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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Keegan

Defensive end an area of need for KU football

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Most football coaches secretly love it when the temperature soars during conditioning season. They await reports from strength coaches regarding which players melted, which pushed through the heat to stand above peers, which embraced the reality that every second not spent getting better is a second spent getting worse.

What player among the incoming freshmen has begun earning respect on his way to becoming known as the program’s workout warrior, the way James Holt did during his time in Lawrence? Holt arrived at Kansas too small to play linebacker, not quick enough for the secondary, the classic ’tweener.

Bit by bit, one weight-room scream at a time, one sprinting through the finish when others let up at a time, Holt turned himself into a NFL player by becoming so much more explosive, stronger and faster. He could not have done it without getting pushed out of his comfort zone constantly by the staff of strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson, now working for Kansas State.

Are the KU football players being pushed harder now and logging more miles running now than a year ago? The answer has to be an emphatic yes or all the apparent recruiting gains will be nullified because college football is at least as much about developing as it is recruiting. That’s why so many football players red-shirt. If properly developed, they can offer a team far more in their fifth year than their first.

A development program, Kansas can’t afford to wait that long at some positions. Defensive end is paramount among them. Someone needs to emerge to join Toben Opurum in flying off the edge.

“We’ll look at anybody who can rush the quarterback and if they do a good job of rushing the quarterback, they will play,” defensive line coach/co-defensive coordinator Buddy Wyatt said of incoming freshmen.

Michael Reynolds (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) of Wichita, Ben Goodman (6-3, 245) of Beaumont, Texas and Javonte Daniel (6-4, 215) of LaGrange, Ga., all have a shot at forcing their way into consideration both during conditioning sessions and preseason camp.

Red-shirt freshman Pat Lewandowski and sophomore Keba Agostinho will push for playing time at defensive end on the opposite side of Opurum, the team’s leading rusher as a freshman, a linebacker the first third of his sophomore season and an end the rest of the way.

“Toben had a really good spring, I mean he was intense, every day he came to practice he came to get better and he’s still learning the position,” Wyatt said. “We moved him to defensive end the fifth game into the season. He was learning what he was supposed to do that week. He wasn’t learning how to play the position. He got a chance to learn the position in the spring and he got better. He got better. So he has a chance to make some plays for us and we’re hoping as summer goes and fall camp goes he continues to get better so he can really set himself apart, not only on our team but in the conference as a playmaker.”

A vastly improved defensive line represents KU’s only chance of slowing Big 12 offenses and without any reason to believe the pocket will get pushed from the middle, the pressure must come from the edges.

Comments

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 1 month ago

The only coach that is less qualified than turner is big john!

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Andy Tweedy 3 years, 1 month ago

I dearly love my Jayhawk football, but I think this theme could own the editorial page for a whole week. I'd say the only position I'm even slightly confident in is running back. OL, LB, and DB all have promise, but QB, WR, and DL are huge questions in my mind. I think things will get better this year, but we have a TON of holes to fill.

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Jim Stauffer 3 years, 1 month ago

You would think from a list of the three incoming frosh listed in the article and Lewandowski, Aghostino, Sellers and Julius Greene we could find a couple of guys who could provide not only support from the other side but also some relief for Toben.

As has been noted, a push from RJJ, Williams or someone inside will be badly needed. This with the outside pressure will allow a much improved LB corps to make some tackles.

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Rivethead 3 years, 1 month ago

Not only did we get rid of one of the best S&C coaches in the conference, we gave him to our in-state rival. We're still stinging from that and it might be a long time before we recover from that one.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 1 month ago

Even better is when ku puts on it's S&C clinc they ask Chris to come back and speak.

Dude wanted to stay and turner hired an unproven from some no name school. I'll bet my bank account god and cussing played some role in the hire.

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KGphoto 3 years, 1 month ago

The Hawks have never had much at DE. The only two exceptional pass rushers I can even remember are Charlton Keith and Brandon Perkins. McMillan was okay and Laptad had one decent year. But the year we won the Orange Bowl the team only recorded 26 sacks, the lowest in 5 years, and four guys were basically tied for most sacks. Onyegbule had 3.5. Laptad, Rivera and Mortensen each had 3. But the team had depth with 12 different guys recording at least one sack. There was Wheeler and Brorsen and Larsen and Holt etc. They were coming from all over.

The most important defensive stat for that team was TFL. KU had 100 on the year, backing up opponents 417 yards. You could not run on KU in 2007, and that really Fs up an offensive game plan. Opponents were held to 3.1/carry and 94yds/game. We had 5 guys with at least 10 TFLs. Mortensen alone tallied 15. A staggering 19 players recorded at least 1 TFL.

All that sets up the secondary pretty well with 23 INTs on the year, between 11 different players, and it certainly aided in Talib's incredible season.

Depth. That formula works. Possibly the best run defense KU has ever fielded was in 2005 with defenders living in opponents backfields. Not just DEs, but the entire front seven, almost equally. They posted 112 TFLs and held opponents to an incredible 2.4/carry and 83yds/game. Opponents rushed for 1475 yards but lost 476 yards rushing. 18 guys had at least 1 TFL, led by DE Keith's 23. (Which is actually the single recorded testament to this article's premise. And Michael Reynolds is a Keith clone.) The only problem that year, defensively, was that we had nobody in the secondary to capitalize on the dominance of the front seven and we gave up a lot of crucial 3rd and 4th downs. Talib was still raw, and we were so thin offensively that Gordon was playing both ways. The rest of the secondary was nameless, although Sr. JUCO transfer Theo Baines was able to collect 4 INTs out of the tattered mess KU was making in the opponents backfield.

So I don't think it will rely solely on a player like TO, Reynolds or Keba to be the guy. Success can most certainly come with depth and an aggressive game plan.

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Andy Tweedy 3 years, 1 month ago

The only correction i would make to your very detailed breakdown is that the backfield was actually pretty good in the latter part of the 2005 season, with Talib and Baines manning the corners. Baines had been hurt, which had necessitated Gordon playing both ways. Otherwise, I think you've broken this down pretty well. You stop the run, it's amazing what you can do on defense. Both of the defenses you mentioned could do that, and both had very good linebackers. Reid, Floodman, etc were beasts in 2005 and that LB corp in 2007 was even better! My favorite play of 2007 was when we stopped Javorsky Lane on 4th and inches at A&M!!!

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KGphoto 3 years, 1 month ago

LOVE the Javorsky memory. Thx for that.

For some reason, I remember Gordon as a corner/return guy before the offense pilfered him. Hmm. Maybe I'm getting old.

The other thing I remember is that as good as Mo, Rivera and Holt were, I never thought they were quite as dominant as Reid, Kane, Floodman. Maybe it's because they were being prized as the next "Reid, Kane, Flood". The bigger faster versions, and they only equalled the performance instead of surpassing it.

Dunno. But Reid, Kane, and Flood together in that order makes me think of Bruce Lee, being water and whipping the hell out of some would-be assassin with a cut of bamboo. A real reed-cane flood.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USlnfTGlhXc

Be water my friend. :-)

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troutsee 3 years, 1 month ago

Great job KGPhoto. You are on the ball.

I tell you what, guys....as the eternal optimist, it is difficult for me to be negative. However, we will have to fight for every win. If our QB situation was in better shape, I'd be a lot more optimistic. As for Turner Gill, I think his ability as a coach is yet to be determined. I think he is going to be considerably better than some of the posters on this board predict. One season means nothing, as we found out after 2008.

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