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Spartans Preview Spring Practice
 
 
 
Jeremy Langford returns to the Spartan backfield after rushing for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013.
 
Jeremy Langford returns to the Spartan backfield after rushing for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013.
 
 

March 26, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. - As the Michigan State football team begins spring practice this week, several Spartans met with the media to talk about the upcoming season and how the team is handling success following a record-breaking campaign in 2013.

Senior running back Jeremy Langford

On being more well-known as a player this season...
We still have to be hunters. We're still hungry and we're still humble. We're hungry to reach better goals and go to the national championship to be a national team that everybody knows, to put Michigan State on the map as one of those teams.

On what limits he sees for the team offensively...
I think the sky's the limit. There are a lot of seniors coming back on offense and a lot of seniors coming back in general. We all have different abilities. We can go as far as how hard we work. Our goal is to get to the Big Ten Championship Game for starters. After that, Lord knows. The Big Ten Championship Game is where it starts and that's where we have to get to.

On the pros of having veteran contributors...
When you're older, you know the game better. You know the situations. You know the college life in a different way. When you're younger and coming in, it's moving fast.

On staying hungry...
That's the first thing Coach D said when we got back from the Rose Bowl - "Don't become complacent." You still need to work hard and that's the type of team we are. We don't become complacent and we still work hard. We still have goals in front of us and we're not done yet. We're trying to get Michigan State back on the map and be a nationally known team. You need to know that last season is behind us. We can't just throw our helmet on the field to scare people. People will come for us. We've got a target on our chest so we need to keep working.

Senior defensive end Marcus Rush

 

 

On the upcoming contributors in the middle of the defensive line...
I think of Damon Knox and we moved Joel Heath down. I think (James) Kittredge is coming back and he'll be a factor too. I think we have a lot of guys who have had some playing time. They have some experience and with those guys leaving, they know they'll need to step up as leaders. I think they'll do a good job. We haven't played much football yet, obviously, and I think they'll establish themselves as players this spring. They'll decide which guys will want to be the starters.

On managing expectations for the season...
It's like Connor Cook said (at the press conference). Coach D and Coach (Ken) Mannie have made sure we're not looking back on last year. The one good thing about last year is that we know exactly what it takes to get back to where we need to be. We lost a lot of guys and I think it's important to have news guys step up as leaders to take the roles of the guys that left.

On how much experience he's gained in his time at Michigan State...
I feel like I've gained a lot of experience and honestly, it feels like it's gone by really fast. It's incredible. I think even looking at the younger guys, I remember Riley (Bullough) coming in as a freshman, now he's a redshirt sophomore and it's crazy how fast it's going. When you're in the moment, it feels slow, but when you take a step back, it's crazy how fast it goes. My last winter conditioning was last Thursday and now we're already on spring ball. I'm sure spring is going to fly by and we'll be in-season before we even know it.

On being back with Shilique Calhoun as sort of bookends...
It's exciting. I think pushing each other is going to be a lot of fun. We're both pretty big competitors and we compete with each other no matter what it is. Spring ball is going to be fun because it will give us another opportunity to compete.

On Demetrius Cooper...
He looks a lot like Shilique coming in. I think he's obviously a good pass-rusher. He's got that ability. He's a young guy and has still got to learn the defense and some techniques. I think he'll pick that up pretty quick, just based off of his athleticism.

Senior safety Kurtis Drummond

On advice that he would give to younger players...
I would just basically tell them about confidence. They all can play or they wouldn't be here. It just comes down to getting their confidence back, just learning what to do. I just basically tell them to do all the extra little things that they need to do. They understand what they need to work on and the questions they need to ask. I'm always available and Coach Barnett is always available for the guys to talk to. The guys have been doing a good job of asking questions and working on what they need to work on.

On if it's different going into this season without Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis...
I don't know if it's so much a different feel. We realize it's a new season. Last year has nothing to do with what we do this year and guys realize that. Guys realize that we need to be better than last year. Coach Narduzzi always says that when Trenton Robinson left that he was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and we need you to step up and be that. Darqueze Dennard was an All-American so we need another All-American corner. Isaiah Lewis was first-team All-Big Ten so we need another first-team All-Big Ten safety. They do a great job recruiting. We just have to stay humble and hungry, that's the main thing.

On the feeling of just being able to say all the honors the defensive backfield has...
It's something we pride ourselves on. Going into the season we talk about it all the time. We're not okay with just being in the middle of the pack. We want to be noticed. We want to put Michigan State on the map and keep them there. It's something that has trickled down from Coach Barnett and the type of guys Coach Dantonio has brought in. They're just all great guys that like competing.

On the intensity of the competition between R.J. Williamson and Demetrious Cox for the spot next to him...
It's going to be intense. I mean I think every year since I've been here it's been a safety battle. It's just another battle. Coach Dantonio has done a great job recruiting the same type of people so we can continue to build on our past success. I think it will be an interesting battle, something to keep my eye on. The competition will just make everyone better. Those two battling, I can just see their heart and they're going to keep battling and they're going to push me and push younger guys like Jayln Powell and try to get his name in the mix. It should be an interesting spring for everybody.

On sophomore cornerback Darian Hicks...
He was just a true freshman last year, raw. He's real smart and picks up on things. He had the opportunity to watch Darqueze [Dennard] and learn from him. He's a fast player, a smart player and can remember routes. He does a great job just remembering routes and patterns. I would say his football knowledge is what separates him as far as a true freshman.

On how different it is coming in with this season's record than last season's...
I don't feel like it's that much different other than a lot of guys had a bad taste in their mouth last offseason. I think this offseason we've had a little bit of a taste of success and once you taste success you want more of it. I would say it makes you kind of greedy, it makes you go harder and makes you want to accomplish more. We had a four-point deficit last year (at Notre Dame) that we're not happy about. It wasn't perfect and we still have things to work on. We didn't finish the number one defense and that's something we want to harp on and be able to obtain this year.

Junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun

On other teams having him at the top of their scouting reports...
It's just a different mindset I'm taking into this year. My dad always says just get it done. It's one of those things where okay, you guys feel like you can stop me, but I don't want you to stop me so I just need to get it done. Find a way. I look forward to it. I'm happy about it. I'm happy they think highly of me, but I've still got to make something happen.

On the fact that he could be facing more double teams this year...
Hopefully they've forgotten about me in the passing time. Hopefully they're like `I don't remember number 89, he didn't do much.' I would say that I expect it, but I'm willing to work harder to get better. That's the new test for this year. How can I get around double teams? How can I not be stopped?

On how it's different coming in to this season after he made his mark last season...
I think the biggest thing is I have to one up last year. How can I better than last year? How can I sustain being a playmaker on this defense?

On making it four or five defensive touchdowns...
Umm... about 10? (laughing) Why stop at four or five? No, I would say I'm going to try and bring up my sack count, my tackles for loss. It was pretty good last year and the biggest thing is just to one up those numbers or even double those numbers. And if I can't do that, then how can I help my team? In any way, how can I help my team?

On athletic freaks and if Branden Dawson could be a tight end someday...
I could see tight end. I don't know if he could come in the trenches and be in there daily, he'd just have to touch a couple people and get up out of there. He is a freak athlete. I watched the game. A windmill dunk? I mean that guy is high flying and I wouldn't want to be a defender in his way, I'll tell you that. At his weight, I don't know if he could block all the defensive ends and if they find out he plays basketball I don't know if they'd be willing to let him block them. That's the biggest thing, like he's not supposed to be on the football field. It's that mindset that this basketball guy is going to block me? Oh no way. He would definitely be a freak type athlete especially with his jumping abilities. He stands out. He would stand out on the football field also.

On the Bane persona...
Bane turns into Lynx this year. I can't tell you the story yet, but you'll get it soon enough. It's just a preview now, but Bane turns to Lynx. It's a new persona and a new attitude towards the game. For anybody who doesn't know, a lynx is like a bobcat. Bane is still here though. That's my alter ego.

On losing key people and who he sees that nobody else sees that could be right in there...
I say Damon Knox. Other than that, Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas; they're two guys who have been striving to be better. They want to be better this year and be a bigger part of the team. They're guys who want to be playmakers. Those two guys want to step in and take that role of being a leader and want to make plays and be that guy people look to make plays. Like, "Hey don't worry LT will be there, or Joel will be there to stop them if they want to run down the middle." I've worked with them this offseason and it's been a delight seeing those guys and the passion that they have not only just working out, but running. They want to just compete and that's a big thing for me. Those guys want to compete, they want to be the best and they want to be better than whoever is in front of them. It's nice to have those guys. The drive that they have is pushing me and helping my drive continue. Those are two guys that I don't think many would know about right now.

People know about LT and his position change and that he's a five-star athlete, but he's finally growing as a defensive lineman. I feel like this spring will be a real big test for him and it will help him key in on what he needs to improve and what he does well already.

As for Joel Heath, watching him every day, just the way he walks and the way he talks about the game is a lot different than he was a year ago. I can't wait to watch him. Just before we came down here, he was just saying to me, `Man, I can't wait until tomorrow. It's going to be on tomorrow.' Then we just got to talking and he said, `I can't wait to put the pads on. It's going to be different when we put the pads on.' I'm like man, I can't wait either. I've seen the progression. That's not the mindset he had last year. That's not the way he was last year. When I see him now, he's ready. I know he's ready.

On his leadership and responsibilities...
I would say the biggest thing is being more vocal with these guys. Trying to speak up and help these guys out when they need help. I try to now, but I feel like I don't voice myself enough and let them know that I'm here if they need help with anything. Other than that, I just am going to try to lead by example, not only on the field, but off the field, just being a respectable young man. I feel like that's the type of guy coaches recruit, but they need a model. They need someone to look up to and they can watch and be like okay, that's how it's supposed to be done. Also, on the practice field when times are getting tough and nobody wants to go anymore and it's getting hot or it's too cold and people are like man I don't want to do this, I just want to be someone they can look at and say well if he can do it, I can do it. Or I can speak out and say hey, come on, we can do this or we're almost done. Like, listen do you want to get better or not? I think the biggest saying I'm going to use this year is: "Do you want to be a wolf or a sheep?" If you know Training Day or you know Denzel [Washington], then you know what I'm talking about. I think that's going to be one of the biggest quotes I use with these younger guys because I feel like they can transition. They can understand that. They'll know what I'm talking about when I use it and it'll motivate those guys to keep going.

Senior offensive lineman Travis Jackson

On how it's going to be different this year even though they have the same player (Langford) running the ball...
I think it's going to be really awesome to have Jeremy Langford back. The guy runs so hard and he's the kind of running back that an offensive line wants to block for. We've been very fortunate here with our running backs since I've been here. He's just kind of kept the tradition going. I think another huge thing is having the same quarterback back. It's so awesome. He's the leader of the huddle. He's the one who comes in and calls the huddle and makes sure everything is going smooth. Having a guy like your quarterback and your running back back is absolutely huge for a mindset of an offense.

On how last year was with the fluctuation of the quarterbacks for them as a group...On the differences in Connor Cook within the last three months...
He's really stepped up as a vocal leader through this offseason which has just been absolutely huge for this whole team, because the quarterback is what you center your whole offense around. Having him step up, get vocal and getting on guys is awesome.

On the most amazing thing that he's done away from the football field because of the Rose Bowl...
Coach Dantonio asked me to go in front of the crowd at the Breslin Center and do the `Yes!' chant, which was so cool. Not only because you have 15,000 people doing the `Yes!' chant with you, but because of coach showing you that you're a representation of a football team, a Rose Bowl winning football team. It was just such an honor for me.

On how this offseason has been different...
It's been a really cool offseason. It's kind of like we've been enjoying winning the Rose Bowl, but we've been working as hard as we've ever worked. Our workouts have been so tough and guys have been so motivated. I think we've realized we can do this again. That's very motivating for the whole team. Enjoying stuff like going to the Capitol building is just kind of the icing on top. It's just such a cool experience. We're just honored to be in the position and be part of Spartan nation.

On how the team is remembering where they came from and staying motivated...
You reach the Rose Bowl, you get a chance to win it and you don't want to go back down from there. We lost a lot of key seniors, we've realized that, but we've got a lot of young guys who are excited about coming up. It's just one of those things where you want to come back. You've got guys, the locker room is awesome and you've got coaches that you want to play for. You just don't want to go back to the 7-6 season that we had in 2012. Michigan State is kind of establishing itself as an elite football program and that's due to everyone that's ever played here. We just want to continue that and make sure it doesn't fall down.

On what happens after losing those key senior offensive linemen...
It's tough. You lose players like Fou [Fonoti], Blake [Treadwell] and Danny [Dan France]. Those guys were such great players and great leaders. Now you've got younger guys that need to step up. I'm a senior now, so it's kind of crazy. I finally get to be a leader on this team. It's just so exciting to get to take control of this team and have it on your shoulders.

On how coaches have said he's always been a leader, but how it changes now that he's a senior...
I kind of had a long talk with some of the coaches about this, about how leadership changes for me now that I'm a senior. They kind of just keep telling me to, `Do what you're doing.' Coach Dantonio just puts such a huge emphasis on senior leadership. Coach Mannie talks about how `You'll be remembered. The seniors of this team will be remembered by the success of the team this year.' It weighs on your heart and on your mind. It's exciting because you're the top dog on the pyramid now. You just really want to leave your mark on this team and your legacy.

On what he learned from the three [Fonoti, Treadwell, France] that they lost off the line...
Fou [Fonoti] just brought so much passion. No matter if he was having a bad day, good day or how he felt he always brought so much passion. Blake [Treadwell] was kind of the guy that was just so tough. No matter what, he just came out and was so tough. Danny [Dan France] was just the guy that enjoyed the whole experience. Those three guys brought three totally different things. Just taking each from them has just been huge and incorporating that into my play. Those guys just embody those things so perfectly. Learning from them was awesome.

On which younger guys he sees stepping up and contributing...
You've got to look at Donavon Clark, who's got to play a lot of games and who's gotten to play a lot of games. He wants to solidify a starting spot. Kodi Kieler is the guy who's had a great winter. Guys that have played: Jack Allen, he's getting older now; Jack Conklin, those guys are tremendous players. I think they're going to be tremendous contributors, awesome leaders to our team. Then we've got the meat squad which is Zach Higgins and Benny McGowan. We're just looking for those guys to step up and really step in and get a good rotation like we had last year.

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