By JOEL COLEMAN
Seven weeks from the moment of this posting, Mississippi State will be on the field in Hattiesburg, battling Southern Miss in the first game of the 2015 season. One of the young men that hopes to have a big impact on that night, and throughout the year, is MSU senior cornerback Taveze Calhoun. At SEC Media Days earlier this week, Calhoun talked to us about his expectations for himself and the Mississippi State defense. Catch up with Taveze in my story below, and make plans to pick up a Sunday edition of the Starkville Daily News to hear from senior defensive end Ryan Brown.
With health restored, Calhoun
ready to lead Mississippi State
By JOEL COLEMAN
Sometimes life’s greatest blessings can be painful.
Such is the case for Mississippi State senior cornerback Taveze Calhoun.
Six months removed from an offseason ankle surgery that repaired ligaments and cost him all of spring drills, the former Morton High School standout is completely healthy and ready to return to the field better than ever.
“Sitting out this spring helped me get my body right,” Calhoun said on Tuesday at Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Hoover, Alabama. “I’m 100 percent heading into the fall.”
Calhoun’s declaration of full health is excellent news for the Bulldogs. Having surrendered more passing yards than any other team in the SEC a season ago, MSU will rely heavily on the experience of Calhoun to limit opposing teams through the air.
As one of just four returning starters on his side of the ball, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound defensive back has played in 38 games over the course of his career, the last 25 of which were starts. In that time, Calhoun has racked up 122 career tackles and hauled in four interceptions. He’s also forced three fumbles and recovered one.
It’s a resume that has helped Calhoun develop a wealth of knowledge, and though he’s ready and willing to pass on all he knows to younger Bulldog defenders, Calhoun says he doesn’t think he’ll have to do too much guiding with the presence of other veterans around him.
“I think I’ve always been a leader, within our secondary and on our team, but I think we’ve got some experience in the secondary,” Calhoun said. “We bring me back and Will Redmond back. We’ve got Kendrick Market coming back. We’ve got some guys who played a lot last year in big-time games, so I wouldn’t say we’re inexperienced. I think we’ve got a lot of talent coming back.
“I’m pretty confident about this year. Even though we lost a lot of guys, I still believe we have a lot to build on and will have another good season.”
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has similar feelings.
Yes, significant portions of MSU’s starting lineup from a year ago have moved on, but the Bulldogs’ seventh-year leader continues to preach his belief that his team will be ready to roll when the season arrives. Much like Calhoun, Mullen thinks the bright lights of big-time college football shouldn’t hold any influence over MSU.
“We have 52 guys on our roster that we’ve charted have significant game experience at critical moments in games,” Mullen said. “So even though I know a lot of people think we’re going to be a young football team, while I like that people think that, the fact that we rotate and we play a lot of guys in the course of games, guys have experience. They’ve been on the stage. They’ve been in the moments, and they’re going to be ready for this season as we move forward.”
Calhoun has already witnessed progression from members of the MSU secondary. During spring practice, as he continued to recover from his surgery, Calhoun said he spotted several Bulldogs ready to break out.
“I think we had a lot of young guys step up,” Calhoun said. “Cedric Jiles, he came back from (an injured) hamstring. He came back and was very impressive. On the back end, with the safeties, Kivon Coman will be very impressive this year. Brandon Bryant is a redshirt freshman with a lot of talent. Deontay Evans and a lot of those guys stepped up when Kendrick Market was out, too. We’ve had a lot of guys step up and just show that they’re ready to play this year.”
The blossoming Bulldogs are a sight that Calhoun is enjoying seeing. He knows defensive depth will be critical for Mississippi State to stride back into the College Football Playoff discussion, which was a place MSU found itself a year ago.
This time however, Calhoun wants things to work out a little differently. Though time has passed, Calhoun says he and his teammates still think about last year’s late-season slide that cost them a shot at a national title and how they want to make sure the 2015 campaign ends on a brighter note.
“We talk about (last year) every day,” Calhoun said. “When things get hard while working out or running, whatever it may be, we always think about the last few games of last year when we lost.
“We’ve got to learn to finish those. It’s very motivating because you don’t want to get a taste of it and not finish it. We want to finish No. 1 and not just be No. 1 for part of the season.”