The Football Writers Association of America named Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Spartans 21-6 win against South Florida in Week 2.
In that game, Calhoun scored two defensive touchdowns, including a four-yard fumble return and a 56-yard interception return. He also had two tackles and a sack.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound was an underrated recruit in 2011, and MSU coach Mark Dantonio said redshirting Calhoun prepared the MIddletown, N.J. native for playing on the national level.
“We liked him as a great athlete on the basketball court, and we liked him as a tight end and defensive end,” Dantonio said on his Tuesday teleconference. “He played at 217, 218, and now he plays as a 255-pound guy.
“He has the gifts from what we saw in practice, but he never really put it together on the field to be a dominate player. He was an OK player trying to find his way and trying to develop. Now he’s playing much more confidently. When a guy plays confident, he plays fast, and that’s the key to success in a lot of ways. He’s been able to do that. It has certainly transitioned into a lot of success for him and collectively on defense.”
Calhoun, who also had a score in Week 1’s 26-13 win against Western Michigan, is the first Spartans defensive player to record three touchdowns in a single season since T.J. Turner in 1999.
Had he not performed at such a high level last week, the score of the USF game would have been much closer, especially with how poorly the offense performed.
Dantonio added that Calhoun is a tremendous talent for the Spartans on defense and will continue to build toward being an elite player nationally.
“He’s very active, and he plays with a high motor,” Dantonio said. “His two returns for touchdowns negates the way that he played all around, making tackles and sacks throughout our first two games.
“You seen that he was a slippery guy who can accelerate and get off blocks and play extremely hard. What he lacked was overall sense of power, because he was 220 pounds (during his redshirt year). Now, he’s gotten much stronger.”