Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne has entered the NCAA transfer portal, 247Sports confirmed on Sunday, bringing some clarity to the Spartans' quarterback competition and making valuable name with Power Five starting experience available for programs seeking a new signal-caller. Thorne enters the portal as a graduate transfer.
Thorne's struggles in 2022 opened the door for him to be challenged this spring for the starting spot. Fourth-year junior Noah Kim was the primary challenger with redshirt freshman Katin Houser also in the mix. While Thorne did have a decrease in touchdowns and a slight increase in interceptions from 2021 to 2022, he also admitted he played much of last fall's campaign while dealing with injuries.
"Since last year, walking off the field at Penn State, I feel like I'm a lot better than I was, I feel like I'm more myself, healthy again, able to move around," Thorne explained earlier in spring practice, via the Lansing State Journal.
Thorne threw for 6,493 yards and 49 touchdowns in his career with the Spartans. He led Michigan State to an 11-2 record in 2021 that culminated with a Peach Bowl win over Pitt, but that was followed up with the disappointing 5-7 season that followed in 2022.
With Thorne gone, the race narrows, for now, to a battle between Kim and Houser. Kim has drawn positive reviews for his performance this spring. Unless the Spartans add another quarterback from the portal before fall camp, Kim will head into 2023 as the presumed leader ahead of Houser, a former four-star prospect who has blue-chip projections but may be another year of development away from meeting those expectations.
And whomever ends up getting the job will take over a Michigan State offense that could be losing another returning starter, as wide receiver Keon Coleman has joined Thorne in entering the transfer portal over the weekend. Coleman was the team's leader in receptions (58), receiving yards (798) and touchdown catches (7) last season.
As for Thorne, he joins former Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson as one of the highest-rated quarterbacks available in the transfer portal. Thorne is able to boast the success of the 2021 campaign and the experience of leading the Spartans for two years. If those nagging injury issues have been resolved, he could be poised for a bounce back season at a new home in 2023.