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April 11, 2012

Spring Look: Defensive Line

Today, we'll try to get an early look at the defensive line and how the incoming players will fit in.

This article will probably be a little slanted towards the transfers coming into the program. We aren't trying to overlook the current linemen, but the coaches are making it pretty obvious where the direction of that group is going. To prove that point, just read what Charlie Weis had to say about the media requesting defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt for an interview last week.

"If you guys interviewed Buddy Wyatt then that was one of the most wasted interviews in the history of mankind," Weis said. "What he is trying to tell you is that, 'I am going to go out there and coach the heck out of whoever I have right here, but until the calvary gets here the whole complexion of the defensive line is going to change.'"

"All of a sudden you take five junior college or fifth-year players, a freshman and a couple of guys that have been hurt and haven't been going all spring, throw them into the mix and you have a couple of guys on the two-deep that are playing right now that are not going to even been in the two-deep (come the fall)."

"Everyone else is going to be running three's, so his hair is getting real grey right now because he is doing a lot of practice coaching, but that's what we do this time of year. That is what recruiting is all about and fortunately we hit the nail on the head on with that one. We have some good players that are on their way at that position."

Before we start, not that we are going to really touch on anything too sophisticated for this article, but here is a good basic article just explaining defensive line techniques and gaps.

To begin let's look at the nose tackle position which arguably was one of the biggest weaknesses for Kansas last year after John Williams went down with an injury early in the season. Williams is recovering nicely from his torn ACL and is slated to be back full strength by the fall. Still, I think junior college transfer Ty McKinney is going to give Williams a tough battle for that spot. At Trinity Valley CC, they played in a 4-3 defense and used McKinney as a three technique tackle. His biggest strength was stopping the run.

"We see him as our nose," Wyatt said. "I could see him being a strong interior guy and he has some athleticism."

The other two junior college transfers are Keon Stowers and Jordan Tavai. Wyatt said they are both similar in their size and athletic ability. Last season at El Camino C.C., Tavai mostly played as a three technique in a 4-3 defense. He was also highly effective when his coaches moved him out to strong end to go up against offensive tackles in pass rushing situations.

"I am excited about Jordan because I think he has a lot of quick twitch," Wyatt said. "We got to get the best four guys on the field and I would be surprised if he wasn't one of those four guys."

Stowers was a defensive tackle in a 3-3-5 system at Georgia Military. Stowers may have initially been overlooked because he was playing alongside one of the best junior college nose guards in Daniel McCullers who would eventually commit to Tennessee. The Georgia Military coaches liked to move Stowers around on stunts and slants to utilize his quickness. Even though Tavaii and Stowers are a similar type of player, the coaches have hinted that they might try to find ways to get them on the field at the same time.

"They can play multiple positions but we really won't know until they get here," Wyatt said.

A lot the different defensive line combinations depend on where Nebraska transfer Josh Williams ends up. While he played mostly strongside defensive end at Nebraska, the coaches want to see his speed before they pigeonhole him into one spot. Don't be surprised if he competes with Toben Opurum for a spot as a pass rushing end.

"Josh may be a little bit better pass rusher than people think," Wyatt said. "I think he could play the strong or the rush end. We are going to give him that opportunity to see which position he bests fits into."

Among the other possible defensive tackle/strongside defensive end candidates, obviously, Pat Lewandowski, Kevin Young, Shane Smith, and Keba Agostinho will be fighting for spots on the two deep. Again, the coaches aren't commenting too much on how current players are performing after several practices so we'll give these guys a closer look after the spring game.

A player who could be in the mix for playing time as the pass rushing defensive end is sophomore Michael Reynolds. While on the last depth chart released he was listed backing up Tunde Bakare as a strongside linebacker, he has been working out with the defensive linemen during drills. Toben Opurum is still likely to see most of the snaps at that position. Last week, Opurum said he was excited to see some of the new wrinkles when he got the defensive playbook.

"We started looking at some of the blitz packages that we had and I was seeing me drop into coverage a little more than I did in the past," Opurum said. "Guys get excited for it because it is a new opportunity to show what you are capable of."



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