September 5, 2013

Mid-Week Feed: Drummond starting to roll

EAST LANSING - Chances are, Kurtis Drummond's performance against Western Michigan, which included a nationally-recognized highlight reel interception and a 21-yard return for a touchdown after teammate Jairus Jones lateraled him an interception, was no fluke.

After finishing fourth on the team in tackles in the Spartans' season-opening win over the Broncos and surviving the good-natured ribbing of his Michigan State teammates - one that earned him the nickname like 'superstar' - Drummond, who made it all the way up to No. 2 on ESPN's Top Plays following Friday's game, was already in South Florida mode on Tuesday after practice - eventhough he admitted he saw the highlight 'six or seven times.''

"I got a lot of jokes about it but you go over in your mind a lot, just making great plays. I think every athlete does that but for it to actually happen, it's just a credit to the hard work the defense has put in and the secondary has put in this offseason. So it's just the hard work showing.''

Despite his willingness, need or want to put last Saturday's attention-drawing performance behind him, if the Ohio native keeps making one-handed interceptions like he did against WMU, he may have to get used to answering questions about his performance.

"I just put last week behind me and just come out and work hard every day,'' Drummond said eager to move on. "It's it's own day. I'm not thinking about last week. That's behind me and I just have to continue to make plays with my teammates.

"I mean it's still exciting because it was a good play but I'm over it and ready to make more good plays.''

While Drummond (6-foot-1, 200) fought to downplay his individual recognition, he was quick to point out the aspect of his game, which earned him seven starts last season as a sophomore, that has been instrumental in honing his skill set at a position that requires extensive ball-hawking intuition.

Success that saw him go from 17 tackles, including one for loss, and no pass breakups as a freshman to 53 stops last season, which included 4.5 stops for loss and four pass breakups.

"I was always told good things happen if you get to the ball. Coach (Harlon) Barnett harps about it all of the time. About us just getting around the ball. He's always instilled that in us, in all of the DBs when we're working out at practice and it just shows. I've never really paid much attention, as far as I have to be in the right spot, I just run to the ball.''

Drummond, who sported dreadlocks during the first three seasons at MSU, shaved his head, going with close-cropped hairstyle this season, saying his goal was to project more of an adult image.

"I just got tired of it, wanted something different. I'm going for a more mature look.''

Part of that maturity was waiting his turn to be a full time starter.

"I think it's tough for anybody. When you're young, you don't really understand what's going on but looking back on it, it was a great thing. I got to learn from guys like Marcus Hyde and Trenton Robinson.''
That maturity seems to be translating into his game and has done nothing to hurt his confidence about what he expects to bring to his safety position for the remainder of this season.

"I just want to continue to make plays for our team and be consistent. Basically, I just need to stay consistent, level-headed and hungry.''

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: Give sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun credit.

He was talking about scoring a touchdown during spring football practice.

So when he picked up a fumble forced by junior defensive end Marcus Rush and sprinted 16 yards into the end zone for the second of the Spartans' two defensive touchdowns, it was almost as if he was answering a premonition.

One that was encouraged by defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's call for more turnovers and defensive scores for a defense that had none last season.

"I think it was good for us to focus on it (producing more turnovers) during camp because that helped us strive for it on the field. It kept it in our heads with it being so repetitive on the practice field during camp. It was actually good to see us work at something and then see it accomplished on the field.''

And the biggest accomplishment for Calhoun during Week 1 was getting in the endzone eventhough he admits he had a conflict after picking up the fumble and heading towards the goaline.

"The first thing that went through my mind was, 'you've got to pick it up, this is you.' The second thing on my mind once I finally got the ball and I was close to the endzone was, 'dive and I was like, no, don't dive.' In that split second, this conversation took place in my head and I was like, 'no, why would you dive? Just get in the endzone.' So I'm happy I didn't dive because I would have hated for the play to be called back just from me being selfish.''

Despite Calhoun and Drummond's defensive scores, Calhoun was quick to point out that in no way does the defense feel that it has to carry the Spartans until the offense can gets on track.

As a matter of fact, the 6-4, 250 Calhoun took exception to the idea that MSU's defense would be or should be a unit that feels it has more of a responsibility to provide the team with points or good field position.

"Eventhough it's one of our thoughts in the back of out heads, that, 'we need to strip this ball, we need to score, we want our offense to score. I don't think the (offense) is slowing down in any way or looking at us as that punch. I feel like their still striving to be that punch. Everyday, they're coming out here and they're trying to do it. I don't feel like they see us as, 'well, they're going to slow them down until we (the offense) start getting worked up.' ''

ANSWERING THE BELL: While there were no offensive specialists - quarterbacks, running backs and wideouts - available for interviews following Tuesday's practice there were two linemen available for consultation concerning MSU's offensive woes.

Both junior center Travis Jackson and senior guard Blake Treadwell discussed the Spartans' offense, with Jackson choosing to let the offensive line shoulder the brunt of the blame for a Spartan offense that totaled nearly 300 yards of total offense but probably should have had more against a good but not great Western Michigan team.

"As far as that goes, I just think we have to execute more as an offense, no matter where we go tempowise,'' Jackson said. "The uncertainty at quarterback is not really a big problem for our team. They're (Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook) both great guys back there and the other two are just nipping at their heels to play. We're confident with any of the people back there. Also, not playing as well as we wanted to, adversity is part of football and we've got to overcome it.

"We kind of had first game jitters (as an offensive line) and it was just about us finishing on our blocks and knowing our assignments. I really was pleased with the attitude and the effort that our offensive line gave but as far as execution, we've got to be a little better.''

That sounds like a focus and a goal that should be applied for the entire offense.

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