Gridiron Newcomers: Pat Lewandowski

Position changes happen all the time during the spring, as coaches experiment with players in new roles, trying to find that perfect fit. Rarely do they work out as well - and as quickly - as did redshirt freshman defensive end Pat Lewandowski's brief sojourn at defensive tackle. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound lineman solidified himself as one to watch heading into the 2011 season.

Okay, so maybe Pat Lewandowski isn't a true freshman.

He's still a redshirt freshman, yet to see the field for a single snap as a Kansas Jayhawk, and the title of this series is "Gridiron Newcomers" after all.

A technicality? Maybe. But the reality is there are a number of newcomers just like Lewandowski - be they transfers or redshirts - who will be called upon to make an impact this season.

Lewandowski was one of the final commitments to the recruiting class of 2010 - reeled in by Head Coach Turner Gill and his staff in the brief window of time between his hiring and National Signing Day.

At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, the Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley West product seemed the physical ideal for a defensive end. And given the issues the Kansas pass rush has experienced since the graduation of Charlton Keith and Jermail Ashley (Yeah, it's been a while), fans were eager for his rapid maturation.

Then a funny thing happened. It's not uncommon for coaches to shift players around during the spring, experimenting with news positions and new looks. With depth along the defensive interior a concern, Head Coach Turner Gill shifted Lewandowski down to tackle, just to see how he looked.

And, lo and behold, he looked good. Really good. Though he's far taller than your typical behemoth in the trenches, and not quite as heavy, his quickness off the ball and length proved problematic for offensive lineman almost immediately.

Following the 10th practice of the spring, Gill was effusive - for him, anyway - in his praise for the lanky defensive lineman.

"We've had one guy one defense who you haven't heard a lot about, Pat Lewandowski," Gill said, April 18. "We are thinking about moving (him) to defensive tackle. he's been a defensive end for us, but in the scrimmage we put him at the defensive tackle and he responded in a good way. I think he's a guy that's coming on strong."

Later, with the spring season drawing to a close, he lauded him yet again.

"Pat Lewandowski is someone that has been a surprise and has stepped up and made some good things happen as far as a pass rusher, more from the outside than the inside," Gill said.

So impressive was he that he earned himself a starting spot during the April 30 Spring Game at defensive tackle, and performed well. While playing a ton of reps he recorded three tackles and broke through into the backfield on a number of occasions, causing havoc.

Later, it was announced that he would stay at defensive end, but one has to believe this isn't the end of the line for Lewandowski at tackle. With the Jayhawks rumored to be toying with a 3-4 defense, his physical makeup and abilities would appear to be ideally suited to playing the end in that formation – where the responsibilities of ends are more akin to those of tackles in a traditional 4-3 alignment.

Either way, wherever he plays, the emergency of another possible pass-rushing has to bring a smile to the faces of Gill, defensive coordinator Vic Shealy, defensive line coach and co-DC Buddy Wyatt and the rest of the coaching staff. Top Stories