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Archive for Sunday, May 26, 2013

Opinion: Kansas rushes to better D-line

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

May 26, 2013

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Please keep in mind that when writing about football players who have not yet played a down in the Big 12, fingers tend to grow wickedly optimistic.

The residue of the thrilling years with a packed stadium watching Todd Reesing zigzagging all over the place until a receiver breaks free deep and doesn’t need to break stride to catch the quarterback’s perfect heave makes us crave more of the same.

The tendency is to equate what you want to happen with what you think will happen.

Now that you have been cautioned not to bet your Cadillac that Charlie Weis is on the brink of returning the Kansas University football program to the winning ways of Mark Mangino, proceed at your own risk.

Here goes: More than just the receiving unit appears ascending rapidly on a rags-to-riches path. If the only surprises are pleasant ones, by the year 2014, the Jayhawks’ defensive line could so thoroughly harass quarterbacks that it will be referred to for decades to come by its as-yet-created nickname a la the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain and Minnesota Vikings’ Purple People Eaters.

Reminder: We’re dealing in best-case scenario here, but there is smoke behind such a fiery hope.

Two of the four D-linemen counted on to reverse the fortunes of a program burdened in recent years by the quietest pass rush in the BCS drew loud praise from Weis during spring football. Their names are Chris Martin and Keon Stowers, who made his debut last season.

The other two, Andrew Bolton and Marquel Combs, are expected to join the program for summer conditioning.

Combs already has made a name for himself here. After he committed to Weis, he annointed himself the program’s unofficial lead recruiter of juco talent and even gave a Twitter nickname, “#DreamTeam2013,” to the class charged with turning the program into a winner. Combs has more than a mouth that he also uses to feed often enough to put 305 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. Rivals.com ranked him No. 10 juco recruit in the Class of 2013. (ESPN ranked him No. 1). A slew of SEC and Big 12 schools wanted him.

Bolton, so long and muscular, looks the most like the sort of defensive end you see flying at NFL quarterbacks. LSU might have stolen Bolton from KU if he had not suffered a knee injury during the 2012 season. Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma also reportedly also had interest in him at various points. Bolton has been clocked in the 40 at a swift 4.8 seconds. Rivals surely would have ranked Bolton higher than 91st had he not suffered the knee injury.

Martin, set to man the opposite end from Botlon, is a sculpted 6-5, 260 and has run the 40 in 4.65. Rivals ranked him 13th among juco recruits. During the spring, Weis said efforts to block Martin with one man were futile and added of Stowers that he was “ruining practice” by getting into the backfield so regularly.

Finally, a pass rush.

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