Laptad grows into role

Eight meals a day bulked up KU lineman

Friday, September 14, 2007

Special teams coming up big for KU

Through the first two games of the season, the Jayhawks' special teams unit has been nothing short of fantastic.

Go ahead and call Jake Laptad a pig. For a while there, he couldn't argue.

Kansas University's freshman defensive end was merely a toothpick one year ago, at least by defensive-lineman standards. Finishing up his senior season at Jenks (Okla.) High, Laptad weighed 212 pounds. His 6-foot-4 frame was ready for more weight, and Laptad's college career depended on it.

So what did he do?

Pigged out.

"I ate a meal every two hours," Laptad said.

It added up to eight meals a day, many of them coming when food sounded like the grossest thing in the world to him.

Laptad also hit the weights hard in the winter and spring, arriving in Lawrence ready to work even more in the summer program under strength coach Chris Dawson.

So it's no surprise that Laptad was up to 238 pounds by the time preseason camp started. Furthermore, it's a little more understandable that Laptad is going to skip a red shirt, now that he looks the part of a defensive end.

"We knew he had a great frame, and we knew we could build him up," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "The thing that's really interesting about Jake is he took this summer bridge program and workout program very seriously.

"Very dedicated young man, a little bit mature for his years, and our strength and conditioning coaches just rant and rave about his work ethic in the weight room. We knew he was going to be a really good player. Whether he was going to be ready or big or strong enough this year, we didn't know."

Laptad has played meaningful snaps from the start, working in third-down bandit packages as a pass-rushing end. He has four tackles (1 1/2 for a loss) on the season and a nifty pass break-up against Southeastern Louisiana, where he knocked down a throw at the line of scrimmage.

Most recruits go to college aiming to play right away. In the case of many players in KU's 2007 signing class, it was part of what lured them to Lawrence.

Laptad wasn't in the same boat.

"I wasn't sure," Laptad said. "At first, I was planning on red-shirting. But after I put on all that weight and came up here, I just did my best."

Laptad had added considerable depth to the defensive-end position, an area thought to be one of KU's weaknesses before the season. With John Larson performing well starting with Russell Brorsen, Laptad and Jeff Wheeler give the two a third-down break. Another end, Maxwell Onyegbule, played in the bandit against Southeastern Louisiana as an outside linebacker in a two-point stance.

Of those, only Laptad entered the summer unsure of whether he'd have a role in 2007. But as Mangino insists, Laptad put himself in the position to make an immediate contribution.

It's all paying off now.

"When he showed up here he looked pretty good, and he continued to bust his tail all summer," Mangino said. "We think he's really talented. We're really high on him. He's a really good player now, and we think he's got a great future here."