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Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wanted: defensive playmakers

April 1, 2010

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The question was put to Turner Gill about what sort of defense he prefers to play.

“Aggressive,” he said. “Attacking. We want to be a defense that people know that we can run and we’re aggressive.”

Until Gill finds out more by watching the players practice daily, he won’t know if his team will have the personnel to play that style. Will the players be fast enough to recover when they take chances?

“Hopefully, we can find two to three guys who are so-called playmakers,” Gill said.

In recent years, Kansas University has had a good defense when it has had playmakers, not such a good one when it hasn’t. Charlton Keith, Nick Reid, Charles Gordon, Aqib Talib, Brandon Perkins, James McClinton, James Holt. Those guys were big-play guys, creating havoc and giving the football back to the offense at key times.

In 2009, Kansas had one terrific football player on defense. Darrell Stuckey could be drafted as high as the second round, but he was more sound than spectacular as a senior. The search for a playmaker on the defense led to constant personnel changes, none of which uncovered anyone with a knack for making the big play.

Free State High graduate Ryan Murphy looked for a second like he could be the guy, led the team with two interceptions, but quickly found a permanent place back on the bench after getting turned around badly on a deep ball and giving up a touchdown. Jake Laptad had his moments rushing from the edge, as did Maxwell Onyegbule, especially early in the season.

The search is back on.

A couple of safeties from Dallas, highly recruited red-shirt freshman Prinze Kande and sophomore Lubbock Smith, are candidates.

“Lubbock’s going to have a great year, I feel like,” receiver Bradley McDougald said. “The way he’s been working out in the weight room, he’s put on some weight, and his speed is up.”

Said Smith: “I feel like I’m a ball-hawk type of a player. I feel like if there’s an opportunity for me to make a play, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that play.”

Smith mentioned Greg Brown, a sophomore from Cedar Hill High in Texas, Dezmon Briscoe’s high school, as a potential playmaker.

“Also, Prinze Kande likes to fly all over the place,” Smith said. “We’re both from Dallas, so we love to hit. Dallas is all about hitting, contact, football. And we’ll be able to make more plays because we’ll be playing man-to-man as well as zone. When you’re playing man to man, it’s easier to make a play. We’re going to make a lot more plays on defense.”

Kande liked the mention.

“That’s what I like doing, standing out in a crowd,” he said. “I like being a playmaker, and that’s what I try to do in practice every day. I like big hits. I like hitting people. That’s what I love doing.”

Kande mentioned as playmakers seniors Chris Harris, Laptad and Justin Springer, who was coming on at linebacker in a big way as a sophomore before going down due to a knee injury. Athletes generally fare better in their second season back from knee surgery. Keep an eye on Springer, and keep your fingers crossed that playmakers will surface. If they don’t, it will be tough to field a strong defense.

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