Sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun, senior corner Darqueze Dennard, and senior linebacker Max Bullough were among the 17 Michigan State football players that earned some level of All-Big Ten recognition on Monday.
Calhoun, Bullough, and Dennard were first-team selections by both coaches and media. Teammates Isaiah Lewis, Kurtis Drummond, and Mike Sadler were voted first-team by the Big Ten coaches.
Michigan State's five first team selections on defense was the most for the program since 1966 when Bubba Smith (DE), Charlie Thornhill (DB), George Webster (DB), Nicholas Jordan (DT), and Jess Phillips (DB) were selected first-team All-Big Ten.
"Placing five players on the Coaches' All-Big Ten first-team defense speaks to the success of our entire unit as well as the coaching staff," said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio in a press release. "Our defense did an outstanding job throughout the 12-game regular season, and we look forward to our biggest challenge of the season in Ohio State this weekend in Indianapolis."
Michigan State ranks No. 1 in the FBS in total defense (237.7) and run defense (64.8). The Spartans rank No. 4 in scoring defense (11.8) and No. 5 in turnover margin.
Calhoun, a sophomore defensive end, was selected the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year.
"You never expect to win the awards, you just hope you will," said Calhoun in an interview with Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine. "I was hoping and praying. I guess my prayers were answered. I was happy that I was able to have this honor."
Calhoun made the transition from back-up to starter at defensive end after William Gholston opted for the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining. Even Calhoun is surprised with how quickly he emerged as one of the top playmakers for the nation's No. 1 defense.
"You never think that you are going to come out and do what I did," said Calhoun. "Luckily I had the group of guys that I did behind me pushing me. It was some big shoes to fill when Will left. I wasn't trying to be him. I was trying to be myself and produce in any way that I can."
Calhoun led Michigan State in sacks (7.0), quarterback hits (32), and quarterback hurries (17) during the regular season. He ranked second in tackles for loss (13.5) and production points (227).
"Shilique Calhoun had a breakout year from his defensive end position," Dantonio said. "He's a high-motor guy, who has the knack for making big plays. Shilique has played at a consistently high level all year, not only pressuring the quarterback but playing versus the run as well."
Dennard, a three-year starter with 10 career interceptions and 161 tackles, was selected the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year.
"Darqueze Dennard is a complete corner," Dantonio said. "He's an extremely competitive and gifted athlete. Darqueze has great ball skills, outstanding tackling ability, remarkable change of direction and plays the deep well. He really has been a cornerstone of our defense for the last three years."
A finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award, Dennard joins Bullough and Sadler as back-to-back first-team All-Big Ten selections.
Bullough has started 39 consecutive games at Mike linebacker. The second-year captain needs for more tackles to reach 300 in his career.
Isaiah Lewis makes his first appearance on the first team. He received all-conference recognition as a sophomore (second team) and junior (honorable mention). The former Indianapolis Ben Davis standout has started 38 games at strong safety during his Spartan career.
Second-year starter Kurtis Drummond is tied with Dennard for the team lead with four interceptions. He ranks second behind Denicos Allen in tackles with 81 entering the postseason.
Denicos Allen, who was selected second-team by coaches and media, leads Michigan State in tackles (83) and tackles for loss (15.0). He ranks second behind Calhoun for the team lead in sacks (5.0) and quarterback hurries (10.0).
Junior defensive end Marcus Rush and sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes were selected honorable mention All-Big Ten by coaches and media.
Senior guard Blake Treadwell (coaches), sophomore quarterback Connor Cook (coaches), and sophomore center Jack Allen (media) were second-team All-Big Ten selections.
Junior tailback Jeremy Langford, senior guard Dan France, and senior tackle Fou Fonoti were selected honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches and media. Freshman kicker Michael Geiger was selected honorable mention by media.
Langford leads the Big Ten with 16 rushing touchdowns. The first-year starter enters the postseason with 1,201 yards rushing on 245 carries (4.9 avg.).