Jayhawks’ defensive line waiting for ‘cavalry’

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Want to know what’s more difficult than stepping in to coach a new group of players you only have seen play on film?

Try coaching a group of players who might not be anywhere on the field when the season rolls around.

That’s the situation Kansas University defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt finds himself in this spring. Although there are a handful of defensive linemen with legitimate experience participating in spring drills, KU coach Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Dave Campo have made no secret of the fact they identified upgrading KU’s defensive line as one of their top priorities this offseason. What’s more, both have been more than happy to talk about the group of D-linemen who are on the way.

“If you guys interviewed Buddy Wyatt, that was one of the most wasted interviews in the history of mankind,” Weis said. “Because what he’s trying to tell you is, ‘I’m going to go out there and coach the heck out of whoever I have, but until the cavalry gets here, the whole complexion of the defensive line is going to change.’ You have a couple of guys on the two-deep that are playing right now that are even gonna be in the two-deep (this fall). Everyone else is going to be running threes.”

With five defensive linemen — three junior-college players, a freshman and a fifth-year senior transfer — set to join the Jayhawks in June, it is expected that many of KU’s starters have yet to set foot on campus. But because those guys are not here yet, Wyatt must work with what he has, and those players must do what they can to solidify their spots before the reinforcements arrive.

Weis said last week that most jobs could not be won outright in the spring. Players can only put themselves in position to be the guy, he said. Campo agreed and said that was the danger of putting too much stock into what goes on in April.

“It’s hard to evaluate where we’re at with that position because a lot of guys are still coming in who we’re counting on to help us,” Campo said of KU’s D-line. “It’s an ongoing process. Are we where we need to be right now? Probably not. Are there a couple of guys in that group that might have a chance to help us? Yes.”

Williams on the mend

One player who has been limited this spring is Tulsa, Okla., defensive tackle John Williams, a junior who started KU’s first two games in 2011 before a torn ACL left him sidelined for the season. At the time, Williams was one of the few bright spots on KU’s depleted defensive line.

Wyatt said recently that Williams quickly was returning to his pre-injury form.

“John really had made a lot of progress up until the time he got hurt,” Wyatt said. “I was really pleased with the way John was playing last year. I don’t think he will drop off any. As a matter of fact, I think he will improve. He’s got size, he’s very flexible, he’s athletic, he runs good for a big guy. I think John will be OK.”

Lopsided at the top

Although eight spring practices hardly represent enough time to make a full evaluation of a team, Weis offered up his take on where KU’s offense and defense stood midway through spring drills.

According to KU’s first-year head coach, the first-string offense and second-string defense have the advantage.

“If you look at the first offense and the first defense, it’s a landslide,” Weis said. “Then you look at the second offense and the second defense, there’s also a landslide the other way. So what is that telling you? It’s telling you that the front-line guys on offense are pretty good, but you don’t have much depth. And it’s telling you, on defense, that these kids that are coming in the summer better be pretty good, because if they’re not, then my hair is going to turn completely white in a hurry.”