The next position on the defensive line is another one that the Jayhawks have struggled to find consistency over recent years. Actually consistency might not be the word, perhaps a playmaker. Since the departure of Charlton Kieth the Jayhawks have lacked any speed off the edge and anyone with the ability to cause a little havoc for the quarterback. With the explosion of the spread, that has presented more than a few challenges.
In 2010, a few names surface that have the ability to change that. Again depth is a major concern at the position, but the top level talent, at least on paper, looks like it has the chance to make plays and develop with time.
Projected Depth Chart
DE: Jake Laptad, Keba Agostinho
DE: Tyrone Sellers, Kevin Young, Quinton Woods
??: Steven Foster
Laptad is the lone proven commodity at the position. The senior is coming off an injury in the offseason that limited his participation, but back at full strength he will be expected to provide a consistent presence on the strongside.
Laptad has good size, experience and is a smart player that's been around the proverbial block in the Big 12. 2010's success will hinge on Laptad staying healthy and allowing the coaching staff to manufacture depth around him. That's a Trobushism in case you were wondering.
Sellers entered last season with a bit of a weight problem. As many true freshman, he needed to add plenty of it. A stint at linebacker, a long look at tight end and it appeared that Sellers might never get a shot at the position he was recruited for.
Enter the new staff, an opportunity to reprove himself and an offseason spent working as hard as possible to add the necessary weight and things seem to have paid off. Sellers isn't big by any means, but he has good speed and serviceable size on the weakside to provide a pass rush. I still think this spot is up for grabs and Kevin Young could very well win out, but for the moment Sellers is proving plenty of people wrong.
Young's story is well documented. He's improved himself physically. Spent time in two springs and now two fall camps at the division one level and he's ready to take the next step. Young will see significant time. He can fill in at both spots for depth and for my money I'd bet he still could start come opening day. Competition is good however you slice it though, and having Seller and Young compete for starter minutes as redshirt freshman could mean some longterm stability is on the way at the position.
The great mystery, another junior college recruit that was hyped as the next great thing at Kansas. Woods is long and lean, very athletic off the edge and can be a speed rusher. Getting his mental grasp and desire for the game caught up with those tools seems to be the challenge. Woods could be a situational player in the Kansas rotation and a very successful one at that, but at this point it's still very much a wait an see approach.
Agostinho is a true freshman that looks very likely to play in 2010. He's impressed Coach Torbush throughout fall camp and into recent practices. He's very well put together for a true freshman and that's a big first step in being able to contribute. As to a true level of confidence in him filling in for Laptad in the rotation, I can't say I'm overly optimistic just yet. Hopefully he'll prove me wrong and give the position another player for the future.
Ironman football anyone? Foster is the starting fullback and now finds himself working defensively as well. It's definitely realistic that he could accomplish both considering either position is mostly situational in the way Kansas will use him. He did a fairly nice job last year and he's as big as anyone minus Laptad listed.
Pat Lewandowski, Jaqwaylin Arps
Two freshman that could factor in with any injury or if someone end up being a bust. Lewandowski has been looked at on the offensive line and defensive tackle as well so it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him somewhere else before it's all said and done. As for Arps, it's been pretty quiet in terms of his camp and the early verdict. That's to be expected in most instances and a true freshman grabbing a redshirt at this position is definitely the rule and not the exception.
Looking Beyond 2010
At the moment, what Kansas has now is what they'll have next year minus Laptad and Woods of course. Kansas needs to add players at this position as bad as anywhere.
It's all fine and well to be able to look at the top of the depth chart and feel good about things. With Young and Sellers both looking at major minutes in 2010, most would probably feel they can make strides in 2011 and be ready to anchor the position, but until Kansas can develop a solid rotation with more options and a consistent pass rush, the defense will have to work that much harder.