Carl Torbush, coordinator of a Kansas University defense that has had trouble hassling the quarterback, described the ideal physical characteristics of a defensive end.
“The best ones I’ve had have been 6-3, 6-4 guys,” Torbush said. “I go back to Julius Peppers, who coming out of high school was a 6-5, 210-pound tailback who grew into what he is today.”
Peppers, a two-time All-Pro defensive end with the Carolina Panthers now playing for the Chicago Bears, also was a basketball player at North Carolina.
“The are not a lot of those out there, and if there are, everybody is trying to get them,” Torbush said of the long defensive end prototypes. “Regardless of height, we’d like to have a guy who’s got some wingspan, got some quickness and acceleration off the ball and has got some flexibility in his hips so he can turn and run.”
In other words, a basketball player.
“I’m probably going to get myself in trouble,” said Torbush, a former assistant and head football coach at North Carolina. “I’ve been around basketball. I let Julius Peppers play basketball at Carolina and Ronald Curry, and Julius Peppers was just another guy on that basketball court. He was a big guy, but on that basketball court, he was just another guy. That tells you the size and athleticism of those forwards in basketball. Yeah, you’d like to have you a couple of those guys.”
Next, I really tried to get Torbush in trouble and asked him if he would like to name some KU players he’d like to steal from basketball coach Bill Self to put in shoulder pads and line up on his defense.
“How about the starting lineup,” Torbush said, laughing and enjoying the momentary fantasy. “I think we can find some cornerbacks and defensive ends, and a little bit of everything from among that group.”
Instead of stealing the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson to set loose on the quarterback and robbing Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby to intercept passes, Torbush stole from his own roster and side of the ball in an attempt to turn up the heat on the quarterback. Initial returns were encouraging.
Toben Opurum looked active in his first start at defensive end in last Saturday’s 45-10 loss to Texas A&M.
“Toben’s doing well,” Torbush said. “He’s handled that move extremely well to go from running back to linebacker to defensive end. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player at that position.”
Opurum gave himself a grade of incomplete.
“I think from where I started to where I am now, I think I’ve improved a lot,” Opurum said. “But I still have a lot of work to do.”
Senior defensive end Jake Laptad weighed in on Opurum’s performance.
“He had a couple of plays where he was getting upfield a little too much, but he did a great job last game and if he just keeps improving every week, he’ll be good,” Laptad said.
Opurum’s best quality?
“Definitely speed off the ball,” Laptad said. “He’s got good speed.”
Opurum’s not basketball-player fast, but it’s difficult to convince high school basketball stars their best path to a professional career just might require putting on a helmet.