EAST LANSING - It happens all the time in sports, one player goes down with injury or an attitude problem and someone else steps up and sometimes in process, becomes a star.
A.J. Jimmerson is going to get that chance.
MSU lost star running back Javon Ringer to a season-ending MCL injury early on but then against Northwestern, Jehuu Caulcrick went down with a foot injury, at least that's what we thought, but Coach John L. Smith had a different take.
"Caulcrick's foot [injury] is not a foot [injury], it's his head. He's hurt between
the......," said Smith in his weekly press conference before trailing off and quitting the thought.
"Caulcrick's going to be fine. He has assured me that he will be practicing on Tuesday. Jimmerson stepped in and did a good job and is growing much better mentally."
Smith said Jimmerson will get more of an opportunity to play and will be counted on down the stretch run.
"He has to be counted on more and more all the time. The more confidence he gives (the coaching staff) and the more confidence he has in himself, that role
continues to grow. He's feeling good about himself and the fact is that it's not necessarily the runs, it's 'I didn't miss an assignment on protections'."
Senior quarterback Drew Stanton singled out Jimmerson for praise after the Northwestern ballgame, citing his big plays in the passing and running game, while making some big blocks in the protection.
After the contest, Stanton said in the MSU postgame locker room, "the person I'm most proud of today is A.J. because I think A.J. stepped up and really grew up today. We needed him to come in the latter part of the game and he had some very crucial plays that he was involved in and, you know, really helped us out from that standpoint."
Stanton was asked again in Monday's press conference to elaborate.
"He grew up a lot that game. He's somebody who came in and had a lot of expectations that he wanted to contribute and be that third back. Well nobody really knew what he was going to be able to do. But when Javon went down he was pressed into more of a role but not fully, [because the coaching staff] weren't really switching off two backs.
But then Jehuu went down and he came in - that third down conversion was huge," praised Stanton. "He caught some balls out of the backfield and did a great job and I think you could just kinda see him grow up throughout the course of the game. He just kinda took a deep breath and said 'you know what? I can play at this level', it's just a matter of me thinking through it, relaxing and playing. That's the beauty of getting out there and playing on Saturday's seeing guys grow up like that and come together as a team."
MSU hopes that Jimmerson will continue to grow and that the big plays against Northwestern were no fluke.
It's time for his star to shine.