East Lansing — Connor Cook understands he’ll be facing one of the best defenses in the nation when Michigan State takes on Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
And the fifth-year Spartans quarterback expects to be completely healthy for the Dec. 31 kickoff, one of the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
“For sure,” Cook said when asked if he expected to be 100 percent. “From when I hurt it I’ve been pretty limited in practice and I’m pretty much in everything in practice now.”
Cook has been battling an injured right throwing shoulder since mid-November, but said Wednesday he’s been taking part fully in practice this week.
“I just go out there and see how I feel,” Cook said. “And then based on how I feel I kind of go from there. These last two days of practice I’ve felt really good, the best I’ve felt since the injury.”
Cook first hurt his shoulder against Maryland on Nov. 14 and missed the second half of that game. He didn’t play the next week at Ohio State but returned for the finale against Penn State.
In the Big Ten championship game against Iowa, Cook took a few big hits and lacked velocity on his passes as the game wore on.
But the time off has been a benefit, and his teammates already have seen signs Cook is getting closer to the quarterback he was pre-injury.
“He’s throwing fine,” junior wide receiver R.J. Shelton said. “The down time that we had was good. With his bum shoulder or with a healthy shoulder he’s gonna play. He’s gonna do what he needs to do for this team to win.”
Having a healthy Cook will be vital in Michigan State solving Alabama’s defense. The Crimson Tide is second in the nation in total defense, including first against the run and 16th against the pass.
It also plays as many as 10 players along the line, and had 46 sacks, more than any team in the country.
“Watching film they have a very talented defensive line and linebackers,” Cook said. “Their defensive line, they get to the quarterback. I’m gonna have to get rid of the ball quick, receivers are gonna have to get open, it’s gonna be tight coverage. ... They have very talented defensive backs, so it’s gonna be a challenge for us not just running the ball but passing the ball as well.”
Bullough has some fun
After Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy last weekend, Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough decided to have some fun on Twitter.
He posted a message congratulating Henry.
“Congrats @KingHenry_2! Excited to play against a heisman winner!! Hopefully you don’t think me and @J_Reschke33 are that weird but oh well,” he posted.
Bullough said it was meant to be lighthearted, not a jab at the Crimson Tide star.
“I knew it would stir some people up a little bit so I kind of did that on purpose,” Bullough said. “It was just all in fun.”
Bullough waited for a response from Henry, but never got one. He also didn’t get any grief from his coaches.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t get yelled at,” Bullough said. “But they didn’t care too much.”
After the Big Ten championship game, fifth-year senior safety RJ Williamson (torn biceps) said he plans to play in the Cotton Bowl, and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio expects the same, saying Williamson has been full-go in practice this week.
“He looked very, very good this week,” Dantonio said. “And we’re working him back into it ... and he looks active and he looks ready to go.”
... Junior safety Demetrious Cox, on if kissing the Cotton Bowl trophy on New Year’s Eve would be the best way to ring in the New Year: “That would be the No. 1 kiss. That would be Halle Berry on the Eiffel Tower right there.”
… Dantonio, on if he wears his national championship ring he earned as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2002: “No. There’s always one to go, that’s the way I’m looking at it.”