Sunday, August 28, 2011

Speed demons: KU’s D-linemen place added emphasis on quickness

Kansas University defensive linemen, from left, Patrick Dorsey, Toben Opurum and Richard Johnson made it a priority over the offseason to work on their quickness. Dorsey will miss six to eight weeks with a broken foot, so Opurum and Johnson will be relied upon to carry the defensive line early in the season.

Kansas University defensive linemen, from left, Patrick Dorsey, Toben Opurum and Richard Johnson made it a priority over the offseason to work on their quickness. Dorsey will miss six to eight weeks with a broken foot, so Opurum and Johnson will be relied upon to carry the defensive line early in the season.


After spending last season with the defensive linemen, Toben Opurum can already tell this year’s group is improved.

“Really, from top to bottom,” the junior outside linebacker said, “the D-line has gotten faster.”

It’ll have to be if the Jayhawks hope to perform well against the massive offensive linemen of the Big 12.

During an era when many defensive linemen weigh 300 pounds or more, KU only has one defensive lineman listed on the roster above 300 pounds (John Williams). Every other defensive lineman weighs 285 pounds or less.

“You’ve got to use what you have to your advantage,” Opurum said. “If you’re one of the bigger defensive lines, you can overpower people a lot, bring pressure to the quarterback and use that to your advantage. Whereas we have to use our speed as the advantage.”

KU defensive coordinator Vic Shealy, who has implemented a switch to a 3-4 defense this season, said he isn’t worried about his defensive linemen being undersized.

He used senior defensive tackle Pat Dorsey as an example. Though Dorsey — who is out six to eight weeks with a broken foot — is only listed at 6 feet, 273 pounds, in the summer he bench pressed 500 pounds, with coaches telling him not to put any more on the bar because of a potential injury risk.

Dorsey squatted around 700 pounds.

“He’s not without strength,” Shealy said. “I’d much rather have a guy like that at 285 than to have a guy who’s at 330 who just doesn’t quite have all the athletic pieces.”

Lighter but quicker is actually what KU prefers in its linemen, at least at this point.

One doesn’t need to look any further than junior defensive tackle Williams. During the 2009 season, Williams — he was an offensive lineman — was listed at 309 pounds.

He’s actually dropped weight since becoming a defensive lineman. Last year he was 290; this year, he’s listed at 305.

“Understand that we could have told John to get 330 pounds, but now you become an unathletic guy that gets cut off and reached all day,” Shealy said, “so now if he can’t maintain his gap integrity, then the puzzle starts to break.”

Earlier this month, Shealy said some familiar names — Williams and Richard Johnson (6-3, 283) — had stood out as the front-runners at nose tackle.

At the two defensive end spots, the Jayhawks will be looking more to their youth.

Sophomore Keba Agostinho (6-3, 253) returns after playing all 12 games a year ago, while fellow sophomore Kevin Young (6-4, 285) should contribute at both tackle and defensive end.

Red-shirt freshman Pat Lewandowski (6-6, 265) — who was expected to miss two to three weeks after suffering a leg injury on Aug. 8 — also impressed at the beginning of practices.

“He’s grown as a player, and he’s really taken what coach (Buddy) Wyatt has taught him and applied it on the field,” Opurum said. “A lot of guys, it’s kind of hard to take from practice to scrimmages or from practices to games, but he uses the techniques as much as he can, and it’s really helped him.”

In addition, true freshman Ben Goodman (6-3, 245) has been a pleasant surprise for Shealy at D-end.

“We’re a little bit thin if you want to look at injury exposures that exist,” Shealy said. “But we’re hopeful we stay healthy, and if we do that, I think we’ll be competitive.”

The Jayhawks will look to get more pressure on the quarterback this season, as their returning defensive linemen (not including Opurum) combined for just 2 1/2 sacks a year ago.

This offseason, Johnson said the D-linemen had watched film, gone over different techniques and worked to improve their athleticism in hopes of increasing their sack numbers.

“Defensive line always has something to prove,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to come out and make plays and prove people wrong.”


Paul Christiansen 2 years, 7 months ago

I just don't understand why we haven't recruited bigger people.

Mangino, left nothing in the pantry for Coach Gill.

And 3-4 makes me nervous.


waywardJay 2 years, 7 months ago

DE/DT was exploited last year.

It was shown as a weakness. We get that, there is no arguing the contrary.

We did not bring in any big time recruits to fill that void. There are relatively few new players to impact this move.

One way of re-allocating your talent pool to rescheme ( which we did ) to "create" Depth by modifying positions. this is something we see Self do often to much success in basketball. You play your best 11 players on defense as much as possible, and of our best 11, there is no one on that defensive line ( barring opurum moving back to DE from modified Terrell Suggs Style LB ) that is in the top 5. perhaps not even top 10 considering our linebacker depth and talent on the corners.... But it DOES address the issue of lack of depth by creating fewer positions.... you have one less starting position , which means 2-3 dt's can get you done if your you are healthy....

The Key component to our defense does not line up on that side of the ball, In my estimation. That key component is our offense's ability to control the clock, which really comes down to our offensive lines play. If our Offense line can sustain drives, our DT's being smaller won't matter as much, and will not show our line's weakness except against great teams..... I don't think we will be shred by the run so much this year... there are few teams that run the ball down hill on our schedule... ( this is the land of the pass happy QB Fortunately ) But, If we cannot keep our guys to short defensive stands we will certainly be exposed.....


Dirk Medema 2 years, 7 months ago

Remember a discussion during bowl time a year or so ago, that a distinction between the SEC and other conferences was the quality of DT's. That seems like a fairly valid analysis.

That being said, I also recall the Aloha Bowl from the 90's (the year of Mason's first resignation) when they played UCLA. The vioces describing the game commented early and often about how the Big UCLA OL was going to wear down the smaller KU DL. That stopped right about the middle of the scond half, when KU continued to dominate Johnathan Ogden (how many pro-bowls?) and his counterparts. Then the dscussion switched to the length and speed of the KU DL. Remembering back even to the '08 OB team, McClinton was severely undersized, but got the job done with his quickness.

Not saying that this team is as good as any of our bowl teams, or that every team we face will be "UCLA", just that there is a reason the game is played on the field, and not by the numbers on a piece of paper.


Randy Maxwell 2 years, 7 months ago

Aogustino and Young were freshmen last year both have talent and should be greatly improved. Young had an offer from Nebraska he has talent. Agustino is very athletic and will surprise this year. Williams at NT is also athletic for a 300 lb guy. If they can avoid any further injury this unit will be much improved and I forgot to mention Lewandowski who will be a star before he leaves KU


John Mueller 2 years, 7 months ago

If you look at the history of Kansas football, success = good defensive line play.

We are a program that seldom gets the BEST skill position players, but typically our skill people are good enough to be successful.

The most glaring differential in talent between the have's and the have nots is Defensive lineman.

Look at every single bowl team in the history of KU football (unfortunately it does not require an exhaustive research staff) and you will find good if not great (pro's) defensive lineman.

In fact, the Orange Bowl team had our last really impact defensive lineman (can't remember the kids name, but great kid and better football player).

James McClinton, i think?

Stubblefield and Gilbert Brown before that.

Can't remember the d-lineman for the Sun Bowl team (Mike Butler, maybe?).

Bottom line: We need the big uglies to win.

If Gill is successful at Kansas, it will mean he has successful recruited some NFL caliber D lineman to carry him to bowl success.

Unfortunately, they are a very precious commodity.

Probably a long season, but positive, positive, positive.

Can't wait to watch our running backs and hope we can control time of possession? We'll go with that.


newjayhawk 2 years, 7 months ago

Makes sense to me Protown , I agree.


Michael Maris 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't think that losing Coach Torbush is going to affect the Jayhawks that much.

However, I will be interested in seeing how well Coach Shealy and Wyatt run their defensive schemes. Patience will be needed by all fans. I want to see improvements all season long, and that doesn't mean that KU wins more than 3 games (as last year). But, if improvement is visibly seen and the Jayhawks don't get blown out each week by the teams that blew them out last season. Then, I'm confident that Gill and his staff have the Jayhawk's headed in the right direction.


Andy Tweedy 2 years, 7 months ago

The speed that will help this D-line the most is the speed at running back. I'm just hoping we can keep these guys off the field.


Janet Scott 2 years, 7 months ago

Glaring weakness....and still is....big time.


JHWKDW 2 years, 7 months ago

Yes.This is the biggest area of concern on this team!

Also losing Defensive Coordinator Torbush really hurt also!

It is going to suck not having Dorsey out there for 6-8 weeks!They got to have a better pass rush than last season!I'm Hoping we can also slow down the opponents running game better than last year!


KU_Alumn_2000 2 years, 7 months ago

Tough to improve what was a terrible defensive line without bringing some talent in.

Our d-line will be the root cause of most KU football frustrations this season. We will fail to put pressure on opposing quaterbacks....and they will fail to create space for our line-backers and d-backs.


Kevin Studer 2 years, 7 months ago

Speed is nice for the pass rush, I suppose, but people will be able to run between the tackles against this team all day long.


Dillon Davis 2 years, 7 months ago

To be honest this is the only glaring weakness on this team right now. We have some question marks at certain positions like RB or WR but that's just because of the inexperience of some of them. There's a lot of talent at those skill positions whereas we don't really know what we have with the defensive line. None of them are proven playmakers. Dorsey was the most proven and a pretty solid run stopper but he's injured. We do need the young guys to step up big for us because defense all starts at the line. They need to create space for our speedy, physical linebackers. We have a lot of depth at LB and in the secondary, so hopefully they can get the job done so this defense can go from good to great.


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