INDIANAPOLIS (WOOD) — The Spartans aren’t lacking any confidence after finishing the 2021-22 season with an 11-2 record, but they aren’t satisfied either. 

Following up the success of last season will be a challenge but head coach Mel Tucker has no doubts his players will be able to lead the charge. The Spartans will have to replace production from their star running back Kenneth Walker III, who they lost to the NFL, but returning starters like Payton Thorne as quarterback and Jayden Reed as wide receiver will help ease the blow.

“I don’t believe there’s anyone that’s going to out-compete (Payton Thorne) on our team,” Tucker said. “Leading by example is really not leading, for him to step out and get out of his comfort zone, and really make a conscious effort and coach (his) teammates.”

Thorne set a school record with 27 touchdown passes for the Spartans, also throwing the third-most passing yards in a single season in Michigan State University history. Payton Thorne also echoed Tuckers’ statements at Big Ten Media Days and emphasized he’s not afraid to hold his teammates accountable. 

“I never believed … that leading by example is a thing. That’s just the price of admission, that’s just doing what you’re supposed to do. Bringing guys with you, that’s leadership, and reaching back and saying ‘Come on, let’s go!’ and challenging guys,” Payton Thorne said. “In order to do that you’ve got to know something about the guy that you’re playing with … and I think it all comes down to relationships.”

Relationship-building is a lesson Payton Thorne learned from his dad, Western Michigan University offensive coordinator Jeff Thorne, who will go against MSU in the season opener. The Spartans are gearing up to welcome the Broncos to East Lansing when they kick-off the season on Friday, Sept. 2.