From left, junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, fifth-year senior guard Travis Jackson and fifth-year senior safety Kurtis Drummond will captain MSU this season. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
East Lansing — Travis Jackson insists he didn’t start jumping and repeatedly yelling “yes!” when he found out he was one of Michigan State’s captains for the 2014 season.
The senior left guard made the move popular during the Spartans’ run to the Rose Bowl last season, but on Thursday afternoon the fun-loving Jackson was a bit more subdued.
“I was speechless and just so honored,” said Jackson, who has started 18 of 28 games at Michigan State. “I love these guys so much, I love this program so much. I’m so thankful to all the players and coaches. With all the leaders on this team, so many on offense and defense, it’s a huge honor.”
Joining Jackson as captains are fifth-year senior safety Kurtis Drummond and junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun. The announcement came as the Spartans closed preseason camp. The season-opener against Jacksonville State is set for Aug. 29.
“They’re all guys who play on the field a lot,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “They’re all guys who have had success on the field, great success on the field, and I think there’s power in that because when they go, everybody should go.
“But the key to this is always gonna be, when we hit adversity, how do we lead? When we do hit some adversity, what’s gonna happen then? And that’ll be the key. But I think these guys do an outstanding job.”
All three are members of the leadership council, made up of 12 players that are voted on from winter conditioning through the start of the season.
Calhoun is the star of the group, earning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year honors last season and finding his name on numerous watch lists this season. And he insists the Spartans’ leadership goes far deeper than the three captains.
“We have a lot of great leadership,” he said. “Other guys like Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford, Jack Allen … I could go on and on. We have the leaders we need, that’s no problem. (The captains) are just the face of leadership.”
And while the outgoing Calhoun has always seemed destined for the role, Drummond has seen plenty of growth in himself.
“It’s truly humbling,” Drummond said. “To go from a guy who has been about to turn things around from not being a vocal leader to being a leader on the field. Now I can motivate guys through the tough times. … I feel blessed to be in this position. It shows how much your team respects you.”
Miller's injury 'tough deal'
Dantonio felt bad when he heard the news this week that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller would miss the season with a shoulder injury.
But he warned that it gives the Buckeyes an opportunity to rally and come out stronger in the long run.
“You don’t want something like that to happen,” Dantonio said. “It’s a tough deal, but I would say this: We played without Max Bullough in the Rose Bowl. Usually when those things happen, people rise up. Everybody becomes a little bit better. What was a negative becomes a strength later.”
A break to refresh
After 21 days of camp, the Spartans won’t be due back until Sunday evening to begin preparation for Jacksonville State.
While some like Calhoun plan to stick around, Dantonio wants his players to take a break.
“I think it’s very important that they get away from football,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to go home, see their high school football games. We don’t really want them around here.
“Then also (they need) to get off and get their legs back. You’ve got to run in this game day-in and day-out. They’ve had three weeks of this, and they need a chance to refresh themselves.”
Questions on backups
The backup running back spot has been an underlying position battle all camp, and Dantonio didn’t shed much light on it Thursday.
Nick Hill, Delton Williams, Gerald Holmes and true freshman Madre London have been in the mix, but Dantonio is unsure at this point if London will redshirt.
“Do you see Madre because you don’t want to run him one or two plays?” Dantonio said. “I think he is going to be a great running back, but you don’t want to take the redshirt off of him and not get the work. He is in the mix, too.”
… As for the backup quarterback spot, Dantonio again said Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry have had excellent camps, but didn’t confirm the depth chart. He did say Terry is cleared to play live after suffering a shoulder injury in the spring.
… While Michael Geiger is the solid No. 1 as a place-kicker, it sounds like Kevin Cronin has a shot to at least handle the kickoffs.
“I think Kevin Cronin has done a nice job, gotten a lot of height on it,” Dantonio said. “We’ll see how they do in pregame.”