Defensive tackle, like defensive end, has been a position where Kansas hasn't been overly successful at getting back to the level of production that they enjoyed during the Orange Bowl season of 2007. Plain and simple a good defensive line helps tremendously in terms of solidifying a defense and for a variety of reasons Kansas has lacked depth and consistency at the position.
Last year it had a lot to do with depth, it also on some level had to do with recruiting misses, player departures and some, who are no longer on the roster, just never quite getting on track. There were some reliable options that emerged fortunately and those contributors return again this year. The concern however is that there isn't much in the way of depth. A four man defensive tackle rotation is doable, but in a program that needs competition four or five options might be as deep as it goes. It's just a question of who and how well they step up.
Patrick Dorsey - 6' 273 - Senior(92)
Dorsey could probably be described as the most consistent player at the position a year ago earning the starting spot early despite being very clearly and undersized player. Yes Kansas fans like to point to James McClinton whenever someone talks about the size of a player on the interior of the defensive line but McClinton isn't the norm. That said, Dorsey surprised many and took to the gap control defensive style fairly well executing the defensive scheme as well as anyone on the defensive front. Dorsey started 11 of 12 games and should again be a factor this year as the Jayhawks.
Richard Johnson Jr - 6'3" 283 - Senior(97)
Johnson has been a contributor for the Jayhawks since his redshirt freshman year and statistically had his best year in 2010. From that standpoint he was the most productive at the position in terms of tackles and sacks but again the primary goal of these players a year ago was to tie up blockers, control a gap and let the linebackers work. Johnson has decent size, a good motor and he's reliable which should be enough to earn him significant time coming off three consecutive seasons where the Missouri native has seen starer minutes.
John Williams - 6'3" 290 - Junior(71)
John Williams started out with aspirations as a road grading guard, moved to defensive tackle during Manginogate and then dropped substantial weight to provide more quickness to his game a year ago. For whatever reason Williams has consistently been a player that has the word potential closely tied to his name, but he has yet to really produce to the level that some have been hoping. Word out of camp is that he has added weight back onto his frame and may be in a spot to contribute on a more regular basis as he enters his second full season at the position and gets a full healthy run at it.
Kevin Young - 6'3" 256 - Sophomore(90)
Young battled through an injury for most of the season in 2010 and started six games at end before gradually shifting to more time on the interior. A lot of the season was about learning the game and developing his game at this level but from a physical standpoint he did seem to have the ability to compete despite playing at well under 100%. The move to the interior will obviously bring with it the challenge of maintaining a higher weight, adding "good" weight and keeping the athleticism that had many excited about his future at end. If those thing can be accomplished and he can further develop his technique, Young is just a sophomore and could have a solid future. He'll definitely contribute and compete at tackle this season and it's a position that needs a player to step in and help provide solid depth.
Shane Smith - 6'5" 278 - Sophomore(78)
Smith is entering his third year in the program and has occasionally showed up on the two deep but has yet to see true game action. He was scout team player of the week prior to the Georgia Tech game which was clearly a good week for preparation in Lawrence last year. With a lack of depth at the position Smith will have an opportunity to compete.
Questions Headed Into Spring Practice
- Depth, depth, depth. Count em five players on the roster at the position and a rotation is a necessity at this level. Dorsey and Johnson are proven and seniors and John Williams should be ready to come into his own this year if he's ever going to. After that the hope is that Kevin Young makes the transition, which it looked last year like he was capable and then everyone needs to stay healthy.
- Does this group have the size to compete? The staff had targeted some big 300+ pounders at the position during recruiting but that is one of the hardest positions to land. Kansas didn't land one and now they are left with a bit of a void in terms of bulk. Kevin Young is heavier than listed and word is Williams has bulked up but is there enough size in the middle?
- How will other formations affect the rotation? If Kansas goes 3-4 or three down lineman as they did in passing situations a year ago does that ease some of the pressure on a traditional rotation? Last year that was a spot where Kevin Young played a lot late taking his quickness and experience at end to the interior. Julius Green might be a player that could work into a similar role as well and perhaps even a player like Pat Lewandowski with his length and added bulk as well.
Two senior starters isn't a bad way to start and in all honesty Dorsey and Johnson came along nicely throughout the year last season. Granted everyone would like to see a player that can change the line of scrimmage or get into the backfield on a regular basis, but these two executed in a new system and they are back for one more go around.
Now you add in a bulked up John Williams and Kevin Young, both now entering their second full seasons. It's reasonable for Kansas to expect some level of contribution from both with a possible major contribution from Williams who is entering his fourth year in the program. For Young it's an opportunity to battle for a spot where there is plenty of playing time and back at 100% heading into his second full season of action it's possible he could come along very nicely.