Calhoun steps into leadership role

Sophomore defensive end takes responsibility to lead as he takes on a starting role.

Michigan State lost three key contributors from last year's team, but perhaps the loss that will be felt the least is that of defensive end Will Gholston.

The Spartans now put sophomore Shilique Calhoun into a starting role at weakside defensive end, while junior Marcus Rush slides over Gholston's former spot on the strongside.

Calhoun said he has learned a lot from both Gholston and Rush – and has big shoes to fill.

"Marcus isn't gone yet, but he still has big shoes to fill on that rush end," Calhoun said. "He is a very versatile player and he is smart. So is Will. Will is very strong and very smart. I'm just going to do my best, that's all I can do. They have taught me a lot and have been my predecessors so I have been trying to follow them.

"The years I had with Will were great. He taught me a lot so I am just going to try and use that on the field this year."

While Calhoun's talents on the field are clear, he brings more than just tangibles to the game. Head coach Mark Dantonio said at Big Ten Media Days that "you don't have to be a senior to be a great leader, Shilique Calhoun is a great leader."

Calhoun said that is a role he sought out when he came to East Lansing.

"I don't want to sit in the back," he said. "I just want to step up and help my team as much as I can. If that means leading from behind, I don't mind, but so far, my guys have been following me and I don't mind that at all."

Defensive line coach Ron Burton said he sees the leader in Calhoun, and it shows with freshman Demetrius Cooper.

"We have guys out there who understand the defense and (Shilique) sees himself in Demetrius Cooper, number one," Burton said. "He said he it a couple times since he has been out there. … (Shilique) has taken him under his wing a little bit. Denzel Drone also has been doing the same thing. We are only as good as our weakest link, so everyone who can help continue to get our guys coached. The better off we will be. We are all a part of this and he is one of our leaders."

Calhoun said he is not one to shy away from the hard work it takes to be a leader and that includes the offseason.

"You are going to have to work for it and give a whole bunch of dedication and hard work," he said. "I feel like I have been working hard in the offseason and working hard in season. It's been working out well for me.

"I am happy that people that follow me want to follow me and I hope I can keep being a leader for others."

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