Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy in the end: Versatile Opurum solidifies spot along defensive line

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum smiles as he and his teammates stretch out during practice.

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum smiles as he and his teammates stretch out during practice.


Two years ago, Kansas University’s Toben Opurum finished the season at the top of the football team’s depth chart at running back.

Opurum, then a freshman from Plano, Texas, who had been recruited by Notre Dame and was the No. 3-rated fullback in the country according to, led the team in yards and touchdowns and, without question, was in position to be a four-year starter and KU’s running back of the future.

That all changed when the coach who recruited Opurum to KU departed and in to replace him came Turner Gill. Gill gave Opurum a crack at running back but decided to move him to defense, first to linebacker and then defensive end.

Twenty-four wild and wacky months later, Opurum finds himself back at the top of KU’s depth chart and sits unanimously atop the Journal-World and’s rankings of this team’s defensive ends. Players were ranked based on how they fit into the 4-3 defensive scheme that the Jayhawks played last season.

Moving guys to different positions has a way of evening itself out. Sometimes the move is a home run and a player becomes a stud at his new spot. Other times, the gamble flames out and thoughts of what could have been are all that remain.

While it’s too early to say for sure how the Toben Opurum Story will end, Gill and the rest of his coaching staff seem to think Opurum is destined for great things at D-End.

“I think Toben’s definitely a guy that’s going to be reckoned with in the Big 12,” Gill said after KU’s spring game in April. “I think he’s a guy that people are going to be talking about as time goes along, throughout the season and the rest of his career.”

While Opurum seems to have solidified one of KU’s defensive-end spots, a big-time question lingers: Who will handle the other side? The Jayhawks have no shortage of options, but very few of those players have proven much during their time — short or long — at KU.

Still, Opurum does not seem to be worried about the depth behind him.

“My teammates help me out every day,” Opurum said. “We watch film on every snap we take. My preparation has been really good, and my technique has improved a lot.”

Here’s a look at our list of top candidates to fill the role as KU’s “other defensive end” this season.

Matt Tait’s list

  1. Toben Opurum: These coaches usually say what they mean, and they keep calling Opurum a star in the making.
  2. Keba Agostinho: Has as good a chance as anyone to hold down starting spot opposite Opurum. Needs to bring great energy every play to earn it.
  3. Michael Reynolds: Explosive, energetic and a little angry. If he can make the transition from high school to college quickly, he could be a stud right away.
  4. Pat Lewandowski: Just seems to have a nose for finding the ball.
  5. Ben Goodman: Don’t sleep on this freshman’s skills. He’s an animal who flies around the field and loves to hit.

Tom Keegan’s list

  1. Toben Opurum: Totally committed to position switch and improved by the minute during spring.
  2. Michael Reynolds: Wichita recruit just might have explosiveness KU has lacked for years.
  3. Keba Agostinho: Smart guys tend to get most out of ability.
  4. Pat Lewandowski: Has good motor, but is he quick enough?
  5. D.J. Marshall: Stood out in spring game.

Jesse Newell’s list

  1. Toben Opurum: Might be the best player on the team right now.
  2. Keba Agostinho: Showed promise, but not consistency, in 2010.
  3. Pat Lewandowski: Not sure why he moved back to defensive end after a productive spring at defensive tackle.
  4. D.J. Marshall: Had solid spring game (two tackles-for-loss) and should be in D-Line rotation.
  5. Tyrone Sellers: Hard to know which of the newcomers will emerge, so Sellers gets the No. 5 spot until someone outplays him.

Journal-World Consensus Top 5 Defensive Ends

Five points awarded for first, four points for second, three points for third, two points for fourth and one point for fifth.

  1. Toben Opurum (15)
  2. Keba Agostinho (11)
  3. Michael Reynolds (7)
  4. Pat Lewandowski (7)
  5. D.J. Marshall (3)

Others receiving votes: Tyrone Sellers (1); Ben Goodman (1).


ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 10 months ago

Ljw bucket list:

1) spend a night breaking down film with Jesse. Alternating cups of coffee and red bulls while we breakdown some crazy stat like what is the average yard per run attempt after the fan in the third row claps.

2) take a swim in potters lake with matt tait, a goal post, and couple thousand students after the hawks beat mizzou when/if ever the series moves back to a home and home.

3) smoke a fat cigar with Keegan in the VIP of the "dirty bird" while enjoying the surroundings and calling Brock Berglunds cell phone. "Is Seamore Butts there"

4) whadda ya have? Whadda ya have? With Atl at the Varsity while we remember those posters that we have lost.

5) shoot a porn with Samantha Ryan and LaJayhawk. My scene is first!

6) fly to outer space to meet 100.

7) watch a girls soccer game with since75. Dude loves ku so much that I bet he would act like he was in afh the whole game.

8) go fishing with twistedfish. Seriously, dude needs to relax. Maybe fishing would help him

9) find the person that keeps posting spam on the fan blog section and treat him the same way the camera treated AJ Stewart.

10) fire gill!!!

TwistedFish31 6 years, 10 months ago

Such a freaking loser. So, you wait up all night so that you can be the first little girl to post on these threads? HAHAHA! You must really hate your pathetic life.

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 10 months ago

Yikes! Looks like I need to do #8 sooner than later!

Oh and uh 11pm is not very late a night.

waywardJay 6 years, 10 months ago

I'm pretty sure Aj Stewart did more damage to the Camera.... while he got the temporary low end of it.... he's still no small guy.... Bet the Camera went out like Peter McNeely in that battle.

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 10 months ago

Oh! Watch a (now) nonconference ku at nu game with wayward

waywardJay 6 years, 10 months ago

By the time Anyone in the Big12-2 talks to Nebraska, we'll both be long dead.

Perhaps our children's children might someday sit together and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker's Choke that game away with last minute rushing Touchdown by turner's Grand daughter's first born.....

79ictjhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Remember when most people thought Gill was crazy for moving our top returning RB to defense? Now we a stable of even better RBs and a prospect of a great DE. Crazy like a fox!

jhox 6 years, 10 months ago

I thought Toben was, far and away, the most impressive performer in the spring game. There were times, especially early last year, when I thought we could really use him on offense, but watching him in the spring made me realize what a good move it was for him (and the team.)

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

Interesting story here, boys. Note what it says about MU's record after Pinkels first four seasons. Too bad they didn't fire him. That is the main reason I was upset about Mangino because he had put in his time and that stability is important. So I had to move on. You don't get long tenure because you win. You win because you have tenure.

actorman 6 years, 10 months ago

"Here’s a look at our list of top candidates to fill the role as KU’s “other defensive end” this season."

That sentence makes absolutely no sense, given that the first player on every list is Toben Opurum. If it's a list of people to fill the role of the "other defensive end," how on earth can you include the guy you've already been talking about?!?!? I think a lot of the criticism of the LJS is ridiculous, but in this particular case that's pretty pathetic use of the English language for a newspaper. Common guys, surely you can do better than that.

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