Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tackle spots up for grabs at KU


Perhaps no holes on Kansas University's football team need to be filled with more urgency than one on each side of the offensive line.

The battles at left and right tackle have raged all spring and may go all summer as well. It's no easy task replacing Cesar Rodriguez's 43 career starts or Anthony Collins' All-America stature.

So there's no rush in determining who's ready to try the shoes on.

But some hints may emerge at Monday's spring game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. For starters, sophomore Ian Wolfe seems to have an edge at the starting right-tackle spot over junior-college transfer Nate D'Cunha.

"Ian is much bigger and stronger than perhaps he was last fall," KU coach Mark Mangino said of Wolfe, who started last season's Toledo game due to Collins' being suspended. "He's starting to come on the latter part of spring. He's getting more comfortable with his assignments, knowing what he's doing. You can see that's evident by the way he's performing now."

D'Cunha, Mangino said, is finding the transition to Div. I football a little difficult. A 24-year old native of Australia, D'Cunha is relatively new to American football, but has promise with a 6-foot-7, 300-pound frame.

"I think there's a number of factors," Mangino said. "He has to learn about the tempo of the game from the snap of the ball to the whistle. He has a tendency to get in the blocks and get off the blocks before the play has ended. I think that's something that just comes from not having been around the game of football as we know it for a long period of time.

"As far as his ability to learn assignments, it's starting to come to him. He's trying to figure out not just what he's doing, but what the guy next to him is doing and what we're trying to accomplish on every play."

D'Cunha has played one year of college football - in 2006 at Santa Barbara (Calif.) Community College. American football in Australia isn't nearly as competitive, one reason D'Cunha came to the United States.

"I think that's the challenge for him, but he's very smart, and we feel like he will develop into a fine player," Mangino said. "He has some handicaps perhaps that the rest of our players don't because he hasn't been exposed to American football for a long period of time. He's starting from scratch."

Many of KU's tackles are learning the ropes, as well. Really, any experience at the tackle positions is over on the left side - and there's not much.

Senior Matt Darton is battling freshman Jeff Spikes for the privilege of blocking quarterback Todd Reesing's blindside this fall. The edge might come with the fact that Darton already has done it.

Collins sat out the Iowa State game last season because of an ankle injury, and Darton filled in admirably in a 45-7 KU victory. His performance wasn't forgotten, either.

"He did a good job for us in that game," Mangino said. "He has been tested a little bit."

As for Spikes, his time will come. KU's coaches have gushed about the potential of the 6-6, 315-pound Ohio native, with Mangino claiming he could be one of KU's finest before it's all done.

"He's real young right now, and he's learning and just trying to find his way," Mangino said. "But he's really going to be a fine player."

It might depend on how the spring ends Monday for Darton and Spikes. It might linger into the summer. Like the competition on the other side of the line, there's just no definitive answer yet.

"We like both of those kids," Mangino said, "and we feel like they're both going to help us this year."


prairie_dog 13 years, 5 months ago

I love this competition. The last competition this fierce was Reesing/Meier--and look how that turned out.Crawford/Sharp running behind these hosses means a big running year for us, making Reesing's job much easier. Every lineman except Cantrell could be over 300 lbs, I believe a first for KU football. No undersize line anymore.Are you watching this Mizzery--you jerks!

Dyrk Dugan 13 years, 5 months ago

good one prairie dog.I think we'll be even a better offense in '08, because we are going to be able to flat out run the football...basically whenever we want. I don't think MU will be able to stuff us again like they did last year. We'll have more experience and depth at o line. Wolfe and Spikes and D'Cunha are going to be very good.....and we return eveyone else. Look out Big 12! here we come again!

jayhawkinATL 13 years, 5 months ago

Can't wait for the KU football season!!!!!

number1jayhawker 13 years, 5 months ago

Throw in another RS freshman OL named Hatch, and we have the deepest and most talented OL at KU probably ever.

troutsee 13 years, 5 months ago

Last year I predicted 10-2. This year.....10-2. Although I will concede nothing to MU, OU, or TU, the road to a title will be a little bumpier. I think we will beat TU. MU and OU will be our toughest tests, but we match up well with all B-12 teams.....sooooooo.....with any luck, look out....12-0 could happen.

troutsee 13 years, 5 months ago

Let's all show our support by showing up for the spring game tomorrow night at 7 PM.

halvhawk 13 years, 5 months ago

we picked up another recruit yesterday, i dont know why but theres no article about it, but we got a QB (Jordan Webb) from union, missouri...a kid everyone thought was a lock to go to MU, hes been compared to chase daniel in his size and stature, but is better running the ball, last year threw for 55 tds and 11 ints, and ran for over 600 yards...exciting times in the program

JayViking 13 years, 5 months ago


Michael Leiker 13 years, 5 months ago

Liked this article. Tackle's probably the most important spots on the line with this type of offense if not in any offense. What happens here could determine a lot about how the offense fares in 08. Keep us informed Wood. I look forward to seeing some posts from you loyal hawk footballs about how these guys look tomorrow night.

Jim Jackson 13 years, 5 months ago

Look out for Jeremiah Hatch the RS frosh from Dallas Carter, he is a beast

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