Calhoun Enjoying Break But Excited For Bowl

He's happy to be hanging around Morton right now, to be sure. Being turned-loose for a few December days is a well-earned reward for the long, long haul of a regular Mississippi State season. "Yeah, it's been a long time since I've been home to see the family," Taveze Calhoun said. "But I know I've still got a bowl game."

Indeed he and the whole Bulldog ball club does. A good one too as Mississippi State completes its 2012 season on the first day of 2013, facing Northwestern in the Gator Bowl. Speaking of completion, the Dogs wrapped up the campus portion of bowl camp Thursday with the last of a dozen working dates. It was devoted to polishing-up specific scheming for the Wildcats much as would have been the case on any regular season Thursday.

Their Christmas break won't be all that long either, as the team and travel party are due in Jacksonville on the 26th. Coach Dan Mullen has given some Dogs the choice of driving to the bowl site on their own accord but most will re-assemble Christmas evening and make the trip together. Count Calhoun in that number. And if the cornerback still has some of the Christmas Eve electricity about him upon return to campus it's only natural.

"It's what you dream about, going to play in a big-time bowl game and for a SEC team going to play a Big Ten team. I'm excited about it and ready to step on the field."

His excitement comes from playing in Calhoun's first Bowl-Dog game. He got to watch the Music City Bowl last year to complete his redshirting season.

More importantly for his current case, Calhoun participated in all the post-season practicing. That additional work whether in temporary second-team drills or just on the scout team secondary has paid off in 2012 as Calhoun continues working his way up the defensive depth chart.

He spent this regular season usually in backup role or even sometimes rotation at boundary cornerback, as well as on kicking coverage teams. Calhoun's stat-line shows 24 total tackles with one of them forcing a fumble. These numbers might not grab outside attention, but then Calhoun is still very much a work in progress. The fact is this talented All-State athlete out of Morton High would likely have been activated as a true 2011 freshman if not for a shoulder injury in preseason practices.

A whole year and varsity season later here he is, right on schedule. Just the same as his counterpart on the other corner, soph Jamerson Love. Each got their share of action this season with similar results. Make that nearly identical as Love had 23 tackles, albeit this youngster was able to snag an interception to match that turnover forced by Calhoun.

The point being this is a talented twosome who figure in Mississippi State's 2013 planning already after their performances this fall. "I think we did pretty good," said Calhoun.

"I think we've still got a lot to learn, but we just have to continue to improve and try to get better every day. A lot of time with John and Slay and Broomfield, we'll still learn as much as we can from them and continue to improve every time we step on the field."

Ahhhh, yes. Mississippi State's senior cornerbacks, the talented and entertaining trio that headlined the secondary for years. These three MSU musketeers are taking their final turns together come New Years Day before heading in separate and hopefully professional directions. It will be a sentimental moment for sure when John Banks, Corey Broomfield, and Darius Slay step on EverBank Field.

But sentiment hasn't been part of the bowl build-up. Those upperclassmen have invested plenty of their end-of-career time in getting successors ready for the future, to maintain the tradition of Bulldog defenses backs for another generation if you will. In Calhoun's case Banks, the Thorpe Award winner and record-setting interceptor, is the mentor. Because somebody has to move into his boundary-cornerback position next year, after all.

So these final weeks together, Calhoun said, have been meaningful. Sort of a last chance for special tutoring from the professor to a favorite student.

"It's been very important. He teaches me a lot about football and how to play, how the game flows. He's been playing a long time and I just try to take all the advice from him, try to do the best I can to learn techniques from different things."

At the same time Calhoun is already part of another transition process. Even becoming something of an instructor himself. Because while he and Love will open spring as the proven players there are kids like Cedric Jiles—who played three games as a true rookie before cracking his hand—and Will Redmond and Xavier Grindle who have just spent their first fall in the program. Calhoun found himself in the somewhat strange situation last week of learning last lessons from Banks while also offering tips to kids who want his job come March!

But that is part of what bowl season is about for the Bulldogs; getting ready for both this holiday's game as well as next season. The emphasis this past week was on the former of course. "It changed, going back to game-planning, preparing for Northwestern. Last week trying to get young guys reps, trying to see what we've got going into the spring and for next year.

"So the whole idea changed and the mindset about bowl prep, back into game-prep."

Which qualifies Calhoun to comment a little more on the Gator Bowl opponent, now that he and team have scouted and schemed and practiced. "They're a team that likes to run the ball lot, they've got very good athletes. We definitely have to bring our A-game to beat them. So we're preparing to bring our A-game."

That's something Mullen's men have managed to do in prior bowl trips. Two years ago on this same field those Bulldogs rolled Michigan, and last season State took care of Wake Forest in Nashville. Now this team can do what has never happened before at Mississippi State by scoring a third bowl win in as many years. And, in the process, do its part in the annual inter-conference bowl bragging right scoring. Calhoun is cautious though about assuming anything in that aspect.

"Everybody says the SEC is the powerhouse. But Northwestern is a good team, they ain't no run-over team. So we have to come ready to play."

For a couple of days, though, Calhoun and club can play like the kids they are during a happy holidays. You know; go hang with old friends, hug visiting relatives, open presents, and feast...well, showing at least some restraint regarding that latter item. But even the spectre of Matt Balis won't crimp Calhoun's celebrating.

"So I'll go spend some time with the family, come back and finish the season out right."


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