Jeannette graduate Cox biding his time at Michigan State
Ah, the life of a redshirt.
Jeannette High school graduate Demetrious Cox and his teammates on the Michigan State football team will play Texas Christian University in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 29.
Cox and his fellow Spartans have been preparing for the game for weeks, enduring tough practices and studying film.
When game day rolls around, however, Cox won't play. Not a chance.
That's because the 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety is sitting out this season while redshirting. Per NCAA rules, college athletes have five calendar years to use their four years of athletic eligibility.
The additional year — during which the athlete still trains and practices with the team, but is not eligible to compete during games — is known as a redshirt year.
Coaches deciding to redshirt their players is very common, particularly during an athlete's first year in college. It gives that player the chance to mature physically, learn the system and adjust to college life.
“Redshirting was a great decision for me,” said Cox. “I just focused on learning as much as I could, so next year I can contribute. I feel that I learned the defense, learned the system.”
While redshirting certainly has its benefits, it doesn't mean it's easy for athletes — who are generally highly competitive individuals — to sit by and watch others play in games.
“Standing on the sidelines and watching everyone else play eats at you,” said Cox. “But you've just got to be patient and work hard. It's hard because you want to be out there, but you know, if you're patient, your time will come.”
Local fans remember Cox as a standout two-way player for the Jayhawks.
On offense, he was a quarterback and led the Jayhawks to the WPIAL Championship game as a senior, rushing for 1,263 yards, passing for 910 yards and accounting for 31 total touchdowns.
He was also a standout on defense against both the pass and the run.
He's settled in on the defensive side of the ball with the Spartans, and next year, Cox will be in the mix for playing time at free safety and almost certainly will be a contributor on special teams.
Much of the mental part of learning the defense will already be behind him when he enters next year's training camp with four full years if eligibility ahead of him.
“The system is a lot more technical than in high school,” he said. “I put my time in, and now I feel I've learned it. I'm ready.”
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl features a matchup of two usually powerful programs which underachieved in 2012. Each team had 11 wins in 2011 and entered this season with BCS aspirations, but neither finished as a ranked team.
Michigan State entered the year ranked No. 13 in the nation according the Associated Press, but the Spartans stumbled to a 6-6 overall record, including a 3-5 mark in a very down Big Ten conference.
The conference record is deceiving, though, as the team lost five conference games by a combined 13 points.
TCU, meanwhile, entered the year ranked No. 20. But the Horned Frogs' first year in the Big XII conference proved to be more challenging than the Mountain West Conference; TCU went 7-5 overall and 4-5 in conference play in 2012.
The result is an intriguing matchup, as each team attempts to prove the regular season was a fluke.
The Spartans are led by star running back Le'Veon Bell, who led the Big Ten with 137.3 yards rushing per game.
TCU's star early in the year was junior quarterback Casey Pachall. But he was arrested on DUI charges midseason, ultimately leaving school to enter rehab. Freshman Trevone Boykin took over, played well — throwing for 1,853 yards and 15 touchdowns — but obviously lacks big game experience.
“I think we match up very well with TCU,” said Cox. “We have to be really physical, come to play and do all the little things.”
The game will be played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. Kickoff is set for 10:15 p.m. local time on Dec. 29 and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.