Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Switching it up: Kande confident in change from safety to linebacker

Kansas linebacker Prinz Kande, right, laughs with fellow linebacker Steven Johnson during football practice on Monday, April 18, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Prinz Kande, right, laughs with fellow linebacker Steven Johnson during football practice on Monday, April 18, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.


If you can look past his size and focus solely on the type of player he is, you’ll realize that Kansas University sophomore Prinz Kande really has been a linebacker all along.

Recruited to KU to play safety and once called the best defensive prospect on the team by a former assistant coach, Kande moved to linebacker during the offseason and spent the spring getting used to his new position. To his teammates, Kande seemed like a natural in his new spot.

“He was basically a linebacker at strong safety,” wide receiver Christian Matthews said. “He came down (to the line of scrimmage) a lot, so we got to (block) him anyway.”

To Kande, natural’s not quite the word.

“It’s a little bit different physically, but I’m getting the hang of it,” he said late during spring drills. “I’m a little more athletic, so I’m kind of using my speed and athleticism to my advantage.”

So far, no one knows that better than offensive lineman Jeff Spikes, who remembers salivating about the prospects for a pancake block during an encounter with the 5-foot-11, 190-pound linebacker during one scrimmage this spring.

“I came across him a couple of times but, you know, Prinz is an athlete, and he’s pretty quick,” Spikes said. “Whenever I’m blocking him, it’s, ‘Oh, I’m about to block you, I’m about to block you, I’m about to cut you,’ and then I see he ran around me. That’s pretty much what it is.”

The idea to shift Kande to linebacker came from head coach Turner Gill and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush. Set at safety with young, talented players Bradley McDougald, Keeston Terry and Lubbock Smith, the KU coaching staff deemed Kande physical enough to handle it and fast enough to add much-needed speed to the linebacking corps. Kande admitted to having one serious worry when he heard the news.

“That was the first concern, ‘Am I big enough to be able to take on those linemen inside?’” he said. “I’m usually a team player, so anything to help the team, but inside my head, I was like, ‘Man.’ But it’s not as bad as it seems.”

Kande’s quickness will allow the Jayhawks to drum up different defensive schemes to take advantage of his skill-set. Because he’s used to pass defense, Kande most often has been used against spread formations, where he has been asked to cover tight ends or slot receivers.

“I like hitting, it’s just that I need to get stronger to be able to take on what a linebacker takes on,” he said. “I’m not used to coming downhill and taking on a big fullback, but I like hitting. I enjoy doing that.”

That Kande has been able to hold his own while switching positions is impressive because of his background. After moving to Texas from France at age 11, he didn’t start playing football until seventh grade.

He went on to become a star at Euless Trinity High, and that led to scholarship offers from Kansas, New Mexico and Wisconsin, as well as serious interest from about two dozen other programs.

At the time, the idea of paying for college through athletics was a dream come true for Kande’s family. So, to them, it didn’t matter what position Kande played or if he was the star of the team or not. The funny thing is, all these years later, it still doesn’t. In fact, midway through spring drills, Kande still hadn’t even told his family that he had changed positions.

“I told a couple of my friends that go to other schools,” he said. “But my mom doesn’t really know that much about football. If I told her, she’d just be like, ‘OK. What position is that?’ We’re not from here, so we’re not really used to football. She loves the sport, but she doesn’t really know what’s going on. All she knows is touchdown and this and that.”

His mom may not know much about the switch, but Kande’s teammates do, and many of them believe Kande found the right spot to become a playmaker.

“Once he gets over that mental factor, he can accomplish it,” Spikes said. “Football is football. Once he lets himself open up, I’m pretty sure he’ll be really good. He has it.”


ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 12 months ago

Speed = 190 pound linebacker

Holy cow, we are going to get killed this year!

waywardJay 6 years, 12 months ago

Yeah, He's undersized. Doesn't mean he can't be there as a Senior though.

We can hope he gets up to 205-210 by august..... maybe 230 to start next year as a Junior ( and a likely starter. )

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 12 months ago

Ummmmmmm many a Saturday last fall were spent with you online chatting and never once did you mention your support for our teams strength and conditioning. What in particular gives you confidence with "big John"

Cmill1221 6 years, 12 months ago

This kid is a good athletic talent and could be a good outside linebacker or situational guy. its just sucks for him that he is going to need to suffer through the Turner Gill era and never play a meaningful game at KU.

Andy Tweedy 6 years, 12 months ago

Do you have some sort of app that alerts you to football stories on this site? I am amazed at your reaction time when it comes to KU football articles!

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 12 months ago

Live on west coast so most of the time the articles are posted when I'm wasting time at night.

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 12 months ago

Top responses to my post

Yeah but... If he only does... Just wait until... Maybe, just maybe... In a few years... This comment has been removed...

waywardJay 6 years, 12 months ago

He's currently listed as the strong side back up... Without Tunde Bakare listed on the two deep.... Prinz is going to get a year or so to grow into this position.

His size is only relevant this year if he plays..... Which barring injury he will only be on special teams.

You act like he's going to be playing every down of every game.

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years, 12 months ago

You guys are aware that at some point these "speed" guys are going to have to tackle someone. And in our conference that guy is more than likey to be just as fast and twice as big.

Lonnie Ross Dillon 6 years, 12 months ago

Given the option of believing his players, his bosses, his competitors and his peers (all of which say he is a great coach) versus you who has what experience exactly...?

Lighten up.

Bradly Moore 6 years, 12 months ago

Would you please stop posting Ahperse. It is fair weather fans like you that need to get away from our sports teams. Why don't you try being positive and stop bashing the football team. I am sure that you won't have anything to say when we start making it to bowl games.

Jayhawk1116 6 years, 12 months ago

Dude, he isn't even a fair weather fan. He'd bitch if we won the national championship by only 3 points.

Kevin Studer 6 years, 12 months ago

I agree Apherse can be a bit much to handle (one-note "Gill sucks" posts every single time). But honestly, it is no less repetitive and ingenuine than a lot of the "We are going to be awesome! Gill is the man" repeaters. People should be able to post what they think

jayhawkinATL 6 years, 12 months ago

Yep, blockers will be salivating to see him in their way!!!

Dirk Medema 6 years, 12 months ago

The current roster lists Prinz as 6-0, 194, which makes him 20 lbs shy of all-conference Lavonte David. Unfortunately, 20lbs. is the mentality of the difference between all-conference and getting killed.

Fortunately, there is a lot more to the game than just the weight of the player. Glad to see that Gill is working with players to get them into the best position for them and the team to be successful.

fromthatstandpoint 6 years, 12 months ago

Indeed, and don't forget that David plays in the middle, not on the edge.

KCHawk81 6 years, 12 months ago

Speed = speed. You can either play or you can't. If Kande can remain on the 2-deep till September, more power to him. If not, have him hit the gym (and the buffet line) for a few months. Don't forget we'll also be adding slightly less-undersized JUCO junior Tunde Bakare (5-11, 215, 4.37) at LB in the fall.

KCHawk81 6 years, 12 months ago

And walk-on junior Isaac Wright (6-3, 245), who was also offered a preferred walk-on spot at Arkansas.

fromthatstandpoint 6 years, 12 months ago

"Teams have gotten away from those big backers because there's more emphasis on speed and blitzing and coverage and not taking on blockers. Size is only a plus if you are athletic." Quote from an NFC general manager on the trend for smaller LB in the NFL.

Mentioned above is LaVonte David who has picked up some preseason All-American talk for Nebraska. He is apparently hoping to play at about 220 this year after playing at 210-215 last year. IIRC, he played middle linebacker, not OLB. The Pelini's apparently wanted the speed more than the bulk, but what do they know about defense?

Auburn apparently did the same thing (i.e., move a safety to OLB).

I would think that, considering the type of offenses that KU will face, speed at OLB is probably more important than size anyway.

stravinsky 6 years, 12 months ago

My first thought was pretty similar to Spikes': that kid is gonna be on his back on half the plays. But with the offensive trends in the Big 12, it might not be as bad as the knee-jerk reaction would imply. Teams are running single back sets much more, opting for a three-wide + tight end or four-wide a large percentage of the time. For these sets, having a linebacker who looks (and covers) more like a safety is going to come in handy. The main worry is going to be when teams scheme to get Kande matched up with a pulling offensive guard. Not sure he's going to be able to pick up the lead blocker very well on those sorts of plays, but he ideally won't have to see many of those. I imagine Kande will be more of a long yardage, second and third down sub.

Kman_blue 6 years, 12 months ago

Just think Willie Pless, for those that don't know him: . He didn't have any problems with pulling linemen or taking on 300lbs. OT's, because he went around, underneath, and over the top of them. He never took them on directly because he didn't have to with his speed and determination. Now, Willie was just something special and it's not fair to compare Kande to him, but the point is smaller LB's can be really good LB's if they use their quickness and speed to avoid having to take on big OL directly like a more traditional LB does, and have a knack for the ball. I think Kande is a player and he'll pan out at whatever position they put him at.

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