It’s not secret that in the game of football, you need to have a mixture of elite talent and depth in the trenches if you want to win football games.
Since Mark Dantonio’s hiring in 2007, he has made it a goal to build depth on the defense for the Michigan State Spartans, particularly with the defensive line. After a solid string of recruiting classes, that depth is now on display.
From Conner Cook to the running backs and the linebackers, all have talked about how the defensive line has taken it to another level this spring. With so much talent and depth on the team, it’s easy to see why they are getting such high praise.
For fifth-year senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, he feels it’s the groups’ versatility that will set them apart from other units around the country.
“I believe that our versatility makes it a lot easier for us to go out there and play and give it our all each and every play,” Calhoun said. “Not only that, but we’re confident. We understand what we have, and we understand what we’re trying to accomplish. We have the playmakers to do it.”
Along with Calhoun, the Spartans also return starters in Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas, all fifth-year seniors. With former five-star recruit Malik McDowell expected to be the fourth starting lineman, there’s a lot to be optimistic about.
“I feel that as if a lot of guys can play multiple positions,” Calhoun said. “Not only that, but they can do it at a high level. It’s not like ‘oh, am I suppose to be here?’ It’s like ‘I know we’re going this way, I know I need to do this, and I know where he’s fitting’.”
With the possibility of having up to ten guys who can play at a high level on the defensive line this season, it’s not crazy to think the Spartans’ could have the best group in the country.
“That’s our goal,” Calhoun said. “That’s something that we try to accomplish day in and day out. That’s why we go out there and practice as hard as we do. We understand our talent, we understand what we have, and we understand our versatility. Now we’re just putting it all together.”
For someone who has seen as much football at this level as Calhoun, he knows better than most that talk and what happens on the field are two separate things.
As a senior leader, Calhoun is trying to get the idea across to his fellow lineman that they need to prove that they are the best defensive line in the country before they start talking about it.
“When you think you’re good, you’ll talk about yourself. When you know you’re good, other people will talk about,” Calhoun said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’re just trying to make sure other people talk about us. Then we’ll know for a fact we’re good.”