Michigan State football

© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State football: Cal Haladay has been key to turnaround

Cal Haladay has been playing out of his mind recently and his resurgence has been a key to Michigan State football’s turnaround.

It’s time to give Cal Haladay some respect. After landing Jacoby Windmon and Aaron Brule in the offseason while retaining Ma’a Gaoteote, some Michigan State football fans were projecting Cal Haladay as a backup linebacker.

Eleven weeks into the season, we all now realize how ridiculous that was.

For the second straight week, Haladay was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He finished with 19 tackles against Rutgers. The week before, Haladay finished with nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. He’s been putting on an absolute defensive clinic lately.

Michigan State’s defense had been struggling endlessly through the first six games of the year. It had just given up 600-plus yards to Ohio State and it felt like the end was near for Scottie Hazelton.

The defensive coordinator has since made adjustments and he’s had to deal with some missing pieces as Xavier Henderson was gone for the first half of the season, Darius Snow is out, and a few starters were suspended stemming from the tunnel incident at Michigan. Hazelton has made due, changed the scheme, and has relied on some veterans to turn things around.

One of those veterans? Haladay.

The other has been Henderson who returned a few weeks ago and the defense has looked much more capable with him healthy, but Haladay was once forgotten. People were ready to declare this defense dead, but Haladay has come to the rescue.

Haladay played his best game of the season against Illinois with Windmon and a couple of other starters out and he followed that up with 19 tackles against Rutgers. Two straight games of elite linebacker player and the defense has fed off his energy. The defense now looks nothing like the one we saw in the first six weeks.

Some of that credit has to go to Haladay who has quietly pieced together a career year after being named a Freshman All-American last season.

Through 10 games, Haladay has 99 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks — all career bests.

And some people were ready to toss him aside.

Haladay may not be the most talented or most athletic linebacker, but he’s a leader by example and he just gets the job done. The defense has improved, in part, because of his resurgence.