The Michigan State football team has announced that Riley Bullough, Demetrious Cox and Tyler O’Connor will be their three captains for the 2016 campaign.
Bullough and Cox are two returning defensive playmakers. The linebacker and safety, respectively, played critical roles for the defense last year, and both will be anchors in the Spartan defense in 2016.
Bullough, a 6-foot-2, 227-pound linebacker, flew from sideline to sideline last year stopping the run, as well as making plays in short pass coverage. The fifth-year senior enters his second season as the starting middle linebacker, and he joins his father Shane and older brother Max in being named captain for the Spartans.
“It is never easy,” Bullough said. “Being a leader, there is always tough things that are going to come your way, you learn to deal with those things and get kind of used to doing it. Being a leader, to me, is just kind of my personality. It does come natural but it is not always easy.”
Bullough was named to the preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award–given to the top college defensive player of the year–as well as the Butkus Award, awarded to the linebacker of the year.
“It is an exciting time,” Bullough said, “finally voted a captain, I have been here, this is my fifth year. To be at this point and be voted captain is awesome.”
Leading the way in the secondary is Demetrious Cox. He is another fifth-year senior entering his second season as a starter. He is listed as a safety but can play cornerback as well.
“My evolution as a leader came with being consistent every day,” Cox said. “About a year ago, I made it my personal goal to come out every day with passion. I wanted to get guys excited to be here and love to play the game.”
Last year, he tied for the team lead with three interceptions and ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 79 tackles. Cox has range like a centerfielder, but his ability to tackle in open space will be crucial for the defense.
The days of the “No Fly Zone” are on the doorstep, and Cox will prove to be the centerpiece in the Spartan pass defense.
“I personally think we have the ability to make plays and have a big influence on the defense,” Cox stated. “Not even just the defense, but the special teams as well. That is something that we have to be held accountable every day.”
Days after O’Connor was named the official starting quarterback for the Spartans, he was elected as a team captain.
O’Connor brings a level of maturity on the offensive side of the ball. He might not have a high number of starts under his belt, but he is cool and confident under center, which is contagious.
Being a fifth-year senior who has spent the past three seasons as the backup quarterback, O’Connor has learned how the engine works. With explosive wide receivers and a tough running attack, O’Connor will be able to move the ball effectively.
“You join a cradle of a very elite group of guys when you get voted captain here,” O’Connor said. “Not only on the field, but off of the field as well.”
Some might argue the 6-foot-3, 228-pound quarterback has not seen the spotlight often, which could hinder the Spartans’ chances of repeating as Big Ten champs. However, his toughness and grit proved to be successful against Ohio State last year.
O’Connor will need to adapt to his new role quickly as the Spartans will travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame for their second game of the season–a perfect opportunity to see the spotlight before conference play.