Sunday, May 26, 2013


Opinion: Kansas rushes to better D-line

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013.


Please keep in mind that when writing about football players who have not yet played a down in the Big 12, fingers tend to grow wickedly optimistic.

The residue of the thrilling years with a packed stadium watching Todd Reesing zigzagging all over the place until a receiver breaks free deep and doesn’t need to break stride to catch the quarterback’s perfect heave makes us crave more of the same.

The tendency is to equate what you want to happen with what you think will happen.

Now that you have been cautioned not to bet your Cadillac that Charlie Weis is on the brink of returning the Kansas University football program to the winning ways of Mark Mangino, proceed at your own risk.

Here goes: More than just the receiving unit appears ascending rapidly on a rags-to-riches path. If the only surprises are pleasant ones, by the year 2014, the Jayhawks’ defensive line could so thoroughly harass quarterbacks that it will be referred to for decades to come by its as-yet-created nickname a la the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain and Minnesota Vikings’ Purple People Eaters.

Reminder: We’re dealing in best-case scenario here, but there is smoke behind such a fiery hope.

Two of the four D-linemen counted on to reverse the fortunes of a program burdened in recent years by the quietest pass rush in the BCS drew loud praise from Weis during spring football. Their names are Chris Martin and Keon Stowers, who made his debut last season.

The other two, Andrew Bolton and Marquel Combs, are expected to join the program for summer conditioning.

Combs already has made a name for himself here. After he committed to Weis, he annointed himself the program’s unofficial lead recruiter of juco talent and even gave a Twitter nickname, “#DreamTeam2013,” to the class charged with turning the program into a winner. Combs has more than a mouth that he also uses to feed often enough to put 305 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. ranked him No. 10 juco recruit in the Class of 2013. (ESPN ranked him No. 1). A slew of SEC and Big 12 schools wanted him.

Bolton, so long and muscular, looks the most like the sort of defensive end you see flying at NFL quarterbacks. LSU might have stolen Bolton from KU if he had not suffered a knee injury during the 2012 season. Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma also reportedly also had interest in him at various points. Bolton has been clocked in the 40 at a swift 4.8 seconds. Rivals surely would have ranked Bolton higher than 91st had he not suffered the knee injury.

Martin, set to man the opposite end from Botlon, is a sculpted 6-5, 260 and has run the 40 in 4.65. Rivals ranked him 13th among juco recruits. During the spring, Weis said efforts to block Martin with one man were futile and added of Stowers that he was “ruining practice” by getting into the backfield so regularly.

Finally, a pass rush.


JHWKDW 4 years, 10 months ago

Well we got to try right? You cannot just throw up a white flag& surrender. Hey we have had success in the past at times, it is not like we never ever have had success at all.

I think HCCW will try his hardest to improve the team. In addition we have a good Defensive Coordinator.

Well lets hope to turn this thing around and at least get to .500 this season, or at least get 2 wins, and get a conference win.

Jim Erickson 4 years, 10 months ago

Aiming for the moon there! Haha... Unfortunatly you're right. 3-5 wins and a conference victory or two would be a massive improvement. I drank the punch last year and thought we could get to 6... 6 wins, having do several of them in this conference, is no small feat.

Jim Erickson 4 years, 10 months ago

Agree and disagree at the same time... Pass rushing is only one aspect of a good defensive line and the play of the line cannot be measured only by sacks. I'm not certain Weis is specifically recruiting elite pass rushers. There are many great pass rushers who are not complete players. After watching the defensive line from last year and seeing the type of player he recruits, it seems as though his approach is the following:

1. Stop the run.

2. Supply adequate pressure on the QB... Don't allow a pocket to form on every throw.

3. Be able to get the occasional sack and open holes for blitzing backers to do the same.

There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it doesn't look quite as sexy on the stat sheet. If we have a solid unit against the run, and are moderately disruptive against the pass... I'll take that. That would be a giant improvement.

Jim Erickson 4 years, 10 months ago

Another note on what I said above... Size is certainly not a perfect indicator but it is interesting to note that the size of the Kansas defensive ends has increased a lot over the last year. A 240-250 pound defensive end is more likely to have the wheels and motor needed to get to the QB while a 270-290 pound end is more likely to lock down the run, bull rush an offensive lineman to collapse a pocket, and make holes for a linebacker to get to the QB. Again... It's not bad, it's just different than the Charleton Keith type defensive end.

Jim Stauffer 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, we will have to wait and see the results, but Charleton Keith, as impressive as he was, had less size and speed than Chris Martin.

All Martin has to do is show he has the moxie and will to get it done that Keith had.

As the article indicates, CW has brought in guys who pass the eyeball test. Now they need to perform according to their looks.

stahlin 4 years, 10 months ago

I appreciate the article but it is painful to read. How do these sentence structures get past the editor? One run on sentence does not a paragraph make.

I can haz editor?

David Leathers 4 years, 10 months ago

Most local JUCOs have reading comprehension classes. I've heard that they aren't too expensice either!

actorman 4 years, 10 months ago

Why? Despairing about what you're going to do when the Legend retires?

kellerman411 4 years, 10 months ago

I'll admit that I do feel good about our defense. Let's not pretend though that they were in the gutter last year. I'm not sure that they were even the worst defense in the conference. In fact, I think in some ways they were middle of the road. At any rate, pass rush was definately missing.

Hopefully Heeney is meaner than he ever was and we get some good play out of our secondary.

Has anyone heard anything about Marquel Combs teammate? He's a linebacker and his last name is hyphenated. Is he here yet? He was supposed to be a beast.

texashawk10 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes the defense was improved last year compared to 2011, but they still weren't close to being a middle of the pack even within the conference. As far as the actual numbers, KU knocked 40 or 50 yards off their average ypg and a TD off their scoring defense. The rankings of where those improvements put KU puts into perspective just how bad the 2011 defense was. KU was 113 in ypg and 109 in scoring defense last year nationally and 9th and 8th respectively in those categories.

The defense made progress last year and anybody who can't see that doesn't know football. That still doesn't mean the defense was good or even average because the defense even with its improvements was still awful last year. YPG isn't as important to improve on as scoring defense to me so if the defense in 2013 can take another TD off their average and get it down to the 28-30 range, KU will have a chance to pull some upsets.

Doug Cramer 4 years, 10 months ago

Finally finally finally a pass rush . Good article.

Tom Keegan 4 years, 10 months ago

Marcus Jenkins-Moore had a heavy load of classes he needed to complete before coming to Kansas. At last check, he was on pace to get all the required work done. Jenkins-Moore is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so a little undersized but more than makes up for it with speed and great nose for the ball. According to Rivals list, he received scholarship offers from four Pac-12 schools and three SEC schools. I know everybody looks great on highlight films, but his really is an impressive one:

kellerman411 4 years, 10 months ago

Tom, you forgot to include your username and password.

Tom Keegan 4 years, 10 months ago

I guess that's password-protected. Sorry about that. Anyway, flies to the ball.

KGphoto 4 years, 10 months ago

210 sounds lean for a LB but McDougald could’ve played LB for us last year at 208. Fact is he will probably be assigned to anybody coming out of the backfield, and he should be a real nice answer to all the spreads, read-options and shallow gimmicky crap designed to get a guy in space. I expect to see a guy who hits like a LB and covers like a safety.

Randy Bombardier 4 years, 10 months ago

The thing that is deceptive about the whole pass rush thing is that most of OSU, OU, TTech and Baylor's passes are those quick screens or quick outs. The ball is outta their hands so fast I am not sure a pass rush will do much on those plays. Course getting to the outside with the DE quickly just might create some batting opportunities and maybe a pick or two.

Boouk 4 years, 10 months ago

Good point. I think Campo should play more press-man coverage next season so those spread offenses can't throw those quick screens to get their quick WR's in space. In Sendish, McDonald, and Shepard we should have the CB's to play up close to line of scrimmage and challenge WR's.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 10 months ago

Another nice change for us next year is that our CB's will be about as big as they have ever been. This should help with press coverage.

Andy Tweedy 4 years, 10 months ago

I sure hope it's the pass rush and not the guys blocking them, but I'm cautiously optimistic!

kay_you 4 years, 10 months ago

I think cautiously optimistic should be our motto. I've already adopted it as my personal mantra.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.