The 2013 Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the Year, Shilique Calhoun, recorded 7.5 sacks and 14 total tackles for loss for the Michigan State Spartans‘ incredibly talented and suffocating defense a year ago. The defensive line loses quite a bit compared to last season, but Calhoun’s performance will remain at a spectacular level in 2014, a season that will really help define and cement his legacy with the Spartans.
Calhoun’s exceptional 2013 campaign was almost drowned out by other top-tier playmakers like Darqueze Dennard and Denicos Allen. There was little time to appreciate his impact on the defensive line because teams were being stuffed by every level of the defense. But now he is the clear anchor of a defensive line that is without some of its biggest contributors from last season; Calhoun has the opportunity to shine in a big way.
Standing towards the top of almost every statistic last year, Calhoun comes into this 2014 season as the best returning defensive lineman in the Big 10. His speed is excellent, he makes the big plays, and he has a nose for the football; the kid simply makes things happen in an electric way.
Calhoun’s role in 2014 is going to be a vital one because of what people expect this defense to look like. Because of the big names you saw rolling off the roster after last year’s Rose Bowl victory, it’s naturally assumed that Michigan State is going to go through a period of transition.
Yes, that’s true in a sense, but those who fully believe that are severely underestimating what a guy like Calhoun can do to opposing offenses. Statistically speaking, it would be almost impossible for Michigan State to continue at the rate it did last season on defense, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things are falling off a cliff. Guys like Calhoun will keep the ship heading in the right direction this season.
He’ll be rejoined by fellow defensive end Marcus Rush, who tallied 21.5 tackles and five sacks in 2013. They make for one of the deadliest duos of ends in the Big 10. They both bring an exciting dose of aggressiveness to the defense, which is something Michigan State could probably use as it gets ready to cope with life after the departures of some very talented defenders.
Calhoun has a very real chance of being the first player to win Defensive Lineman of the Year honors outright in back-to-back seasons since Mike Vrabel of Ohio State did it in 1995 and 1996.
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