Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Calhoun Eager to Ground Eagles

Morton, Mississippi product Taveze Calhoun will take the field tomorrow night as a senior. In his fifth year on campus. Calhoun has become one of the Bulldogs must reliable and passionate defenders. Mississippi State will begin the season on the road in Hattiesburg as the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss provide the opposition. The veteran corner reports that his team is ready for action.

"We are preparing the same way," Calhoun said. "They have a lot of talent down there. I think they're going to be a little better than they were last year, so we're approaching it just like any other game. We're studying and practicing hard and letting everything else take care of itself."

Being born and raised and Mississippi, Calhoun has had the chance to play against most of the in state programs. The chance to share the spotlight with another of Mississippi's talented football teams appears to be important to both the coaches and players on both sides.

"I think it's huge," Calhoun said of playing Southern Miss. "It's huge for our fans, because it's an in state rivalry. I know those guys are going to be ready to play, because we're in the same state. (I) probably played against a lot of those guys in high school. I know emotions are going to be high and it's going to be a great environment. Those guys are going to be ready to play and that's why it's so important that we prepare and be mentally prepared to play."

The Bulldogs got the best of the Golden Eagles last season in a lopsided affair that ended 49-0. Calhoun reports that playing the game at home provided his team with an emotional lift.

"I think our home field advantage kind of helped us out a little bit," Calhoun explained. "We were opening the new stadium and the 100 Years thing and we came out attacking fast. It's a different year this year and we're not thinking about last year at all. We are going out to prepare like it's a new opponent. We are just trying to put ourselves in a position to get a win."

As the emotion of the moment carried the Bulldogs in the early going, Southern Miss fans and players are eager to get a shot at redemption on their own turf. Calhoun believes Southern Miss wants to do more than keep it close.

"All of that is just part of it," Calhoun said. "You're playing in an SEC program and they're playing in a Conference USA, which some consider a little smaller than SEC schools. We know it's a big time environment and we know what's at stake for those guys. We know the pride level between our school and their school. We know those guys are going to play hard and we are going to play just as hard."

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has installed a new system during the off season. Calhoun and his defensive teammates have been able to run their plays against the same familiar faces each and every practice. The Bulldogs are ready to try what they have learned against a new team.

"It's kind of hard, because you have been going against your teammates all camp," Calhoun said. "It's time to tackle somebody else. It's time to get into a new environment and see something different. We know where we want to go this season and we know what our goals are. The ultimate goal is to stay focused on our opponent and do the things that we need to do to get a win."

Calhoun is one of four upper classmen expected to start in the defensive backfield for the Bulldogs against Southern Miss. While the unit has some experience, they also expect to blend in some new blood in the rotation. 

"I think it balances out perfect," Calhoun said of the mixture between newcomers and veterans. "Some of the older guys have played a lot of football and the younger guys haven't played, but they're real talented. I think this is probably the most talent we have had at secondary since I have been here. We have brought in some big time talent from high school and some of the redshirt freshman are really talented too. I am very confident in those guys those guys who haven't played a lot are very talented. I would be comfortable playing alongside any of them."

The Bulldog secondary was a bit leaky at times last season. Calhoun reports that his unit made some plays last fall, but believes the unit can be more consistent this year.

"I wouldn't necessarily say we have something to prove, but I do think we need to improve," Calhoun said. "We gave up too many deep balls last year. It's not a secret. Everybody knows it and we know it too. We stressed it in our training camp. Our main goal is to win football games and be the best secondary we can be. We want to be the best secondary in the nation and in the SEC. We know we have to be better in the secondary this year in order for us to reach our goal."

Now a college graduate pursuing his Masters' degree, Calhoun reports that he does his best to chase all of his goals on and off of the field with relentless effort.

"I just feel like you have to make the best of your opportunity," Calhoun said. "Football is not forever. I don't want to be the guy to come back and say I wish I would have done this or I wish I would have done that. I want to give my 100% in everything I do in my time at Mississippi State. It is limited and I don't want to have any regrets. I want to be able to look back and say I gave my all in the classroom and on the football field."

Time and college eligibility are fleeting. Calhoun is preparing for the final season opener of his college career. The gravity of that moment is not lost on the talented senior.

"It went by fast," Calhoun said with a grin. "I am trying to just take everything one day at a time. It's hit me, but I am just trying to make the most of this last year and take every day serious. I don't want to leave with any regrets. I want to go out a winner with the best season I have had as a player and as a team."

Last year's departing seniors had to come home from both the Egg Bowl and the Capital One Orange Bowl empty handed. The sting of those disappointments still lingers for Calhoun.

"I think that motivates our seniors a lot," Calhoun said. "We won a lot of games last year and were probably one of the best teams in school history, but it was tough to see the hurt on those guys' faces. Even though we had a successful year, sometimes it still feels like a failure. We didn't hit our ultimate goals of winning the Egg Bowl and winning the bowl game. 

"I definitely don't want that feeling for our seniors. Dak (Prescott) talks about that a lot. We talk about it as a group a lot. It's always in the back of our minds how we finished last year. We know we have to finish stronger, but right now we're going to concentrate on Southern Miss and take it one day at a time."

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