Moving over to the defense, the side of the ball that has most Kansas Jayhawk fans nervous. Mention any phrase related to defense in recent years and the blood pressure rises, to say it hasn't been a strength would be an understatement. In 2010 depth continues to be a concern across the board and while reports have been positive out of camp relating to the starters, it's nearly impossible to take anything more than a wait and see approach.
Starting things off, the guys on the interior. Defensive tackle was looking fairly positive this spring. Jamal Greene was an absolute animal in offseason workouts, squatting in the 700 pound range. John Williams was injured but expected back at full strength for his second year, Darius Parish moved back to his natural position and Pat Dorsey, Richard Johnson Jr. and Travis Stephens were a trio of slightly lighter more athletic players that could contribute. Throw into the mix a freshman that had potential to push for playing time and things were looking up.
A pair of mistakes by Greene and Stephens, a longer adjustment period for Parish and Williams and a career ending diagnosis for Jeremiah Edwards and suddenly the Jayhawks have a projected depth chart that consists of the two smallest defensive tackles on the team. This is no longer a position on the upswing, but a serious concern for the Big 12 schedule.
Projected Depth Chart
DT: Pat Dorsey, John Williams, Randall Dent
DT: Richard Johnson Jr, Darius Parish, Randall Dent
Perhaps it's just too easy to doubt a player that's 6' 273. That just doesn't scream Big 12 defensive tackle at any point. However, the reality is Pat Dorsey has been the only consistent player sitting on top of the depth chart at this position since Turner Gill took over.
Whatever it is that he provides, he obviously has made an impression and perhaps his quickness give him an edge in a new defensive scheme. If there is ever a game to gauge the value that Dorsey can provide, it's going to be Georgia Tech.
Richard Johnson Jr.
Two seasons ago, Johnson Jr. was a very solid contributor for Kansas as a redshirt freshman. After a slight dip a year ago, there will be plenty of opportunity for Johnson to reassert himself for the Jayhawks.
In all reality he could be the most critical player at the position for Kansas to be able to consider the season a success. If Johnson can provide a steady contribution at the position, it could do a lot to eliminate the major concerns that currently exist in terms of depth.
Williams made the move from offensive guard to defensive tackle a season ago and unfortunately at times looked like he was wearing cement shoes. He was able to get a push and change the line of scrimmage, but there were times where he just couldn't make the play.
2010 brings about a major change for Williams. The once 330 pound offensive lineman is a lean, mean 290 pound defensive machine. Ideally he pushes for starter minutes and leads this unit, but he's still unproven since the switch in the middle of 2009.
Parish is probably the most physically gifted of the group. His move to offense in 2009 was a mistake. Only a few short months after watching a true freshman stand up and change the line of scrimmage in a bowl game goalline stand, Mark Mangino moved him to offense. The good news? He redshirted.
2010 sees Parish back at his natural position, now it's a matter of getting the motivation and effort to a level that he can be a factor. If the staff can find the right buttons to push and get things to click, Parish can be a pro prospect.
A redshirt freshman, Dent cracked the most recent two deep. During his recruitment, Dent was sought after, evaluated, contacted and offered by some fairly impressive programs. By any stretch, Kansas landed a good one. On paper he still appears light at just 275, but he's 6'5" with good strength and in time he should be expected to be a player. Here's hoping that time might have come earlier than expected.
An all state offensive lineman from New Mexico, Smith spent his first year at Kansas as a walk on scout teamer. He was named scout teamer of the week for his efforts during Texas week, and this year he finds himself a few ill timed injuries away from serious playing time.
Looking Beyond 2010
Needless to say this is a position that needs to be addressed. Kansas doesn't lose anyone, but heading into next year or any subsequent year from here on out without addressing the position would be a mistake.
Pat Lewandowski, Keba Agostinho and Jaqwaylin Arps are three freshman that could all in time slide from end to the interior, but early on Agostinho is pushing for time at end. Lewandowski is the most likely player to make the move, but a big time recruit like junior college prospect Maurice Couch is someone who would have the ability to come to Kansas and start from day one. That needs to be priority number one along with linebacker for Coach Gill and his staff from here on out.