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March 14, 2013This year Kansas is putting in a new defensive system that it hopes will significantly improve their run defense. It will be more a true 3-4 defense than what they played last year.
The players describe the difference saying that last year Toben Opurum was more of a defensive end who stood up where as Chris Martin appears to play more of a natural buck linebacker position. Martin will likely have more responsibility playing in space and defending the flats, but it's still early in the spring installation process to get into more detailed specifics.
"We are kind of basic right now," Martin said. "I think when we come back from spring break they are going to start throwing a lot more stuff at us. They want to give us this first couple of weeks to see how we are going to retain everything and taking it all in."
Another change in the defense this year is that the defensive ends won't be switching sides as much. For example, where as last year Keon Stowers could either line up on the left side or right side of the defensive line depending on a host of factors. This year he will permanently be on the right side and Jordan Tavai will be on the left.
"It helps us out because we are not doing as much thinking and it's easier to put more stuff in," Stowers said.
Earlier in the week on Tuesday's practice the defense focused on installing some of their blitzing plays. Players complimented Ben Heeney and Darius Willis on their ability to get to the quarterback. Thursday's practice consisted of putting in the dime package for the defense. The consensus among the players on the play of the day was when Heeney blew past Randall Dent and put a big hit on running back Taylor Cox.
"He shot out of there like a bat out of hell," Martin said. "Heeney is a crazy man. He covers some ground and was laying some hat out there today."
One of the interesting battles so far has been the one-on-one matchups between Martin and right tackle Aslam Sterling. Earlier this week Sterling claimed that he had been getting the upper hand but on Thursday Martin had a chance to respond.
"That's when we didn't have pads," Martin said. "It's a little bit different now."
The linebackers are also learning some new nuances as Clint Bowen slides over from being the safeties coach to lead the group.
This year they are putting more of an emphasis of following their offensive line keys compared to last year where they focused more on reading the running backs. The players said this change will help them because where as running backs can fool the defense using misdirection first steps the offensive linemen have fewer options so it's easier to react.