout the day, behind Brandon Baldwin. 

“Over 15 practices, this defense has come along, the way they have run to the ball, making it physical,” Smith said. “They have had plenty of live tackling and they are holding their own against the offense. Practice one to 15 is like night and day. We have gotten better on the communication side (on defense); I thought tackling throughout the spring was solid.”

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