LAWRENCE — It was the first weeks of summer, and Kansas sophomore Ben Goodman was summoned for an unplanned meeting with KU coach Charlie Weis. What could this be about, Goodman wondered.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Goodman, a sophomore linebacker, was under the impression hed be moving to defensive end for the upcoming season, and hed already started eating accordingly. Late-night food runs. Gorging on anything and everything. Goodman was focused on adding close to 20 pounds to his frame, and hed already started to make headway.
But then a mini crisis struck the program in late May. Junior college standout Chris Martin was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. Weis would eventually dismiss Martin from the squad. And the Jayhawks were left with a sizeable hole at the pass-rushing Buck linebacker spot.
And that, Goodman says, is how he ended up in the football offices in early June.
We called him in and said, Whoa, not so fast, big boy, Weis says. Time to go on a diet. He went from eating like a pig to starving himself.
For a moment, Goodman says, he was frustrated. No more feasting on fourth meal. No more loading his plate after morning workouts. Instead of bulking up to 270 pounds, hed spend the summer in his own version of Celebrity Fit Club.
I had to eat salads, Goodman says.
But more than two months later, the strict regimen has paid off. Goodman, who is down to 245 pounds, is listed as the starter at the Buck position, a key role in a revamped KU defense.
I just prayed that Id have the opportunity to play this season, said Goodman, a native of Beaumont, Texas. And an opportunity presented itself.
Goodman may not have the physical gifts of Martin, a former five-star recruit who wowed teammates with a blinding mix of strength and speed during spring practice. But Goodman does have some experience in the system. And after playing behind Toben Opurum last season, Goodman learned something about putting in your time and being patient.
Ben Goodman is one of the hardest workers on our team, junior linebacker Ben Heeney said. Thered be plays where Chris Martin would amaze you, like Howd he do that? He was almost superhuman or something. But the next two plays, hes on the ground or loafing or something.
But with Ben, hes gonna go hard every single play and hes not gonna take a play off. ... So as far as that goes, Id much rather have Ben on the field than Chris.
Goodman, of course, is just one of many new starters on a defense thats trying to shed its label as a Big 12 punching bag. The KU defense finished with just 12 sacks last season, and the inability to pressure the quarterback manifested itself in plenty of problems over the last three seasons.
During the offseason, Weis addressed the problem on a number of fronts. First, he landed junior college defensive tackle Marquel Combs, one of the top-ranked juco players in the country. In limited time on campus, teammates say Combs has shown the athleticism required to plug the middle and get after the quarterback.
Weis also tinkered with the Jayhawks base defense. KU will begin series in a nickel package, playing with an extra defensive back, and Weis is hopeful that the change will help the Jayhawks combat the high-tempo offenses in the Big 12.
The tempo of the game is dictated as going from almost no-huddle defense to match no-huddle offense, Weis said. And (you) go from base defense to a nickel defense to even dime or quarter or something even more extravagant to get guys on the field that are secondary-type players. You dont have time to flip-flop them all over.
To help implement the new system, Weis has indicated that linebackers coach Clint Bowen would take on a more important role in coordinating the defense. Bowen, who served as the Jayhawks defensive coordinator under Mark Mangino in 2008 and 2009, has a wealth of experience defending Big 12 spread offenses, and Weis says Bowens role could be just as important as defensive coordinator Dave Campo.
For now, though, after just three practices, the Jayhawks are still working on the little things, like pursuing the football and playing at the right pace.
Goodman, who will have to hold off senior Darius Willis and junior Michael Reynolds at the Buck position, is still working on the finer points of his new role.
Its a lot of responsibility, because youre a defensive linemen and a linebacker, Goodman said. So you have to know both positions. You have to know the D-line schemes and you have to know coverages.
Now I get to see the whole field, I get to kind of diagnose the play before it starts.
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to email@example.com .