Still A Project

Notre Dame defensive line coach Jappy Oliver was sitting at his desk before a football practice last season, and glanced out the window and saw an interesting site. There was freshman Kallen Wade skateboarding, making his way to practice. Oliver just shook his head. Not long there after, he and the rest of the Irish defensive line were teasing Wade.

"How many Division I defensive linemen are running around campus on a skateboard," Oliver said cracking up.

"It's actually a carve stick," Wade said after practice on Wednesday. "It's supposed to simulate snowboarding and surfing."

So when the weather allows it, that's how the 6-foot-5 245-pound Wade gets around Notre Dame's campus. He says it's faster than riding a bike, not having to lock it up.

Growing up in Phoenix, Wade skateboarded all the time, but when he moved to Cincinnati in junior high, he dropped the extreme sport. When he got to Notre Dame, he saw other students on a board and decided to get back into it.

"When I came back here and met up with some of the guys from California, I just saw the board and had to get on it," Wade said. "I started taking off again. (Irish kicker) Nate Whitaker does it, (tight end) Will Yeatman skateboards a little bit. (Offensive lineman) Sam Young used to."

If everything goes as planned, Wade will eventually have to say he used to skateboard also. Like Young, he will be to heavy to move around and maneuver on a board.

Irish head coach Charlie Weis, and defensive coordinator Corwin Brown decided it was best for Wade to stay at defensive end in the new 3-4 scheme instead of moving to outside linebacker because of his potential to put on size. The theory has proved to be true so far, as Wade graduated from Withrow High weighing 210 pounds. Less than a year later, he has tacked on an additional 30.

The projected ceiling for Wade is around 280, 285 pounds.

"I tell my guys when I was at the Air Force Academy, there were times from February when you start you winter workouts until the fall, where I had guys gain 30-something pounds," Oliver said. "Not always good weight but they put it on, and they didn't have the height and the range that he has. I see him easily, I don't know how long it is going to take, but he will be 280 easily by next year. If he keeps working at it and keeps eating, because I told him not to miss any meals."

And Wade doesn't. On top of his three meals, he is slamming down a couple protein shakes a day and the occasional bar.

Wade, who's prep career started at safety, did play on the Withrow defensive line by his junior season. However in high school he was usually still the biggest and strongest player on the field. When he got to Notre Dame it was a different story. At the time, the 220-pound Wade was getting blown off the ball regularly.

"They were really intimidating, especially when you go against somebody like Ryan Harris," Wade said laughing. He didn't see any game action last season. "That's really bad, and like John Carlson."

Things are starting to change a bit this spring for Wade.

"He doesn't back down," Oliver said. "Before, he got blown off all the time. Now he's starting to fight back a little bit. Maybe getting comfortable with his body and getting bigger and stronger is helping him.

"He is playing bigger. I'll tell you what, the few things that I taught him fundamentally last year, I see carrying over. He has learned how to use his hands better. Hopefully he will just keep getting better and better."

When Brown was hired this offseason, Wade thought there was a chance he'd play outside linebacker in the new scheme.

"It didn't really cross my mind until I heard the other guys would be moving," Wade said. "I was like wow, am I going to be moving too. But I had a talk with him and he said I would be a better player down on the line. Just because of with my size and my potential to put on weight."

So the project continues. Every time Wade takes the practice field, he is shooting for the number-one spot on the depth chart, but he know it's going to take time. He is just learning, and trying to play physical on every rep.

"My strengths would probably be my two-gap technique," Wade said. A two-gap technique is a player's ability to read the quarterback or running back and attack the ball carrier. At 6-5, Wade has no problem seeing over most offensive linemen. "My biggest weakness right now would probably be just remembering what the play is."

And size, which is changing daily. Wade better enjoy that skateboard while he still can. Top Stories