Including two promising young quarterbacks.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Katin Houser, who started the Spartans' final seven games this season, and true freshman Sam Leavitt both reportedly plan to enter the NCAA transfer portal. They were among six players who announced their intention to explore potential transfer options Monday.
Starting right tackle Spencer Brown also announced via Twitter on Monday he plans to enter the transfer portal with one year of eligibility remaining. Two other offensive linemen, third-year sophomores Kevin Wigenton II and Ethan Boyd, also announced their intentions to test the portal.
Linebacker Darius Snow also has entered the portal with two years of eligibility remaining, and the redshirt junior said on social media he could appeal for a third season.
Brown and Snow are in the portal immediately with post-graduate exemptions. Houser, Leavitt, Boyd and Wigenton, along with any other undergrads, cannot officially enter until the portal window reopens Dec. 4. Any or all of them could withdraw their names from the portal and stay as part of Smith's first roster.
“There's no question we're gonna start with development," he said. "And developing a program and the ability to develop year after year, especially for a younger player to be in the program, I want him leading way better as a player, person, student — the whole thing. So we want to be about development. I want to develop the highest-star rated players as well. So a two-, three-, four-, five-star, they come to the place and they develop and improve.
“The roster, yes, there's different avenues to build a roster. We will use every avenue, but we want to start with a high school player coming here and developing and getting better. That will be the hope that the core of the roster will be.”
"Learning more and more about Michigan State, this felt like the right time and the right fit for me."
New @MSU_Football coach Jonathan Smith joins @BTNDaveRevsine to discuss taking over the Spartans.#B1Gtoday x @Coach_Smith pic.twitter.com/FhzSJb60z3
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 27, 2023
Houser arrived from California in 2022 as coach Mel Tucker's first four-start quarterback recruit, and took a redshirt after playing six snaps in one game against Akron. After two-year starter Payton Thorne left the program for Auburn in the spring, Houser lost the battle to replace him to redshirt junior Noah Kim.
Kim started the first five games before Houser, 6 feet 3 and 213 pounds, took over as the starter against Rutgers, a game MSU blew an 18-point lead going into the fourth quarter and lost, 24-21. The Spartans went on a six-game losing streak after Tucker was removed from his position Sept. 10.
Houser won two games as a starter, but Leavitt threw the eventual winning touchdown pass in a 20-17 win over Nebraska on Nov. 4. Leavitt opted to preserve his redshirt following that game, the fourth he played in this fall. Houser continued starting with Kim injured and out since the end of the September, and only two walk-ons left on the depth chart.
Houser's best performance came in leading a 24-21 comeback win at Indiana on Nov. 18. He went 25-for-39 for 279 yards with three touchdown passes, including the winning 36-yarder to Maliq Carr with 1:19 to play. Houser finished his season 112-for-191 for 1,132 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Leavitt played full fourth quarters against Michigan and Minnesota, along with two drives against the Cornhuskers and one against Maryland. The 6-2, 200-pound Oregon native was 15-for-24 passing for 139 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and ran 13 times for 67 yards, finishing fourth on the team in rushing.
MSU STOCK WATCH: At least a few players ended season with a flourish
Brown is a Walled Lake Western product who initially signed with coach Mark Dantonio in 2019. Brown, 6-6, 315, and a redshirt senior, started 23 of his 32 games as a Spartan, including all 12 in 2022 and 10 of 12 this season. Two of those starts this year came at left tackle.
His sixth year of eligibility as a graduate transfer is available because of the NCAA’s COVID waiver for the 2020 season; Brown earned a degree in advertising management in May of 2022 and has been pursuing a second degree in interdisciplinary studies in social science.
Wigenton played in all 12 games this season, and the 6-5, 320-pound guard also started six times. The 6-7, 320-pound Boyd, who graduated from East Lansing High, also played in every game this fall and made his first three career starts. Both arrived as part of Tucker's 2021 recruiting class.
Snow suffered a significant leg injury in the 2022 opener against Western Michigan and missed the rest of the season. Snow, 6-1, 230, was part of Dantonio's final recruiting class in 2020 and stayed on despite the coach's departure before his freshman season. He moved from defensive back to linebacker before the 2022 season.
After missing the first two games this fall, Snow returned and played in four games before being shut down with another undisclosed injury for the final six games. He finished with six tackles in 55 snaps.
Snow is the son of former MSU/NBA guard Eric Snow, and the nephew of former All-America/NFL linebacker Percy Snow (the only Spartan to win the Butkus and Lombardi awards in 1989 and the first in college football history to win both in the same season).
The six players who announced their intentions Monday are the first defections since the one-month window after Tucker’s firing closed Oct. 27. Under interim coach Harlon Barnett, MSU had four players enter the portal — long snapper Hank Pepper, offensive lineman Keyshawn Blackstock, running back Jordon Simmons and defensive back Justin White — and another, defensive end Tunmise Adeleye, leave the program.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State QBs Houser, Leavitt, 4 others entering transfer portal