Kansas football position units: No. 3, defensive tackles
In order for a football team that doesn’t get to pick first in recruiting to turn from doormat status to competitive, lightly regarded prospects must develop into football players.
Kansas will always need a DeeIsaac Davis here and there to fill roster gaps by doing whatever possible to improve.
Late last season, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen explained how it was that Davis went from Eastern Arizona Community College non-prospect as a freshman to KU contributor at defensive tackle, with a year at Highland CC in between those two stops.
“He needed to change his body. Call it what it is. He was too heavy," Beaty said. "So in the offseason, (he changed it with) summer conditioning, the weight program, his diet. He had a little stiffness in his hips, so he needed to get more flexible. He’s always stretching. He’s always doing extra things. He really took all of his weaknesses and went to work on them and get better at that part of it.”
Davis needed to change more than his body.
“Just learning to play, learning you can’t just stand up and overpower people anymore,” Bowen said. “Those dudes are just as big as you are now. You have to use some fundamentals and he improved those.”
And that’s how the Wichita native who as a juco freshman had Hampton and Texas-San Antonio recruiting him became a credible Big 12 football player.
One year later, enter J.J. Holmes from Chipley, Fla., and Hutchinson Community College. Listed at 6-foot-3, 335 pounds, Holmes looked to be carrying more weight than that during spring football; too much weight. But nobody ever called this athlete blessed with considerable raw strength, quick feet and loud explosiveness a non-prospect.
Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State, Kansas State, Missouri and a slew of other schools were hot on Holmes’ trail, but after spending two years getting to know KU recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry, Holmes couldn’t bring himself to say no to him. Perry has that all-important trait in recruiting.
On signing day, head coach David Beaty cited Holmes as the choice by several assistants as the “dark horse,” of the recruiting class.
“He is one of the better D-lineman in junior college,” Beaty said.
Isi Holani had trouble getting down to playing weight last season, his first at KU after a juco career, but also moved well for a man his size (listed at 6-3, 325) and emerged late in the season.
And then there is Daniel Wise, nothing short of the school’s best defensive tackle since James McClinton earned second-team All-America honors in 2007.
Wise, listed at 6-3, 290, will play at 300-plus pounds this coming season and projects as a first-team All-Big 12 selection. He’s quick enough to play defensive end at times, plays with great fire and emotion, and projects as an NFL player.
Defensive tackles need more rest than any position, making depth at the position essential. Senior Jacky Dezir, in his third season in the program, also will rotate in to lend breathers. This is a very well-stocked position. Defensive ends and linebackers make the plays that make crowds roar and D-tackles do the dirty work to make those plays possible, so there is no shortage of grateful D-ends and 'backers walking around the football complex.