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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

KU defensive lineman Jordan Tavai proud of heritage

Kansas defensive lineman Jordan Tavai works against a practice dummy during defensive drills at the Fan Appreciation Day open practice Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive lineman Jordan Tavai works against a practice dummy during defensive drills at the Fan Appreciation Day open practice Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

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Kansas defensive lineman Jordan Tavai works against a practice dummy during defensive drills at the Fan Appreciation Day open practice Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

Jordan Tavai works out with defensive linemen Wednesday

Kansas junior Jordan Tavai (No. 9) works out with the defensive linemen at practice on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012.

Since arriving in Kansas on Aug. 10 for his first day of practices, Jordan Tavai has been busy telling teammates about his heritage.

“It’s kind of big to be Samoan, because most of the time when you’re Samoan, everyone thinks you’re a football player,” the defensive lineman said. “You’re supposed to be a big player. You’re supposed to be a playmaker and all. So I’m trying to be a playmaker.”

Tavai’s maternal grandmother came to the United States along with her siblings when she was 19 in hopes of getting a better education.

The Samoan part of Tavai’s family history has helped shape his football career.

“When you’re Samoan and you get to the field, you’re supposed to be aggressive. Your attitude is supposed to be different,” Tavai said. “You’re supposed to be known for being a good player on the defense. ... That’s what I do live up to.”

It hasn’t taken long for the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder to get noticed during KU practices.

After just a few times going against Tavai, KU offensive lineman Aslam Sterling already knows that the junior’s strength is being able to use his hands well.

“He moves them around a lot,” Sterling said. “For an offensive lineman, a guy that moves his hands a lot, they try to trick you.”

Slapping hands down also can result in getting offensive linemen off-balance.

“My hands are faster than the offensive lineman’s,” Tavai said, “so I can knock them down faster, and I can get around them faster.”

For now, the challenge for Tavai is getting caught up after arriving at camp late following the delayed completion of his final junior-college class.

Not only is Tavai behind physically, he also is still learning KU’s defensive play calls.

The biggest issue now is getting the play call from the sideline, then getting into the right place in time. He attends extra meetings with KU defensive-line coach Buddy Wyatt to try to learn all the formations.

“I’m lining up kind of slowly, but I’m getting used to that,” Tavai said last week. “That’s where the mental part gets in. The faster I line up, the faster I react to seeing the offense.”

Tavai played defensive end and defensive tackle at El Camino (Calif.) Community College, and KU coach Charlie Weis has said that Tavai is flexible enough to play both positions.

“I think Tavai is a fast-twitch guy,” KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo said. “I think he’s a guy that, especially inside ... some guys that aren’t great pass-rushers outside all of a sudden are really good inside, because you’re playing against more bulk but not quite as good of athletes in there.”

KU’s coaches have continued to move him around during practices.

Tavai, who also considered Texas Tech, Cal and Hawaii, received calls on the night before February signing day from schools trying to get him to change his commitment.

He stuck with KU because of Weis.

“He told me I was a little piece of this big puzzle,” Tavai said, “that could come together to fit to help turn this program around.”

Tavai’s goal is to be ready — both mentally and physically —for the team’s first game Sept. 1 against South Dakota State.

“I know his expectations are pretty high,” KU linebacker Schyler Miles said. “He’s depending on coming here and helping right away.”

Comments

SEsco10 1 year, 8 months ago

All I know is ONE. MORE WEEK TILL FOOTBALL!

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kujayhox 1 year, 8 months ago

i hope we can get a good pipeline started for bringing in samoan players. they are some of the best across the defensive and offensive line positions.

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Christopher Hauser 1 year, 8 months ago

Can anyone tell me what channel the first football game wil be on in Wichita, KS. I have Cox Communications. I looked around for a bit online but did not find anything. I am assuming channel 3, 2003?

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 8 months ago

What the article doesn't tell you is that, since he is wearing #9 on his jersey in the photo above, Jordan is our secret "Wildcat Quarterback."!!!

At 6'-3", 290 pounds, he would squash Tebow like a bug on the windshield!!

I appreciate Bangkok_ Jayhawk's enthusiasm, but realistically, any measure of improvement would be huge compared to last year's unit's performance. I think better coaching will make the difference.

I think the headline would have been vastly improved if they had simply added the word "Samoan" in front of heritage.

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HawksRockOut 1 year, 8 months ago

Who cares if they're on TV. I'll be at the games, baby!!!!!!

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CrimsonAndBlueForLife 1 year, 8 months ago

Meanwhile, it's been announced that our first three games are going to be on TV. The SDSU game will be on Jayhawk TV, the Rice game will be on FSN, and the TCU game will be on FX.

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JHWKDW 1 year, 8 months ago

Hey that is a good group of guys to get those Samoan Players!

There was a story about the players from American Samoa on 60 Minutes did anyone see that here? Was a interesting story on there.Alot of football scouts pro and college are looking at players there.YouTube that if you get the chance.

Heck they got a great player I think most Pro Football watchers know very well from there by the name of Troy Polamalu.

Nah The Pac-12 get players from there and so do other college conferences.Good to see them trying to get those talented Samoan players. Good Move Coach Weis.

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s6u6r6f 1 year, 8 months ago

Manuia! Ua ou fiafia ua ta feiloa'i!

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 1 year, 8 months ago

This defensive line WILL be significantly better.

1. Opurum and Josh Williams will combine to be the most talented end duo we have had here since Keith and Ashley.

2. John Williams coming back is not talked about nearly enough. That guy was good! He could have made a big difference.

3. Tavaii, McKinny, and Stowers are all three guys that seem to be on the fast track to be solid contributors.

4. Never underestimate a position group that doesn't really lose anyone. The fact that guys like Agostinho, Young, and Goodman are back a year stronger and wiser could result in better production from a few of our returners.

5. Holsopple... Defensive line is so heavily dependent on strength and conditioning. Maybe more than any other position?

I don't get the argument on this board from people who are saying the defensive line will not improve. In college sports, keeping the same guy in the program for another year usually makes them better. They are at that age where they are usually more talented every year just by learning and lifting. Add in 3 JUCO kids, a talented transfer, return John Williams, and a great S/C coach and you are going to speed up the improvement process!

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waywardJay 1 year, 8 months ago

As News Breaking...

  • The sun is Hot.

  • Johnny Cash sang Country and Western.

  • Jon Calipari is Sleazy.

Sorry, Great article on Tavai's Lineage, but... The title...

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