Smart guys tend to give original answers that buck convention.
Ask veteran manager Bobby Valentine how SportsCenter has changed baseball and don’t expect him to grouse that it has turned players into swing-for-the-fences selfish showboats, as some might believe.
“It has led to better swings,” Valentine answered when I asked him the question a dozen years or so ago. “Players watch SportsCenter and every swing they see is a home run. They see hitters finishing their swings up and they model that swing.”
Ask many football coaches to describe the personality traits of offensive linemen as opposed to D-linemen and many will describe a maniacal defender and a cerebral blocker.
Not Kansas University head coach Charlie Weis. Boring, unoriginal conversation doesn’t interest him.
“Defensive coaches always say, ‘Well, when they’re not good enough athletes they go over and play offense,’” Weis said. “Actually, the best offensive linemen are guys who play with a defensive mentality. If you think about all the really great offensive linemen you can think of, they’re all really nasty players.”
Randall Dent, as recently as spring football one of the last players on the team anybody could have guessed would be one of the 22 starters by Week 3 of this season, brought that edge to offensive guard when he crossed the line of scrimmage from defensive tackle in the summer.
Projected starting right tackle Riley Spencer’s out for the season with a knee injury, which necessitated Gavin Howard moving from guard to tackle. Junior college transfer Aslam Sterling, who backs up at tackle and guard on the right side, has a high ceiling, but still has a lot to learn and hasn’t yet had the benefit of Division I strength-and-conditioning offseasons.
Dent doesn’t have it all figured out yet, but he quickly worked his way onto the first team.
“I think the fact that he’s been able to move ahead of guys who have played that position on a regular basis says a lot about Randall Dent,” Weis said. “I’ve been very pleased with Randall Dent’s progress and he just keeps getting better.”
The roster was short of D-tackles in the spring or Weis would have shifted Dent to offense then. He’s like a student with a final every day, forever cramming.
“Randall, if he has one weakness, he’s still learning the system and the intricacies of offensive line, but he more than makes up for it with his effort and his toughness,” offensive line coach Tim Grunhard said. “He’s really aggressive. Sometimes too aggressive. ... When he really gets a feel for what’s going on it’ll be fun to watch him play because he still hesitates at times because he’s thinking, and when you hesitate, you get beat.”
Dent’s surrounded by center Trevor Marrongelli and Howard, “two of the smartest guys on the team,” according to quarterback Dayne Crist.
“Everything happens so fast we really can talk without even talking,” Howard said of helping Dent during a play. “I can just mumble one word. I could say ‘right,’ or ‘deuce’ or ‘ace’ and he knows what he’s supposed to do on that play.”
Dent has the effort and nasty sides down, but he’s far from a polished offensive lineman.
“It’s a whole different ballgame,” Dent said. “It’s more technical. Defense, you can kind of run around and be out of control and that’s a good thing. Offense, you have to be more mentally focused. That’s the transition I’m kind of working on.”
As Kansas football attempts to make the transition from national laughing stock to respectability, aggressive hard workers such as Dent come in handy.