Kuhn Looking to Lead

Markus Kuhn spent the year on the sidelines as depth on the defensive line allowed the coaches to redshirt the junior. But after a year away from game action, Kuhn is ready to get back on the field.

Markus Kuhn did not have the kind of season he expected last fall.

In fact, Kuhn didn't have a season at all. But it wasn't a year lost to an injury, it was a year lost in the depth chart. After playing as both a true freshman and a sophomore, a deep and talented pool of defensive linemen gave the coaches the luxury of redshirting Kuhn as a junior.

"I missed playing with my friends and some of the guys I've played with before that have left now, but I definitely understood the decision from the coaching staff with the personnel we had," Kuhn said.

The toughest part, according to Kuhn, was going through the rigors of spring and summer practice only to be told he wouldn't be playing in the fall. It's a rare occasion that a third-year player takes a redshirt when he's entirely healthy, but Kuhn tried to get the most out of the situation.

"If you play and practice the entire spring and entire summer and you're in great shape – sure you want to play, especially if you played two years," Kuhn said. "But I don't let anything discourage me. It happened and it happened for a reason and now you have to make the best of it. You can't let it drag you down."

So instead of pouting about spending the year on the sidelines, the German import set to work at getting better. That started in the weight and film rooms, where the junior added 25 pounds to his frame and tried to get a better understanding of the defensive tackle position.

"I also spent another season going against the best guys we had last year," said Kuhn. "I'm just a better player and more experienced. Since I really didn't play football for that long – I started when I was 15 years old and the league over there isn't as competitive as it is here – so that extra time definitely helped me. I made the best out of it and now I'm just looking forward to next season."

According to head coach Tom O'Brien, that was the main reason for Kuhn redshirting. Injuries and attrition forced O'Brien to play Kuhn as a true freshman despite just a few years of football experience and none on the defensive line (Kuhn played linebacker in high school). The coach hoped that he would be able to spend time watching and learning.

"We tried to get [Markus Kuhn] over there where he could just play football and kind of learn football," said O'Brien. "Understand what blocking schemes are, what people are trying to do to you so that he would be better suited to play these next two years.

"Now whether we have accomplished that or not – the proof will come out this fall. That was the intention with us, to let him settle down and learn more about the position and more about himself and go against the good offensive lineman day in and day out."

Kuhn said that he and the rest of the defense have spent the spring focusing on fundamentals – working on improving individually and as a defensive unit.

"I'm one of the guys who now has to step up and make plays," he said. "We have to compensate for a lot of the good guys we had but every year you have good guys leaving but you have good guys coming so it's just working hard and getting everybody on the same page.

"It's my fourth year now; I would have been a senior if I hadn't redshirted. I feel like I've been around these guys a lot, and I'm going to try to lead by example."

Still, despite all the work he's put in over the last 12 months to become a better player, Kuhn admits that there is nothing like the gameday experience. But the redshirt junior defensive tackle isn't nervous about getting back out on the field... he's just anxious.

"It's so different to experience the game speed when you play against somebody else," Kuhn said. "When you are playing in front of 50,000 people there is so much difference. I'm super excited – I can't wait until we play again."

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