Even when Kurtis Drummond barely saw the field as a redshirt freshman a year ago, the safety was a playmaker.
In limited playing time, he grabbed two interceptions, forced a fumble and showed an instinctive nose for the football.
“He’s always been a good player,” junior linebacker Max Bullough said.
“You’ve seen that even last year. He had an interception at Notre Dame. He’s always been able to play and be in that position.”
With Trenton Robinson graduating and heading to the NFL this past spring, the MSU football team’s (5-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) open safety job has been a season-long battle between Drummond and redshirt freshman RJ Williamson, with Drummond making strides in recent weeks.
The sophomore’s breakout performance came in the Spartans’ most recent game, a 28-24 loss to Nebraska, where the sophomore had a team-high 10 tackles, including two tackles for a loss, along with a forced fumble and an interception.
Drummond currently is tied for first on the team in interceptions and ranks fifth on the roster with 39 tackles, and said the game has slowed down for him considerably in his second year of game action, in part due to his increased film study.
“It’s slowed down a lot as far as making more pre-reads before the snap (and) having more of an idea of what’s going on,” Drummond said.
“The playing time definitely helps you as far as knowing different situations in the game and being out there, being more comfortable. So I would say the little minutes I got out there (last season) helped me as far as keeping my composure in certain situations.”
Yet the sophomore safety has been forced to battle injuries in recent weeks.
Drummond left the Nebraska game with a shoulder injury, but said the bye week helped him heal up, and he will be ready to play on Saturday (noon, ESPN2) against Northwestern (7-3, 3-3).
Head coach Mark Dantonio said durability might be the only thing holding Drummond back from taking the next step as a player.
“Kurtis has played well this year for a guy who is a redshirt sophomore. He’s had some very big plays for us this year defensively,” Dantonio said.
“From a consistency standpoint, he needs to stay healthy. He needs to continue to grow as a player, but he’s gotten invaluable experience this year. … I think he’s prepared to take his game farther and farther to the next level as he goes, but he’s had big plays for us. … He’s a good football player.”
Drummond said the biggest reason he’s been able to grow as a player is the confidence and support he’s received from his teammates, including fellow safety Isaiah Lewis.
Senior linebacker Chris Norman said players always knew Drummond had playmaking ability and he’s excited to see his teammate fulfilling his potential.
“I always thought Kurtis had the ability to make plays, so he’s just reinforcing what I already thought he could do,” Norman said.
“He’s just been a guy who always felt like (he) could make a play and that’s what you need to be able to do on defense and he does a really good job of it.”