NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Max Bullough, ILB Michigan State

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Aug 30, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Max Bullough (40) prepares for play against Western Michigan Broncos during 1st half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

PS: After that first year, you’ve lost three straight to Notre Dame and they have been a constant stumbling block for the Spartans with another bizarre ending this year.

MB: They’re a good football team and have good players too.  It’s tough to go play at Notre Dame; they’ve got a lot of fans, it’s an intimidating atmosphere.  We were still trying to find our identity as a football team at that point.  We didn’t have a starting quarterback.  We didn’t know if it was going to be (Andrew) Maxwell, or Connor (Cook) or Tyler (O’Connor) was still getting snaps.

Our defense played pretty well.  They couldn’t run the ball on us.  They had a few long passes on us I think, because they were going play action, max protect up front.  You can only control what you can control.

We wish we would have been able to win that game and probably would be playing Florida State in the National Championship, but you know, we didn’t.  It might have helped us.  We might not went undefeated if we won that game.  You never know, but I think the way it turned out was great in itself.

PS: At what point in the season did the team believe it was a championship contender?

MB: I think it was that Iowa game.  I think that was the turning point in our season.  I think that was when the offense started clicking.  Our defense has been one of the best in the country since my sophomore year.  Whether we were or we weren’t, that’s what we thought, that’s how we felt, and that’s how we played.  We’ve always had that attitude.  Our coaches have been there.  A lot of us are three year starters that are now leaving.

We just had to get the offense.  The offense, they had the players, they had the guys, I think everyone is seeing that now, but just needed the experience and confidence and putting the right guys in the right places and we found that.  We found that in the Iowa game and I’ve always said that was the turning point in our season.

PS: How big of a loss was it to lose Kirk Cousins, who had been there so long and been able to help you guys win so many games during his career?

MB: Well, anytime you lose a guy like Kirk Cousins, it’s not just losing his on the field play, but also his presence in the locker room, his ability to get guys motivated to play, his leadership before the games, during the games.  That’s what you lose when you lose a guy like Kirk Cousins.  He’s obviously a great football player, doing well in the NFL, but it’s the intangibles for a guy like that brings that you have to replace.  I think we did a good job of that by committee for a while, but yea, you’re right, we had three quarterbacks fighting for the job.

Ultimately, the competition makes them all better.  Whether they started or didn’t start, they all became better football players in the end, because they’re fighting for a job and I think Connor is a guy who really separated himself.  He’s a playmaker.  You see that he can throw the ball, he makes plays on his feet and he’s a winner.  Everybody wants to win.  Some guys are just winners and have that ‘it’ factor and Connor is one of them, but we were lucky to have him, lucky to find him at the beginning of the year.

PS: There is almost an anonymous feel to the defense.  It’s accepted that the defense is good, but outside of a few instances, like with Darqueze Dennard, they don’t get a lot of individual attention.  Is that a point of pride?

MB: Well, the point of pride is not letting teams score touchdowns and holding -50 rushing yards, you know.  That’s the point of pride.  At the end of the day, that’s what matters.  And winning the games; that’s what we hold pride in.  We all sit in the same meeting rooms together.  We all do practice, play together, so at the end of the day, that’s what’s important.  And I think that’s part of the reason that we’ve been able to be so successful for so long is because that’s what made us all happy.  That’s what made us all excited.  We just wanted to win, wanted to play well.

If a guy goes out and has 15 tackles, but they have 300 rushing yards, nobody’s happy including that guy.  It’s the full portrait of work you’re looking at, not just the stats.  Obviously, it’s fun to have your stats and you look at them, you know, I’m not gonna say we don’t do that, but we play as a team and I think that’s the reason we’ve been able to be so good.

PS: You guys have really been able to replace guys relatively seamlessly. You’re gonna lose a bunch of guys this year.  Last year, it was William Gholston.  The year before it was Jerel Worthy.  There always seems to be that next man up who can come in and keep that defense performing at a high level.

MB: You look at replacing Will and look at Shilique Calhoun had a phenomenal year.  We knew we had guys.  We know we have guys now.  They still have guys since our senior class left and that’s a credit Coach D’s recruiting the whole staff.  There’s guys, even right now, we lost a lot of starters on defense, they have great players there, they just need the experience and the confidence playing together.

That’s what football is.  It’s not a one year thing, it’s not a two year thing, it’s trying to build a program and that’s what Coach D has done.  He’d done it the slow way, he’s done it the right way, and it allows us to replace guys like myself, guys like Jerel, guys like Will, guys like Darqueze.  It’s recruiting and it’s people in those positions like Darqueze, helping the younger guys out, being around them and setting the example on and off the field of how to be a good football player and how to build a good football team.