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KU end is all business

Senior Onyegbule hopes to crack starting lineup

Senior Maxwell Onyegbule is vying to become a starter at defensive end for the Kansas football team.

Senior Maxwell Onyegbule is vying to become a starter at defensive end for the Kansas football team.

August 18, 2009

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Maxwell Onyegbule might have a body for football, but his head is all business.

“I’d like to go into banking or accounting or maybe law school,” says Onyegbule, Kansas University’s 6-foot-5, 258-pound senior defensive end from Arlington, Texas. “But I’m trying to get through football first before I starting thinking about that.”

We’ll get to the football part in a minute.

First, the bean-counting.

Onyegbule is a economics major who professes a lifelong interest in — surprise! — money and numbers.

But don’t try to get Onyegbule debating the merits of Keynesian or supply-side economics. He’d rather roll up his sleeves and dive into a spreadsheet instead.

“I like the number-crunching part,” he said. “I don’t know why. I’ve always been decent at math. I’m just good with numbers and stuff.”

Div. I football is a numbers game, too, and so far Onyegbule has been on the short side of the ledger.

He played in 13 games each of the past two years, but as a reserve only and on special teams.

“I have to step up, be as good a player as I can be,” Onyegbule said of his approach to his senior year. “… I have to become a leader, step up, just play.”

Impressive physically, Onyegbule has shown a knack for behind-the-line tackles.

Of his 30 career stops, eight were for losses, and six were sacks, so he could factor into the Jayhawks’ stated desire to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

“Our goal this year in terms of the defensive line is to be a better pass-rushing defensive line,” coach Mark Mangino said. “The more pressure that we can put on with just four guys gives us more options of what we can do in coverage that we would really like to do. That isn’t going to mean that we aren’t going to blitz because blitzing is a part of our system and is a part of who we are. We believe that we are going to be better pass rushers than perhaps we were a year ago.”

Early depth charts had Onyegbule starting at left end and Jake Laptad (6-5, 258, Jr.) at right, with Jeff Wheeler (6-7, 260, Sr.) and Dustin Spears (6-5, 245, Sr.) backing up. Quintin Woods, a 6-5, 230-pound junior transfer from Bakersfield Community College who originally signed with Michigan, also is expected to be in the mix.

“The competition on the line is pretty heated,” Onyegbule said. “We’ve got a lot of players capable of playing.”

Could this be the year Onyegbule — the 2006 defensive scout player of the year — finally cracks the starting lineup?

“Maybe,” he said. “I’m a hard worker and a pretty smart dude.”

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