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2014 Kansas Football Position Previews: Defensive Line

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Today we take a look in the trenches and preview the defensive line

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: This was scheduled to go up Monday but for whatever reason never posted, so I apologize for the gap in the position previews. Secondary and Special Teams should go up tomorrow

Though it could be said about nearly every other position group as well, Kansas hasn't had a productive defensive line since Mark Mangino left Lawrence. To be fair, some of that is Mangino's own doing, as the line was subpar in 2009, and the only productive lineman Turner Gill inherited was Jake Laptad. Still, the line play was never anything better than abysmal during the Gill years, and while it has trended upward over the last two seasons, it has still been the weakest point of the defense

The Jayhawks have generally used a three man front, with a BUCK position that generally plays on the line in a two point stance. While the BUCK is a hyribd position, it is generally considered a linebacker, though it's function is more getting into the backfield than dropping into coverage or plugging gaps. Today we'll focus on the down linemen.

2013: While the line couldn't be mistaken for great last year, it was able to make some plays. Despite playing in a scheme where their primary function was occupying blockers, seniors Kevin Young, Keba Agostinho and Jordan Tavai were able to combine for 15.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks. Not eye-popping numbers, but considering all down linemen combined for just 15 the year before, it does say something.

The problem is, Young, Agostinho and Tavai are gone. We do return our best nose tackle in Keon Stowers, but both end positions will see some change. Depth is going to be a huge issue for this group, as it is largely made up of unknowns and juco transfers.

Projected Starters

Defensive End: Ben Goodman (Jr)

Goodman has been productive from day one for the defense, having seen time at the BUCK position as a freshman and earning all 12 starts there last year. In doing so he came up with 7.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 broken-up passes and an interception. This year he's bulked up to 250 pounds and will move to defensive end. It's less of an attacking role than he's used to, but he's shown he has both athletic talent and good football IQ. As long as the weight gain doesn't slow him down too much, he should be able to find some success as a down lineman

Defensive End/Tackle: Andrew Bolton (Jr)

This position is labeled a "tackle" on the depth chart, but in reality it's also a bit of a weakside defensive end. Bolton came to Kansas last year as a 3 star juco recruit with offers from Iowa and LSU. Unfortunately, he was hurt before the season started, and the coaching staff elected to redshirt him rather than using up a year of eligibility on a partial season. What's troublesome about this is that he missed most of his sophomore year at junior college as well. We probably can't label him "injury prone" just yet, but those aren't good signs. We'll need him to stay healthy, because there is almost no proven depth behind him

Nose Tackle: Keon Stowers (Sr)

It doesn't show up on a stat sheet, but Stowers was arguably our best lineman last year. At 300 pounds, Stowers is able to tie up blockers and move linemen backward with some regularity. If he can play as well or better this year, he'll be a fine anchor to the defensive front. You won't hear his name called frequently, but he opens things up for the linebackers behind him

Second String

Defensive End: Kapil Fletcher (Jr)

Fletcher was a juco teammate of fellow KU teammates DeAndre Mann and Anthony Smithson. He was a 3 star recruit, and is already listed as Goodman's backup on the depth chart, but he had an unimpressive list of offers, and given that he didn't play high school football, there isn't a wealth on information on him out there

Defensive End: Daniel Wise (Fr)

As a true freshman, Wise is unlikely to see the field this year, but is a name to keep an eye on. We beat out Missouri and Texas Tech among others in his recruitment

Defensive Tackle: Tyler Holmes (So)

Currently listed as an "or" second stringer with TJ Semke, Holmes played in three games last year as a redshirt freshman

Defensive Tackle: TJ Semke (Jr)

Semke is a former walk-on who has bounced around between offensive and defensive positions. Coming into this year, his only game experience has been on special teams. He's turned some heads on the coaching staff in camp so far, and is in the running for playing time behind Andrew Bolton

Defensive Tackle: DJ Williams (Fr)

This true freshman also chose KU over some impressive offers, including Miami, Oklahoma and Missouri. He has the size to play right away (6'5, 292), so if his technique comes along, he may not end up redshirting

Defensive Tackle: Lay'Trion Jones (Fr)

Also a true freshman, Jones comes in with a little less recruiting fanare than Williams, but just as much size. At 6'3, 295 pounds, Jones could potentially see time as emergency depth if injuries strike

Nose Tackle: Tedarian Johnson (Jr)

Johnson saw increasing playing time in his sophomore year, and became Stowers' primary backup. He'll be in the same role this season. He was able to record 11 tackles in 10 games in a backup role, so Johnson does have some ability to get involved in plays from the nose tackle position