Camp Competition Keeps Calhoun Energized

He isn't saying preseason practicing before were, you know, dull or boring. Not for a Bulldog defensive back. It is just that this year Taveze Calhoun and cohorts are truly enjoying training camp. "It makes it more fun. Because you know it is your time now."

It is indeed time for Calhoun and his fellow cornerbacks. After a stretch of seasons where the starting two spots as well as the third man-in for rotation duty were established, everything is entirely open for 2013. The graduations of John Banks, Darius Slay, and Corey Broomfield present opportunity for every Mississippi State cover-corner during this camp.

"So you have to take more seriously," Calhoun said. "You have a bigger purpose when you go to practice. You look forward to practice now."

Yes, even a practice that began with a 5:30 a.m. breakfast and team/unit meetings today. The Bulldogs are in their true training camp, as Coach Dan Mullen describes it, with a mix of two-a-day practices around single-day sessions that might as well be doubles. Because even the one-a-day dates include afternoon walk-throughs to go over the morning's practice results and items to emphasize the next morning.

It may not sound like loads of fun to civilians but Calhoun is enjoying himself. Seriously so, he will stress. "Every rep is crucial. You want to go out there and get better every day, as a defense and as a player too. So we take every rep serious and want to make every rep count."

And does each snap ever count this August as a pack of cornerbacks battle for any sort of advantage on their teammates. For what it is worthless, as they say, the depth chart will show Jamerson Love and Cedric Jiles as the lead pairing; while Calhoun and juco Justin Cox have been getting most of the other first-team snaps. Yet realistically all four are operating on equal terms at this mid-August moment, while coping with the pressures by redshirted rookies like Kivon Coman and Will Redmond.

From this talented pool of players a couple of starters will be selected two weeks from now. Instead of seeing the situation as tension though, Calhoun emphasizes it is all fun. Fun and work to be sure, but fun. And even better for the Bulldog defense, it is productive too.

"We cornerbacks, we're athletes so we go out and compete every day," Calhoun said today. "But we're a unit, we all know we have to play. So the competition is there but we're all starters." This is not exaggeration either based on coaching comments; as of now any cornerback can consider himself a potential starter for the afternoon of August 31.

Calhoun obviously intends to see his name listed on the opening game first team. So the third-fall sophomore has invested more serious study of his craft than ever before, going back to the off-season. Game film, practice review, whatever, Calhoun has been watching it. A lot.

"First I start with myself. Then I try to pick up other players on defense and what they do. Because it will help you to see the receivers like they do, and see the quarterback when they make their checks. So I try to get me an edge any way I can." And that edge arises, hopefully, from more than knowing his own specific position and assignments.

"It's something that gives you an edge just to know the whole defense. Trying to be one of the smartest players on the field so it is to your advantage to know the defense."

Of course there is the modest matter of understanding what the offense intends, too. Calhoun's study though points up something key to this Bulldog defensive approach. Traditionally cornerbacks concerned themselves with how to handle the opposing receivers they'd draw as matchups. This is still the first task once work transitions to game preparations. Yet Mullen and coordinator Geoff Collins intend that everyone taking the defensive field have a clear concept of what their entire unit is attempting after the ball is snapped across the line. This enables all eleven to operate collectively and in support of each other, or at least does so when executed.

To that end Calhoun says the defense is getting priceless camp preparation courtesy of their offensive teammates. Especially the corners and safeties, who find themselves trying to out-scheme a heckuva passer.

"It helps a lot," said Calhoun. "Tyler (Russell) is one of the best in the game. Even when you think you've got somebody covered he can still stick it in there. It gives us good competition day-in and day-out so you have to really work on your technique." Equally, the secondary is getting a first-class test in run support situations thanks to LaDarius Perkins and that strong stable of Bulldog backs.

For that matter the '13 secondary should have a greater gauge on how to handle all sorts of coverage matchups. Up to now Calhoun and Co. have been tested by capable catchers like Chad Bumphis, who is having a fine camp of his own in the NFL, as well as Arceto Clark and Chris Smith. Now they are battling daily with a more physical crew of split ends in Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow…not to mention some really fascinating freshmen. Reports of their rookie talents are true, per Calhoun.

"Ahh, they're big. Real big! They've got a lot to learn but they caught on pretty fast, I think they're going to be real good. Especially De'Runnya (Wilson), he's coming along really good. When he's going deep it's hard to stop him. I think all the freshmen receivers are doing pretty good."

Meanwhile Calhoun continues honing his developing skills. Playing cornerback well in this conference comes down to three key qualities, he said. "You just have to trust your technique and be able to forget things fast. And you have to be a smart player. If you have those things you can be a good corner."

Yes, how about explaining that ‘forget things' part? Simple, says someone who has been in games and smelt the smoke.

"Receivers are going to catch passes, like Coach always says they're on scholarship too. But if you forget things fast and be smart and trust your technique you can be a good corner. It is a process because as a competitor things start to linger on a long time. You have to develop it over time, listen to other people tell you to forget it."

Sound easy enough, right? Right, up until the part where a cornerback returns to the sideline while an opposing receiver is celebrating in the end zone. "It's one of the worst feelings in the world because all eyes are on you! You have to forget it because you don't want to get beat two plays in a row."

Or one play at all if Calhoun can help it. This is where a corner's competitive pride is key. And Calhoun is absolutely a competitor, so much so that he finds even more fun preparing for kicking plays. Oh yes, he plans on keeping those jobs.

"I'm still on special teams, that is one of the key things on our team so I compete and try to get on those teams. I'm trying to play on everything I can, whatever coach needs me to play."

If competing for starting status weren't enough motivation this month, there is the extra incentive of opening day. The Bulldogs not only kick it off this season on the road for a change, but against a ranked opponent. Add that into the August energy seen in practices.

"Coach tells us we accept the challenge every day," said Calhoun. "Every day we come in it's going to be a different challenge, a different mindset. It's not all going to be on the corners and secondary, it's on the whole team."



Gene's Page Top Stories

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","mobileBody":"It is indeed time for Calhoun and his fellow cornerbacks. After a stretch of seasons where the starting two spots as well as the third man-in for rotation duty were established, everything is entirely open for 2013. The graduations of John Banks, Darius Slay, and Corey Broomfield present opportunity for every Mississippi State cover-corner during this camp.

\"So you have to take more seriously,\" Calhoun said. \"You have a bigger purpose when you go to practice. You look forward to practice now.\"

Yes, even a practice that began with a 5:30 a.m. breakfast and team/unit meetings today. The Bulldogs are in their true training camp, as Coach Dan Mullen describes it, with a mix of two-a-day practices around single-day sessions that might as well be doubles. Because even the one-a-day dates include afternoon walk-throughs to go over the morning's practice results and items to emphasize the next morning.

It may not sound like loads of fun to civilians but Calhoun is enjoying himself. Seriously so, he will stress. \"Every rep is crucial. You want to go out there and get better every day, as a defense and as a player too. So we take every rep serious and want to make every rep count.\"

And does each snap ever count this August as a pack of cornerbacks battle for any sort of advantage on their teammates. For what it is worthless, as they say, the depth chart will show Jamerson Love and Cedric Jiles as the lead pairing; while Calhoun and juco Justin Cox have been getting most of the other first-team snaps. Yet realistically all four are operating on equal terms at this mid-August moment, while coping with the pressures by redshirted rookies like Kivon Coman and Will Redmond.

From this talented pool of players a couple of starters will be selected two weeks from now. Instead of seeing the situation as tension though, Calhoun emphasizes it is all fun. Fun and work to be sure, but fun. And even better for the Bulldog defense, it is productive too.

\"We cornerbacks, we're athletes so we go out and compete every day,\" Calhoun said today. \"But we're a unit, we all know we have to play. So the competition is there but we're all starters.\" This is not exaggeration either based on coaching comments; as of now any cornerback can consider himself a potential starter for the afternoon of August 31.

Calhoun obviously intends to see his name listed on the opening game first team. So the third-fall sophomore has invested more serious study of his craft than ever before, going back to the off-season. Game film, practice review, whatever, Calhoun has been watching it. A lot.

\"First I start with myself. Then I try to pick up other players on defense and what they do. Because it will help you to see the receivers like they do, and see the quarterback when they make their checks. So I try to get me an edge any way I can.\" And that edge arises, hopefully, from more than knowing his own specific position and assignments.

\"It's something that gives you an edge just to know the whole defense. Trying to be one of the smartest players on the field so it is to your advantage to know the defense.\"

Of course there is the modest matter of understanding what the offense intends, too. Calhoun's study though points up something key to this Bulldog defensive approach. Traditionally cornerbacks concerned themselves with how to handle the opposing receivers they'd draw as matchups. This is still the first task once work transitions to game preparations. Yet Mullen and coordinator Geoff Collins intend that everyone taking the defensive field have a clear concept of what their entire unit is attempting after the ball is snapped across the line. This enables all eleven to operate collectively and in support of each other, or at least does so when executed.

To that end Calhoun says the defense is getting priceless camp preparation courtesy of their offensive teammates. Especially the corners and safeties, who find themselves trying to out-scheme a heckuva passer.

\"It helps a lot,\" said Calhoun. \"Tyler (Russell) is one of the best in the game. Even when you think you've got somebody covered he can still stick it in there. It gives us good competition day-in and day-out so you have to really work on your technique.\" Equally, the secondary is getting a first-class test in run support situations thanks to LaDarius Perkins and that strong stable of Bulldog backs.

For that matter the '13 secondary should have a greater gauge on how to handle all sorts of coverage matchups. Up to now Calhoun and Co. have been tested by capable catchers like Chad Bumphis, who is having a fine camp of his own in the NFL, as well as Arceto Clark and Chris Smith. Now they are battling daily with a more physical crew of split ends in Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow…not to mention some really fascinating freshmen. Reports of their rookie talents are true, per Calhoun.

\"Ahh, they're big. Real big! They've got a lot to learn but they caught on pretty fast, I think they're going to be real good. Especially De'Runnya (Wilson), he's coming along really good. When he's going deep it's hard to stop him. I think all the freshmen receivers are doing pretty good.\"

Meanwhile Calhoun continues honing his developing skills. Playing cornerback well in this conference comes down to three key qualities, he said. \"You just have to trust your technique and be able to forget things fast. And you have to be a smart player. If you have those things you can be a good corner.\"

Yes, how about explaining that ‘forget things' part? Simple, says someone who has been in games and smelt the smoke.

\"Receivers are going to catch passes, like Coach always says they're on scholarship too. But if you forget things fast and be smart and trust your technique you can be a good corner. It is a process because as a competitor things start to linger on a long time. You have to develop it over time, listen to other people tell you to forget it.\"

Sound easy enough, right? Right, up until the part where a cornerback returns to the sideline while an opposing receiver is celebrating in the end zone. \"It's one of the worst feelings in the world because all eyes are on you! You have to forget it because you don't want to get beat two plays in a row.\"

Or one play at all if Calhoun can help it. This is where a corner's competitive pride is key. And Calhoun is absolutely a competitor, so much so that he finds even more fun preparing for kicking plays. Oh yes, he plans on keeping those jobs.

\"I'm still on special teams, that is one of the key things on our team so I compete and try to get on those teams. I'm trying to play on everything I can, whatever coach needs me to play.\"

If competing for starting status weren't enough motivation this month, there is the extra incentive of opening day. The Bulldogs not only kick it off this season on the road for a change, but against a ranked opponent. Add that into the August energy seen in practices.

\"Coach tells us we accept the challenge every day,\" said Calhoun. \"Every day we come in it's going to be a different challenge, a different mindset. It's not all going to be on the corners and secondary, it's on the whole team.\"

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