Saturday, August 29, 2009


Now and then

Can Jayhawk defense invoke nastiness of teams past?

Kansas defensive end Jake Laptad sacks Sam Houston State quarterback Rhett Bomar for a loss on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008.

Kansas defensive end Jake Laptad sacks Sam Houston State quarterback Rhett Bomar for a loss on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008.


Kansas coach Mark Mangino used the word “hostile” to describe the atmosphere he would like fans to create for visiting teams at Memorial Stadium. Mangino no doubt has used that word or similar ones when talking to his defense about what he would like visiting offenses to feel coming from across the line.

A hostile, mean, nasty, fang-bearing, ill-tempered, ornery, rotten, downright rude attitude represents the best chance for the defense to overachieve, which it will need to do to have any chance of coming anywhere close to matching the productivity of the offense.

Throughout history, standout players who line up on defense tend toward viciousness on the playing field. Think Dick Butkus and Ray Lewis, Nick Reid and James McClinton. Offensive stars tend to enjoy hunting spotlights. Defensive stars prefer to hunt people.

On paper, the defense doesn’t appear to have a great deal of loud talent, so loud attitude must compensate.

If the development of a young offensive line counts as the key to the offense, then the emergence of a nasty, quarterback-hunting defensive lineman holds the answer to disrupting visiting offenses. On paper, there is cause for concern. Junior Jake Laptad had seven sacks last season and has improved steadily. Ideally, Laptad would be a contending Big 12 defense’s second-best pass-rusher. Until proven otherwise, he’s this team’s best. Junior Quinton Woods has speed, but so often junior college transfers spend a year adjusting to just how ruggedly the game is played in the Big 12, then take a big step forward as seniors. Senior Maxwell Onyegbule always has looked the part of a quarterback-hunter, but hasn’t yet made an impact. Ditto for Jeff Wheeler.

In the perfect world, senior Caleb Blakesley would stand next to the team’s best tackle. A year ago, he was the best on the roster and unless sophomore Patrick Dorsey or redshirt freshman Duane Zlatnik has a break-out season, the best guess is Blakesley again will be the most consistent performer from the tackle position.

If the line can exceed expectations for applying pressure on the quarterback, a fast, young secondary anchored by Darrell Stuckey has a chance to look good. In between the front and the secondary, an inexperienced linebacker unit appears longer on speed than size. Those are all tangible hints at how equipped the KU defense is to slow down the many high-powered Big 12 spread offenses. The real answer to how well it performs lies in how nasty an edge the players can develop as a team.

Forecasting nastiness isn’t as easy as it seems. For example, former KU defensive tackle James McClinton, a deeply spiritual man who has a friendly word for and about everybody when not on the football field, took on an entirely different personality in a three-point stance. His language became bluer than his shirt, louder than the students’ kickoff chant. So peaceful off the field, such a vicious play-killer on it. It was always all about passion with McClinton and to be passionate playing defense is to be nasty. He completely understood that and played a huge role in getting his team to the Orange Bowl. It’s going to take someone to bring that sort of contagious, rugged edge to the defense for Kansas to snag a Big 12 North title.


Alan Halvorsen 10 years, 5 months ago

Not sure there is really one thing said about our team in this article that I agree with. Never did care much for opinion articles, at least when it concerns football. I guess I can't complain too much, it is a football article after all.

waywardJay 10 years, 5 months ago

On the countrary Jimmy Dean, In basketball i watch guards.... In basketball I watch linebackers...... My favorite is Ray Lewis. I completely agree with this assessment of our team. We need not just one , we need 3 players who are willing to rip your head off and sew it on someone else's so it can be ripped off again.....

Stuckey is one of those players. I believe Quigley is one of those players ( whether he will make the strides to play the LB for us.... is a question )... If he does... he has James Holt written all over him.

Who's it going to be on the Line... My best guess... Richard Johnson. If memory serves, he was the one Guy on our line ( other than laptad ) who stuck out with his ability to take on two people and still make a play...... Like McClinton he seemed meek off the field but i remember him fighting mad in the field the 3-5 games i saw last year on TV..... I could be wrong with who it was i was seeing.... but i think that's the guy # 97.....

waywardJay 10 years, 5 months ago

excuse me* corrections....

In Football i watch linebackers....

and it was Jamal Greene 99* JOhnson was out injured .... it was later in the season.....

kingpin 10 years, 5 months ago

I'm hoping to see Thornton, Stuckey, Greene, and Brooks bring the nasty. When these guys set the tone, the rest of the defense will follow.

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 5 months ago

good grief, can the season get here already so we're not subject to these silly, projection to be who we want to be based on the past puff pieces?

string together Ray Lewis, Dick Butkus, Nick Reid and James McClinton all in one comparison. Devil's advocate says Butkus and Lewis never played at KU. both are/will be NFL Hall of Famers. Reid and McClinton are KUers ...and fine football players for us. but are right now, and have never been, on an NFL roster. there really are no clever as Keegan thinks that is.

can we look at it factually? (it seems to be lost on the LJW). depending on who you think started a lot of football games last year, we have 7 or 8 guys back. we have some promising newcomers...and we need all new LBs. the secondary will be good, our pass rush should be improved...and the LBs will come along....or we'll struggle there.

the season is a week away folks. time for the baloney to stop. let's put the ball on the tee, and see what happens.

KGphoto 10 years, 5 months ago

It's all about the D-line and the secondary. Every member of the line will need to step up in order for the secondary to equal their efforts. The linebackers will find their roles after those two groups nail it down.

Right now it's gotta be Laptad, Johnson and Blakesly, followed by Stuckey and maybe Strozier.

rawkhawk 10 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the article. It's got me thinkin' defense. Can't wait to watch some games. Go 'Hawks!

patton6 10 years, 5 months ago

Richard Johnson was (pre injury) and is our best defensive tackle. And it's not even close.

Hawkman_021 10 years, 5 months ago

The very first line of this article jumped out when I read it. I was at the nu game last year and thought to myself this is what I want our Memorial Stadium to be like, the fans were up and loud the entire first series when KU had the ball and it wasnt just the students, except in my opinion Coach Mangino wants us to be loud every time the other team has the ball, kinda like we do on 3 downs.

Save your voices for saturday lets get LOUD!!!

hawk316 10 years, 5 months ago

It seems like there is often a surprise that occurs during a season, a player under the radar that suddenly bursts on the scene like gangbusters. We may very well need a big surprise this year coming from our defense, especially among the linebackers. Who will it be? It's always fun to watch this unfold. Anybody else ready for some football?

waywardJay 10 years, 4 months ago

Hawk.... I'm stills ticking with Quigley on that big surprise... Mangino said he's not coming along as well as he had hoped..... I'm hoping come 9-5 Quigley's running around like Ray Lewis Blowing up plays all over the field.

gardenjay 10 years, 4 months ago

Quiqley is an excellent athlete, exciting to watch.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 4 months ago

Vernon Brooks is my guess for in-season surprise. He missed a chunk of pre-season, when he needed to be learning a new D, because he needed to take care of family. I look for him to keep learning and be in position to blow up the ball.

Hopefully, Quinton Woods can be a bit that way also, tho it sounds like it may be a bit more a matter of him having some extra weight room time.

I'm also interested to see Duane Zlatnik progress. If I remember correctly, he was also a wrestler in HS. I forget who the former coach/announcer was that comment during a few years ago about how he looked for DL that also wrestled in HS. He commented that he thought it helped them get off blocks and past the OL.

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