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Sunday, July 11, 2010

KU defensive line coach: Pass rush still needs improvement

Blue Team quarterback Jordan Webb has a pass held up by White Team defensive end Richard Johnson Jr. during the spring game Saturday, April 24, 2010 at Memorial Stadium.

Blue Team quarterback Jordan Webb has a pass held up by White Team defensive end Richard Johnson Jr. during the spring game Saturday, April 24, 2010 at Memorial Stadium.

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About this series: This is the second in a series of previews of Kansas University’s football team by position. The series will run Wednesdays and Sundays in the Journal-World. Coming Wednesday: running backs.

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Defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt demonstrates proper fumble recovery technique during spring practice on Sunday, March 28, 2010.

Buddy Wyatt knows that what he’s about to say is going to surprise a few people.

After all, the Kansas University defensive line coach was at Memorial Stadium — along with thousands of KU supporters — when his linemen racked up nine sacks during the spring game on April 24.

Still ...

“Not knowing much about the guys going into the spring, I thought they played the run well, extremely well,” Wyatt said. “We still need to improve on our pass rush.”

KU could definitely use the improvement in rush defense, as the Jayhawks allowed 177.8 rushing yards per game during the Big 12 schedule (10th in the conference).

So how can the current crop of Jayhawk linemen improve their pass-rushing skills?

“We’ve got to keep working on being more explosive off the football,” Wyatt said. “We’ve got to get off on the ball better. We’ve got to realize the situation that we’re in and anticipate that a little bit better.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Wyatt was most excited about his tackle position after 15 practices in the spring.

In particular, he was pleased with the efforts of juniors Richard Johnson Jr. and Patrick Dorsey.

“They were consistent in their play, in practice and in scrimmages,” Wyatt said. “Both of them, they did not make a lot of mistakes. They picked up the system really well.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 283-pound junior from Jefferson City, Mo., started five games last season, finishing with 17 tackles — including three for loss.

“His hands, we’ve got to get his hands better,” Wyatt said. “But for the most part, I was really pleased with what he did in the spring.”

Dorsey, a 6-foot, 273-pound junior from Houston, made just one start in 2009, recording eight tackles and one sack.

“He graded out extremely well in our scrimmages and in our practices,” Wyatt said. “I just liked his consistency and just his approach to the game. I was really impressed with that. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he played big in the spring.”

Part of KU’s pass-rushing struggles could have resulted from injury.

Senior Jake Laptad, who led KU with 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season, did not participate in any contact drills in the spring because of a shoulder injury.

The two-time, all-Big 12 honorable mention selection was able to go through some individual workouts, but coaches weren’t able to see him in any live situations.

In Laptad’s absence, red-shirt freshman Kevin Young took many of the additional snaps at defensive end. The 6-foot-2, 256-pounder from Olathe tied for the team lead with two sacks in the spring game.

“Out of the ends that participated, I thought he was the most consistent,” Wyatt said. “He’s one of the bigger defensive ends that went through the spring, especially because Jake didn’t go through much of the spring. I really was impressed with his ability to play the run.”

Quintin Woods, a 6-foot-5, 236-pound senior from Flint, Mich., also posted two sacks in the spring game.

“Quintin’s deal is that he just has to be more consistent,” Wyatt said. “That’s what we talked about at the end of spring with him.”

Travis Stephens, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound junior that red-shirted last season, also will be in the mix for snaps at defensive end.

The Jayhawks will add three more defensive ends in the fall, as true freshmen Keba Agostinho, JaQwaylin Arps and Pat Lewandowski are all three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com.

“We hope we don’t have to play all those guys,” Wyatt said, “but those are some young men we brought in that we think that in the future may have a chance to be pretty good for us.”

Meanwhile, KU should have plenty of depth at tackle. John Williams, who was limited in spring because of a shoulder injury, started the final seven games last year after being moved over from the offensive line.

Sophomore Darius Parish and red-shirt freshman Randall Dent Jr. also should compete for playing time.

Comments

TopCityHawk 4 years, 3 months ago

Nice work Jesse. I really enjoyed the player specific quotes you were able to get from Coach Wyatt.

It's nice to read some non-sugar coated insight about expectations and perspective from a the position coach's point of view. I am confident the staff's open feedback communication style will bode well for the the family atmosphere they are creating. I could imagine players having a much better respect for a coach knowing he speaks openly and honestly. A much different approach than our program has seen in recent years.

Cheers.

Saguaro_Jayhawk 4 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for this series. Enjoyed these early ones and greatly loooking forward to future ones!

OCJHAWK 4 years, 3 months ago

Good article

Getting to the annual excitement for the start of the KU football season time for me. I hope many good returns for Coach Gill and staff.

I hope the University now understands the importance of football to the success of KU overall.

jhox 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm surprised he thought we played the run wel. We were horrendous in that regard last season (though, to be honest, I believe that was more of a linebacker deficiency issue than defensive line issue.) If we don't upgrade our speed and toughness at linebacker, that will continue to be a weekness for us.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 3 months ago

Fresh Start.

This staff is only looking at 2010 and later.

troutsee 4 years, 3 months ago

It's difficult to find tough, quick, and fast 240 lb linebackers. And that is what you need nowadays. If we have smallish linebackers that can defend the spread, then we are vulnerable to the run. Vice versa and we are vulnerable to the pass. Those special athletes are tough to find. Looking forward to football

KUFan90 4 years, 3 months ago

Good article, but I don't understand the opening. Is there really anyone that would be surprised to hear we need to improve our pass rush? Our pass rush was horrible lasb year and i don't think one spring game would convince anyone it's suddenly fixed.

Bird 4 years, 3 months ago

From someone who complained about the lack of football articles in the past, THANK YOU for these. I'm sure the number of football/basketball/etc articles are a result of supply and demand, and I'm sure you guys track the number of hits an article gets, but I still think there was more demand for football stories in the past. I really appreciate these.

KGphoto 4 years, 3 months ago

Not that I want to see musical positions again, but it seems like we have a lot of smallish defensive ends that might be able to back up and add some size to a somewhat needy linebacking corps.

Maybe they could just create some 3-4 packages to take advantage of the personnel. The NFL is just crying for pass-rushing linebackers.

Kevin Young DE 6-4 256 Quintin Woods DE 6-5 236 Travis Stephens DE 6-2 255 Tyrone Sellers DE 6-3 230 D.J. Marshall DE 6-3 235

I don't know if they have the coverage skills or if they are fast enough, but it seems like it would be worth a try. Hell, I'm not sure how Woods, Sellers and Marshall are even able to hold up every down against an OT anyway. And if linemen like Tamba Hali and Ndamukong Suh can drop into coverage, surely guys like Young and Stephens could drop back too.

jaybate 4 years, 3 months ago

"KU defensive line coach: Pass rush still needs improvement"

Let's see: this is July 11th. How about filing this headline under "Duh."

jaybate 4 years, 3 months ago

"KU defensive line coach: Pass rush still needs improvement"

Let's see: this is July 11th. How about filing this headline under "Duh."

Cody Stumma 4 years, 3 months ago

So all the opposing team's coach needs to tell their offensive is... "Bombs Away?" Great to hear we're going to get torched again. I guess I was just saved the trouble of having to buy a Student ticket.

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