Friday, September 6, 2013


Opinion: Questions surround O-line at Kansas


Every starting Kansas University offensive lineman who looks either to his immediate left or right from his position on the field will see an O-line face that was unfamiliar to him as recently as last winter.

Right tackle Zach Fondal, a 6-foot-5, 295 pound junior from Houston by way of Navarro College, looks left and sees Mike Smithburg, a 6-3, 300-pound junior from Fairfield, Iowa, by way of Iowa Western Community College, who looks left and sees 6-5, 295-pound junior Pat Lewandowski from Blue Valley West High. Moving on down the line, Ngalu Fusimalohi, 6-2, 310 from Daly City, Calif., and San Francisco City College, sees Aslam Sterling, 6-5, 315, from Springfield Garden, N.Y., and Nassau Community College on his left.

Five men from five different states weighing an average of 303 pounds.

Continuity, which leads to chemistry, is of paramount importance for an offensive line, or so say those who coach teams that keep their lines together for long stretches.

In that regard, the KU O-line works at a disadvantage early in the season. A microwave doesn’t develop chemistry. Only time does in slow-bake fashion.

Senior guard Randall Dent, a starter in the final 10 games of last season, begins the season on the second team, a strong sign that coach Charlie Weis is pleased with the development of Fusimalohi and Smithburg. Brian Beckmann, a 6-6, 300-pound red-shirt freshman from Blue Valley West High, was so impressive in fall camp he moved to the top among reserve tackles.

The makeup of the line is not without serious questions. For one, Sterling has to perform better as a pass-blocker than he did against Ben Goodman and Michael Reynolds in the intrasquad scrimmage a few weeks ago. Lewandowski must make a smooth transition to center. And then there is the issue of three juco-transfer starters in their first year of Div. I football.

On the encouraging side, coaches and players consistently use the word “physical” to describe the identity of this line. Isn’t that just a code word for nasty?

“Yeah,” featured running back James Sims said. “I would say, yeah. They’re nasty up front, definitely.”

Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson started all of his 48 games at KU. He, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli combined to make 110 starts at KU and must be replaced.

“A lot of people try to compare the offensive line from last year to this year,” Sims said. “I mean, in my eyes, it’s like the same, if not this year’s is more physical than last year’s.”

Tony Pierson called the new, massive quarterback bodyguards and running back aids “good blockers, I don’t see a drop-off. Tanner’s gone, starting all four years and bringing leadership, but other than that, I don’t see a drop-off.”

Run-blocking and pass-blocking?

“Either/or,” Pierson said.

If those words prove accurate, credit the coaching staff with an impressive recruiting job done up front.


Ralster Jayhawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Ive said it before, but as a football fan, I learned a bitter lesson watching the Trent Green-era Chiefs squander a beautiful O-line and superbowl-caliber offense by not having a defense. Then, slowly the Oline guys retired, or got hurt, and the replacements werent as good, and so we saw the KC ground game suffer, and we saw Trent Green running around for his life, get a major concussion, and basically lost his job and career because of it. There is a reason NFL QBs take really, really good care of their O-linemen. They are the key to a football team's success, and you also do need a defense. Im stoked to see what ProBowler Tim Grunhard can do with coaching up an O-line!


Jason Sinclair 7 months, 2 weeks ago

TK makes a great point about Dent. Almost invariably, when a previous starter is supplanted by newcomers, it's an indication of a talent upgrade. There is legitimate hope that, overall, we have guys with more potential than we had last year.

For the same reason, however, I don't hold out much hope with respect to improvement on the DL - but would welcome being surprised.

If this OL proves to just be serviceable, and Heaps lives up to the hype, then this offense could be lethal.

Can't wait to find out.


eastcoasthawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Less than 36 hours and we will see many of our questions answered. Getting psyched. RCJH!


Dyrk Dugan 7 months, 2 weeks ago

nowhere to go but up. we've won three football games the past two years...and none vs. league schools. so if the offensive line had so much chemistry because of the experience factor, then it means very little....because it didn't produce.

raw talent and physical skills are probably right now improved. whether or not that means a better offensive line unit is unknown, but i say again, it has to start somewhere....because what we had before, didn't work.


Boouk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

If Aslam Sterling can handle the transition to the blind side, this OL will be at least solid by conference play barring injury.


Brett McCabe 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I almost changed my handle to Heisenberg for this comment....

I do wish that we had another game prior to Rice for this unit, actually the whole team, to build chemistry and tweak some things. This year we'll be able to witness the type of coaching that Grunhard can offer. If he builds a strong O-Line this season, things will be looking up for KU football in a huge, huge way.


Jim Stauffer 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's not knock last year's guys. Zlat, Tanner and Marrongelli gave us the second best unit on the entire team, topped only running backs. These were good guys who gave a lot. Think what those guys would have been with 4 years of Holsopple.


Andy Tweedy 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Could somebody please explain the microwave reference to me?


Janet Scott 7 months, 2 weeks ago

O-line? What O-line? This group will either be magnificent or look like they should be back-ups on a junior high flag football team. And South Dakota (a barber and beauty school) will not provide the test to determine what we can expect from this group.

By the way, will the KU band again be wearing those hideous, K-Mart brand, black uniforms that give KU the image of a poor second rate juco college?


Cmill1221 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Honestly, I don't think we were replacing much. Yes they were experienced and had a lot of starts but in the 48 games Hawkinson started, how many were wins? I look for this year to be an improved squad across the board. Even if they aren't as good of run blockers as last year, the fact that we have a passing game (hopefully) should make a big difference.


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