White House press secretary Robert Gibbs might have the toughest job in America, but Kansas University defensive coordinator Carl Torbush can’t be too far behind.
Credit head coach Turner Gill for not tolerating academic slackers, including dismissed defensive end Travis Stephens and linebacker Jacoby Thomas, but it’s not going to make Torbush’s already difficult challenge any easier.
At linebacker, beyond starters Drew Dudley, Steven Johnson and the talented, driven Justin Springer, KU has no experience. At defensive tackle, it’s conceivable the Jayhawks don’t have a single player on the roster who would start for another Big 12 team.
Kansas ranked 76th among 120 Division I-A schools in total defense and 85th in scoring defense in 2009. Particularly against the run, it’s tough to see how things will get much better.
Oklahoma and Texas aren’t on the schedule, but nearly every week a proven running talent will look to exploit KU’s weaknesses. Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt rushed for 1,037 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. As a freshman in 2008, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III rushed for 217 yards against Washington State and had three other 100-yard-plus rushing efforts.
Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas gained 1,265 yards on the ground last season. Iowa State’s Alexander Robinson is coming off a 1,195-yard season. Texas A&M running back Christine Michael earned Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2009. Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson, more than just an accurate passer, also threatens defenses with his running ability.
Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr. will try for his third consecutive game against Kansas with more than 100 rushing yards. Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2008.
Missouri’s Derrick Washington, who ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 41-39 victory against Kansas in Arrowhead Stadium, returns.
What’s a defensive coordinator with so little depth at linebacker supposed to do?
“That’s one good thing about having multiple packages,” Torbush said. “If we need to go to a 3-3 or a 4-2-5, whatever we need to do to make sure we manufacture depth, to make sure we’ve got fresh people on the field at all times. And also, if we don’t have enough linebackers, we can play with two linebackers. If we don’t have enough defensive linemen, we play with three linemen.”
With Jake Laptad at right defensive end and Kevin Young and Tyrone Sellers competing at the other end, pressure from the edges could be put on opposing quarterbacks, but the middle of the line looks much sketchier.
Darius Parish is carrying too much weight. John Williams, a former offensive lineman, still is getting a feel for the position. Richard Johnson Jr. has plenty of experience but hasn’t gotten into the backfield with any regularity.
“Pat Dorsey catches my attention,” Torbush said of the 273-pound junior from Houston. “He’s very undersized, but he’s got a great center of gravity. He’s very, very quick. He understands blocking schemes. They’ve got to block him inside or he’ll make some plays.”
Making plays is one thing a coordinator can’t do.