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Originally published August 8, 2013 at 11:46p.m., updated August 9, 2013 at 04:05a.m.

Versatile KU lineman Lewandowski shifts spots again, to center

Kansas offensive lineman Pat Lewandowski stares down the line as he and his teammates run through warmups during the first day of football practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas offensive lineman Pat Lewandowski stares down the line as he and his teammates run through warmups during the first day of football practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

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Near the end of spring football drills in April, Kansas University junior Pat Lewandowski gave a quick assessment of how he felt about being penciled in as the team’s first-string left tackle just a year after moving over from the defensive line.

First day of KU football practice

Kansas football players go through drills on the first day of practice on Aug. 8, 2013.

KU TE Jimmay Mundine says extra throwing sessions, golf have helped him bond with QB Jake Heaps

Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine believes that extra time with quarterback Jake Heaps in the summer will pay off in 2013. He talked to reporters on Aug. 8, 2013.

“The transition has been great,” the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Lewandowski said at the time. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I’m loving my position. Life is great.”

A few weeks later, life and everything else related to football became substantially tougher when Lewandowski was moved to yet another position by the KU coaching staff.

Call it the Toben Opurum Effect, where a selfless player with loads of talent and athletic ability looks good in so many different spots that it becomes difficult to pinpoint where he can help the most.

“I don’t know what you want to label it,” Lewandowski said Thursday. “But I go where I’m needed.”

This latest chapter in the Blue Valley West graduate’s football life, which features him opening fall camp as KU’s No. 1 center, began in late spring, when KU coach Charlie Weis approached Lewandowski about making the move from left tackle to center. The idea originally came from KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus, and both Weis and Lewandowski needed some time to absorb the shift.

“They said, ‘This is gonna be a huge shock to you,’” Lewandowski recalled. “And it was even a huge shock to Coach Weis when it was first brought to him. Coach Powlus presented the idea and it just kind of went from there.”

Although Lewandowski’s two offensive line positions have distinctly different roles and responsibilities, he said the transition had gone smoothly because of the way he chose to learn the left tackle spot last spring. Instead of focusing only on his duties, Lewandowski picked up the entire playbook and learned what each O-Line position did in any given situation. His understanding of all five spots provided him with a head start. And he spent the summer trying to get comfortable with the snap as well as reading coverages and defensive fronts.

“Pat and I have worked closely this offseason, and it’s really been fun working with him and developing that chemistry,” said KU quarterback Jake Heaps. “He’s been all-in. And just being around a guy that wants to get better and do anything he can to help this program has been great. With a guy like that, it doesn’t matter where you put him, he’s gonna excel.”

Weis cited Lewandowki’s big frame and intelligence as the biggest reasons he signed off on Powlus’ idea, but it was something much simpler that won his approval.

“It’s nice to be able to see somebody give a shotgun snap and land it in the quarterback’s hands,” Weis said. “That’s a good place to start.”

Sophomore Dylan Admire and junior-college transfer Mike Smithburg spent the spring working at center, but Admire always has been a bit undersized and Smithburg struggled with the snap. With Smithburg better suited to play guard and Admire already comfortable as a quality depth guy, the door was open for Lewandowski and he jumped through it. Although KU’s new center has not gone against a live defense just yet, Heaps said he felt Lewandowski had learned the ins and outs of the position well. The two spent countless hours working on snaps this summer, ripping off more than 100 a day, four days a week. In addition, Lewandowski also said he spent time snapping to a spot on a wall five yards behind him while critiquing himself in front of a mirror throughout the snap.

“I think he’s there,” Heaps said. “At left tackle, he was helping make calls, so he fit into the position of center and he is the leader of this offensive line.”

Just the mere thought of that still kind of blows Lewandowski’s mind. For starters, he played offensive line for just one season in high school and, even then, he was a right tackle. Beyond that, he never thought he would enjoy playing offense again after experiencing the thrills of being a hard-charging defensive end known for putting offensive players on their backs.

“It’s not something I was particularly looking forward to, but I was gonna do it for the team,” said Lewandowski of moving from defense to offense in the first place. “Then it turned into something I really enjoyed, especially because I got to study (former Jayhawk) Tanner Hawkinson for a year and work with (O-Line) coach (Tim) Grunhard. It really fits my competitiveness. It really draws me in to line head-up against that one person and you’re trying to beat him every time. No matter what he does, you have the ability to stop that. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Comments

okiedave 8 months, 1 week ago

These are just photos, but based on recent photos of OU and OSU linemen in the Tulsa World, these Hawks look on the small side. If appearances are correct, hope they have a lot of quickness to even things out.

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danno1313 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's hit some defensive lines in the mouth this season, BIG FELLAS!

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shelleysue 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I am counting down the days until September 7. Can't wait to see the 2013 Jayhawks!

On another note, KU football received some more press. Charlie made ESPN's #1 and #2 worst quotes from all the conferences media days.

My wish is that this team and coaching staff take all this crap as a mountain of motivation and show the country that we aren't the laughing stock people paint us to be. Oh, that would be a happy day.

Rock Chalk!

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Ryan Shelton 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Center is a thinking man's position. The center is responsible for calling out defensive alignments and making sure the whole line is on the same page, meaning he must know everybody's blocking assignment, not just his own. There's a reason Mike Webster (RIP) was the best center of all time, and it wasn't his size. It appears Lewandowski has put in the skull sessions and will adapt rapidly. I

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NebraskaJayhawk 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Matt-

After today, you'll have a chance to see what our OL looks like after two practices. This is the most area of concern I have for this upcoming season. Can you give a run down of how the O-Line looks? Also, Christian Matthews is getting some high praise from Weis. Is it deserved? Do you really think he has the ability to be a quality receiver entering his senior season? I'm just concerned if Matthews is our #1 receiver...what does that really mean?

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vd 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Admire came in as a highly touted, local, smart lineman. He was probably a dominant HS player because he was bigger then all his opponents. Once in college, the opponents are his size and he can't just manhandle them. Recruiting for college is such a crap shoot. You can never tell if a kid will grow or if his growth cycle is done. Sometimes the 190 lb. HS recruit turns out being a better college lineman then the 290 lb. recruit.

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vd 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Rudy Niswanger played center for the Chiefs a few years ago. He was 6'5" 301lbs. The biggest complaint about him was that he was too BIG to play center. So our coaching staff is moving a 6'5" 298 lb. guy to center, because Admire is not big enough. What? Do they think this will make it easier for the QB to see down field? If Admire is too small to play center, what position can he play? Is he switching to LB? The truth has to be that Admire and Smithburg are not doing well.

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jayhawkintexas 8 months, 2 weeks ago

On another subject--does anyone know if Dave Campo is happy at KU? Haven't heard anything but just wondering. Hey Matt-- how about an article on the coaches wives? What are their interests, do they do charity work, what impresses them about KU/Lawrence, etc. The wives are an important part of KU also and might be nice to give them some love and appreciation.

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Keith Hummel 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I guess Weis had no choice, but this sure makes me nervous. Lewandowski has never had to snap the ball with an opposing defensive tackle in his face, so no one knows for sure how he'll do under game pressure. I'll be holding my breath for the first couple of games.

I will say this though, we have some size on our offensive line. With Lewandowski at center the average height on our OL (according to my calculations) will be 6-4 and the average weight will be 305. The average OL weight for the Big-12 last year (according to http://sportsnola.com/sports/sports-blogs/rene-nadeau/585378-size-matters-sometimes-a-look-at-college-footballs-offensive-lines.html) was 304lbs. And these guys have been Holsoppled so you know it's not dead weight.

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akgjenkintown 8 months, 2 weeks ago

If they ever do a retrospective piece on Weis and his successful stent at KU, this quote pretty much sums up how he tells it like it is;

“It’s nice to be able to see somebody give a shotgun snap and land it in the quarterback’s hands,” Weis said. “That’s a good place to start.”

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Jonathan Allison 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I found myself watching a lot more O-Line play than usual last night as Hawkinson and Collins formed quite the wall on the left side of the O-Line for the Bengals in the preseason game against Atlanta.

Was very impressed with Hawkinson too, they ran a touchdown play where they pulled him from left guard to lead through the hole on the right side and he flattened some linebacker to clear the way for the TD.

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jaybate 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Since some recent all-pro NFL centers have been around 6-4 and 305 (I just checked, since I havent kept track of the game for quite awhile), I would guess a 6-5 295 pound D1 center capable of accurate shotgun snaps would be nearly guarantied an NFL career, especially since Lewandowski would almost certainly fill out to 305-310, as a professional. Other than the onerous risk of knee injury to centers, plus the endless head slapping centers probably still get, Powlus and Weiss may just have done Lewandowski the biggest favor possible--ensure him an NFL paycheck. It appears his bicepts need a lot of work to handle the brutes on NFL defenses, but that would seem within his control to develop.

Every position from center to tackle is critical for an offensive football team, but the great teams seem always to often have one great tackle, one great guard and one great center. He seems too small for a great tackle without loading on the weight to a point of heart risk. And maybe not enough of a bruiser to pull and trap in an overpowering way. But if he were to build up his currently uncut wings 20% (assuming he is #61 in the picture), and add 15 pounds along the way, they might as well stamp him NFL Prime Cut.

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Ron Prichard 8 months, 2 weeks ago

My fear is that when he gets into a game or live action it becomes much harder to focus on the snap instead of the guy lined up across from you. When your focus shifts is when mistakes happen and snaps can become erratic. I played a little as an undersized center in high school one season and it was not my natural position. To me that was the biggest struggle. Of course I was no where near as good as anyone playing college football so hopefully my fears are unfounded.

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Jim Erickson 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Really though he would latch on as a defensive end. Another position switch means his probability of making an impact is going down. Aside from Toben Opurum, multiple switches doesn't usually end well.

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Jay Dogger 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Oy vey... Well, at least they made this decision before the season begins. He seems like a heck of a guy; let's hope having a first-time Center works out. Seems a bit scary to me.

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