Blakesley Making His Mark

Caleb Blakesley arrived at Kansas in 2005 after a standout career at Ottawa (Kan.) High School. The promising defensive tackle was ranked as the top collegiate football prospect in the state by one scouting service, and expected to eventually make his mark on the Jayhawk program.

After redshirting his freshman year and playing in 12 games and recording five tackles in 2006, Caleb Blakesley started all 13 games last season. He made 13 tackles, including two for loss. Blakesley had a sack against Nebraska and also broke up one pass on the season. It was a solid, yet unspectacular sophomore campaign.

Now a fourth-year junior, Blakesley is finally ready to fulfill his promise and become a true impact player on the D-line. He started the season with a bang against FIU last Saturday, tying for team lead with a career-best six tackles, including one tackles for loss. He also recorded one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.

KU coach Mark Mangino was quite impressed with Blakesley’s performance. Mangino said Blakesley has made great strides since last season.

“One of the biggest things for Caleb is he’s playing more with his knees bent and playing at pad level,” Mangino said. “He understands the value of having leverage as a defensive lineman. The low man wins every time. He’s a big guy (6-5, 292 pounds). Football is a funny game. You recruit these real big guys and you want them to play low. You want them to bend their knees, that’s leverage.”

After dominating in high school with his pure size and ability, Blakesley has indeed learned proper technique and fundamentals at Kansas, where he battles offensive linemen his size or even bigger. Blakesley has matured as a player and also learned from his coaches and fellow teammates, including last year’s senior All-American lineman James McClinton.

“This is the start of my fourth season,” Blakesley said. “The first couple of seasons was kind of a slow process. It really took me a while to get my groove and get things going. I’ve had really good coaches and teammates, guys I’ve leaned a lot from. Hopefully, everything can click, not just for me, but our whole team. We have a lot of high expectations this season. Hopefully, we can put it all together and keep it going.”

Blakesley is part of a solid defensive line which goes nine deep. Blakesley (left tackle) teams with right tackle Richard Johnson and defensive ends Russell Brorsen and Jeff Wheeler in the starting lineup. Backing them up are defensive ends John Larson (started all 13 games last season), Jake Laptad and Max Onyegbule, and defensive tackles Jamal Greene and freshman Darius Parish.

Blakesley said this is a very competitive group which sets high goals for themselves.

“We have have a real good, deep group,” he said. “I think we are a lot deeper than years past. We have some new guys that are stepping in and performing really well. We have some guys that have been here a couple of years that are really stepping up and filling roles.  A lot of guys are pushing each other and working hard and trying to make everyone better. It’s a team game and we’re trying to improve every day.”

Without McClinton, the D-line is pushing each other even harder. Blakesley said he feels a special responsibility this season to lead the defensive line.

“I feel like I really need to step up and kind of fill the void that was left by James,” Blakesley said. “That’s pretty big shoes to fill. ... It’s weird to know that I’m the oldest defensive tackle on the team now. It’s a different situation for me. James was always a vocal leader, and I’ve never really been the guy that talked a whole lot. Hopefully, actions and playing kind of speak louder than words.”

Blakesley will continue to lead by example as KU heads into its Saturday night showdown with Louisiana Tech, a team which upset Mississippi State, 22-14, on Aug. 30.

“I think Louisiana Tech is going to provide some challenges overall,” Blakesley said. “They started the season out strong.  They come in with a lot of confidence and some momentum. They have some real good skilled guys. They look good as a team, but it is going to be the same as every other game. We prepare and get ready for them just like everyone else.”

Blakesley hopes Memorial Stadium is packed again, just as it was in the season opener versus FIU with a record crowd of 52,112.

“It was pretty exciting,” he said. “When I first got here, you’d see some big crowds two or three times a year in the big conference games. You’d see kind of average crowds (the rest of the season). It’s good to see (that) the expectation and excitement for football is higher now. It makes you feel like the program is going in the right direction and people are real excited about everything that’s happening and everything that’s taking place.”

And if Blakesley continues to play at a high level on the defensive line, that will give KU fans even more reason to get excited and wave the wheat at Memorial Stadium. Top Stories