|Junior defensive lineman T.J. Semke stops senior running back Taylor Cox during a team session of fall camp.
|Returning Defensive Line Career Stats
Fall Camp Central
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Thursdays practice marked the conclusion of week one of fall camp for Kansas football. The Jayhawks have a little over a week and a half of camp remaining. Prior to the start of practice, requested defensive linemen were made available and interviewed by the media at the Anderson Family Football Complex.
According to head coach Charlie Weis, the need for defensive linemen who simply take up space is a thing of the past. Now, with spread offenses and tempo playing a key role in games, it is a necessity to have not only depth on the defensive line, but fast and athletic players as well.
“The one thing that didn’t take long to figure out was that if you don’t have athleticism in this league, you don’t have much of a chance,” Weis said. “If you don’t have athleticism on defense, they’re going to spread you out and they’re going to go fast and you’re going to have to be able to play in space. That includes the defensive linemen. You used to be able to play defensive linemen, just put big slugs in there, you can’t do that anymore because you’ll get gassed.”
Senior Tedarian Johnson agreed that one of the goals in the position group is to get faster, while still being strong and tough enough to hold up against the run.
“We’re trying to get up field, and get penetration,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to mix toughness with athleticism. Whatever the call is, we just try to execute it.”
Weis and his coaching staff not only made an effort to go out and find those athletic defensive linemen, they also tried to groom some who were already in-house. Perhaps one of the biggest changes came by way of the coaches moving former BUCK Ben Goodman to the defensive line.
With Goodman added to the rotation, and athleticism doesn’t look like an issue for the Jayhawks. Senior Keon Stowers looks to lead the group after being named a captain in 2013, as well as Johnson who also contributed last fall. Defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt acknowledged the fact that Stowers will see significant snaps, but playing time is a wide open competition among T.J. Semke (junior), Kapil Fletcher (junior), Andrew Bolton (junior) and freshmen D.J. Williams and Lay’Trion Jones among others.
“Nobody has a secure spot,” Wyatt said. “Obviously some guys have an advantage because they’ve been here and have played and they have experience playing defense and experience playing in the Big 12, but competition makes everyone better. That’s what we’re looking for – competition.”
A former walk-on, Weis thinks very highly of Semke who has rotated around different positions during his time at KU. Semke was recently awarded a scholarship and looks to be a large contribution to the defense this season.
“I bounced around several positions,” Semke said. “I started out in the defensive line room and went to the tight end room, spent some time with the running backs and got in as much time on special teams as I could.”
Weis added on Semke, “He has the respect of both the coaches and the players. Don’t be surprised to see him on the field.”
A junior college player that figures to mix into the rotation is Fletcher who is 6-3 and 275-pounds and had six sacks at Hartnell College last year. Fletcher also spoke highly of the competition he has seen along the defensive line.
“It’s good,” Fletcher said. “Competition is always there. Everyone is hungry and everyone wants to play. It makes us better as a unit, because we know there is no room for us being comfortable because there is somebody behind us even more hungry than us, so we have to keep pushing.”
Even with a relatively inexperienced group, Wyatt is still intrigued by the depth of the position and plans to incorporate both veteran and newer players into the trenches.
“I’m happy with our frontline guys,” Wyatt said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that we don’t know a whole lot about what they can do at this level, but I feel like we have some dominance. The room is full, we’ve got some older guys and some younger guys, and I’m excited about that.”
After practicing one time on Thursday, the Jayhawks will take to the practice fields for their second two-a-day session on Friday with a practice at 9 a.m. At 12:00 p.m., requested quarterbacks and wide receivers are scheduled to meet with the media at the Anderson Family Football Complex.
Fans can get their first opportunity to see the 2014 edition of the Kansas football team on Saturday, Aug. 16 for Fan Appreciation Day. The festivities will take place at Memorial Stadium beginning at 1:30 p.m. Following practice, those in attendance will have the opportunity to get autographs from players and staff who will be set up around the newly renovated field inside the stadium.
To stay up to date during fall camp follow the Jayhawks online via 2014 Fall Camp Central and on Twitter @KU_Football.
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