Kansas Football Spring Football Outlook: Defensive Tackle

Photo Courtesy KUSports.com

The all important defensive tackle position. Since James McClinton in 2007, Kansas hasn't really ever regained solid footing in this area and it's led to a bit of an erosion on the defensive side of the ball. The new staff has placed a big emphasis on this group and they are bringing in competition this fall. But for now, and for the spring game, we're looking at a thin group without much in the way of a proven commodity.

Spring Candidates

71 Williams, John 6-3 298 Nose Tackle JR (2L) Tulsa, Okla./Washington HS

John Williams started out as a guard, then moved to defensive tackle and because he is a bit of a bulldozer it definitely looked like a move that had potential. Last year was the year believed to be his potential breakout year. Kansas had a thin defensive line, Williams was an upperclassman and he would anchor the group. Unfortunately an injury ended that hope and now we're back to playing the waiting game. Waiting and hoping that this year might be the year for John Williams. He's a player that definitely has the potential and player that has put together some very solid stretches in the past. With the help that is on the way this could be a good year for Williams.

78 Smith, Shane 6-5.5 292 Nose Tackle JR (1L) Albuquerque, N.M./Eldorado HS

Smith played admirably for a walk on last year and he seems to have positioned himself to compete for minutes this year. I guess the big question is who steps up. From a pure talent standpoint Smith probably isn't in the rotation, but from an effort standpoint he'll work himself into a position to compete for minutes in the rotation.

64 Dent, Randall 6-4 305 Nose Tackle JR (1L) Dallas, Texas/South Grand Prairie HS

Everyone is still waiting on Randall Dent. He signed with Kansas and received some high praise from those within the program. His career since then has seen him bounce from defense to offense and now back again. That isn't always a good thing for player development and Dent hasn't exactly jumped off the page at any point during his career. The good news for Dent and really everyone here is that this is a fresh start. Dent is now an upperclassman, he has good size and he has always had the potential. Hopefully the new style that Charlie Weis is bringing to the program will help players like Dent turn a corner and contribute on a higher level.

90 Young, Kevin 6-3 277 Defensive Tackle JR (2L) Olathe, Kan./Olathe North HS

Young has battled injury, a position change and a weak strength and conditioning program. It's easy to forget how high everyone was on Young coming out of high school, but if you remember Bo Pelini wanted him and Nebraska has put together some pretty good defensive units in recent years. Just as we've pointed to players on the offensive side of the ball as potential benefactors with this coaching change, Young could be a big one on the defensive side of the ball. He certainly has to own part of that if it's going to happen, but he's entering his third year of meaningful minutes which means he's experienced and hopefully he'll be healthy and physically ready.

91 Lewandowski, Pat 6-5.5 275 Defensive Tackle SO (1L) Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West HS

Lewandowski is the latest uber-hyped incoming player at Kansas. It seems like we tend to overvalue youth and 'newness' in college sports and I sometimes think that's amplified at Kansas because we have a basketball mentality where one player might come in as a freshman and make a big splash.

Now none of this is to say that Lewandowski can't be a player, but we just didn't see it last year as many of us were expecting. That said, he did battle an injury all year that he sustained during fall camp. That doesn't make life easy. I think it's pretty clear that he can develop legitimate Big 12 size and he does have a good work ethic and motor. It will be fun to watch him develop further in a more disciplined program.

Incoming Notables

Jordan Tavai, Ty McKinney, Tyler Holmes and Keon Stowers. As KUSports said a few days ago, the cavalry is on the way. Tavai is the one with the best chance to start when the season kicks off and he'll immediately push for time this fall. McKinney and Stowers are physically prepared and come from junior college backgrounds so there is some hope for both of them. Holmes is probably a more long term project, but given the lack of depth at the position it would be foolish to count anyone out.

Position Synopsis

All you have to do is look at our small recruiting class and the emphasis place on the defensive front to understand that this was an area that was immediately identified as a weakness. Weis and Campo have gone on record as saying that they still don't feel that it has been fully addressed but hopefully we're moving in the right direction.

Obviously there are two parts to this, the defensive ends being the second. But this group is pretty important for a whole host of reasons and until Kansas can find a rotation and a group of players that can make this position serviceable, the question marks will remain when it comes to defensive improvement.

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