The Big Ten’s postseason player-ranking countdown continues with a fifth representative from league-champion Michigan State and a third appearance by a member of the top defensive unit in the conference.
No. 8: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Previous ranking: Not ranked
Making the case for Calhoun: The knock on Calhoun as Michigan State emerged in midseason as the favorite to win the Big Ten’s Legends Division was that the sophomore simply wasn’t as dominant as advertised.
Take it with a grain of salt, though, because the first-year starter built quite a reputation over the first month of the season.
He scored three touchdowns in the first two games, good enough to tie him for second nationally all season among FBS defenders.
And from there, the first-year starter slowed only slightly. He finished with 7.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 18 quarterback hurries to earn consensus All-Big Ten honors and the league’s award for defensive lineman of the year.
His torrid start assured the Spartans, in defensive preparations, that opponents would pay close attention to Calhoun, leaving others to run free. His presence as a superior pass-rushing threat filled an important role for the technically superior MSU unit.
The three defensive touchdowns tied a modern-day Michigan State single-season record, and his four fumble recoveries equaled the fifth-highest total by a Spartan.
Against Michigan, Calhoun accumulated three TFLs, including a pair of sacks. In the win over Nebraska -- not the Spartans’ best defensive day -- he contributed a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Against Iowa? Four QB hurries.
It continued that way for most of the year and figures to extend into 2014.