Michigan State Football’s rebuild is at QB in Aidan Chiles

EAST LANSING – Michigan State defensive back Dillon Tatum is an alpha personality. He’s fascinating. He can light up a room. He speaks with authority, usually candidly. He doesn’t tend to blow smoke on people or situations that don’t deserve it.

But when Aiden Chiles entered the room and joined him on stage during the press conference after Michigan State football’s spring game Saturday — just as Tatum was asked about Chiles — Tatum became a little sheepish, almost deferring to a larger presence.

“Shut your ears,” Tatum said to Chiles, who was sitting a few feet away.

Chiles agreed and put on his headphones as Tatum started talking about the Spartans’ new quarterback.

“Aidan has a great size. I think he can run very well. And you see the arm that was on display today, it was very good,” Tatum said. “But an elite-level quarterback like Aiden Chiles gives us constant work (in the secondary). And we will keep getting better. And I think he will be near the top of the Big Ten this year, if not the top of the country.”

For once, I don’t trust Tatum’s analysis. It’s not that Chiles doesn’t have great talent, quick feet and a big arm. It’s not like he won’t one day be at the top of the Big Ten or even all of college football. It’s that he’s a first-year starter and a true sophomore. And most of all, I think Tatum targeted a young man who has quickly become the face and alpha of MSU’s football program.

There are countless questions about this MSU football team and its capabilities in Year 1 under Jonathan Smith. But not as a quarterback.

We don’t yet know how good Chiles will be under center for the Spartans on Day 1. But we know he will be under center. And everyone in the program knows it too – from Smith and Chiles to Tatum and Tommy Schuster, Chiles’ backup. Chiles was brought to East Lansing from Oregon State to become MSU’s quarterback. Schuster was named Chiles’ backup after five years in North Dakota.

Chiles has a presence beyond his resume, having spent a year as a backup QB in the Pac-12, a magnetic trait for him. This is his team. He feels it.

“It’s different,” Chiles said Saturday. “…Being in an entry-level role, it was a learning experience. It was fun. And I’m grateful to be in this position. The important thing is that everyone is watching. I saw it today. Basically, I see my face every five minutes (on the jumbotron). I can’t do anything to confuse myself. I really just have to stay on my P’s and Q’s and just be able to keep my composure during the game, during practice, during everything. Because everyone is looking at me.”

Part of that is because MSU has never had a quarterback like him, maybe ever — with all the traits Tatum mentioned. Part of it is because he represents hope and change for a show whose fan base is desperate for it. And part of that is the way he carries himself: the confidence and the charisma, like he’s ready for this. Chiles gives off QB1 vibes.

Nothing he did on the field Saturday during MSU’s spring football showcase suggested anything less. He was far from perfect completing 7 of 14 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. But he was tantalizingly good – with a 22-yard pass over the middle to Montorie Foster on his first throw from scrimmage, and with a 35-yard dart to Foster on the right side, and again when he spun out of trouble and ran away. for 17 meters.

“I thought he threw accurately and moved his feet well,” Smith said of Chiles. “I think it helped that he was running a little bit. He had a nice baby carrier. … He looked comfortable and the guys made some plays for him in the passing game, which was great to see.

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Chiles’ hallmarks – besides the physical – include his self-awareness and how comfortable he seems to be as a still-growing quarterback. He talked last year about relying too much on talent and athleticism alone. When asked about Schuster, his veteran backup – who himself had a strong day – Chiles explained Schuster’s strengths by pointing to his own weaknesses.

“Tommy’s a ball player, man. I love what he does,” Chiles said. “When he goes out, I watch what he does. Just because he has so much more experience and I’ve learned from other coaches, the defensive coaches on our team have told me that I live by the gun and die by the gun. I’m a very aggressive quarterback. I take things I probably shouldn’t take. And Tommy goes out there and takes what the defense gives him. And I like what he does. He just drives the ball up the pitch, calm, cool and collected. He never loses his mind. …It seems easy for him. Sometimes when I go outside I panic a little, but I get back into my head.

It might be easier to speak so bluntly about your own mistakes when you’re not in a quarterback competition, when it’s your team and everyone understands that.

A year ago, MSU messed up the quarterback situation. It also didn’t have a quarterback that everyone understood was the starter. That’s the last thing this team needs, uncertainty at that position. And there isn’t one. It only takes a minute for Chiles or his teammates to realize it.

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Contact Graham Couch at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.