Why Kirksey Loves Facing the Triple Option

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Senior Kenneth Kirksey has a huge role Saturday against Navy in defending the unique offensive style of the Midshipmen. The starting nose tackle discussed why his position is so important and what makes him the right man for the job.

The cut block – a block below the waist designed to knock the defender to the ground – will be a consistent feature for the Navy triple option. Navy uses the cut blocks to make up for size disadvantages on the offensive line, and to create running holes for the fullback.

Rutgers – and Kenneth Kirksey are ready.

The starting nose tackle, known for his ability to do backflips after victories, plans to use that athleticism as a counter attack.

“I’m pretty athletic, everybody knows that,” said the 6-foot-1 senior nose guard. “I think when I get cut, I should be able to get back up instantly and get back into the play again.”

Kirksey played against Navy in 2011 but did not see a lot of action behind Scott Vallone and Justin Francis. The same goes for a 2012 victory over Army behind Vallone and Jamil Merrell.

Studying the tape hard, Kirksey said he loves to face triple option teams.

Why? Because “it’s hard but I love challenges,” he said.

“The way Navy runs their offense, it’s an up-front battle,” Kirksey said. “The two guys, the tackle and the nose tackle, they have to be really on their keys because they’re getting cut. They’re getting doubled. There’s pass situations. There’s a lot of things to practice because the nose guard has to be the most in-tuned guy on the field.”

The nose tackle is not a position that racks up statistics, and for Kirksey the challenge as a senior is to stay healthy. Kirksey missed the majority of 2013 with a lower body injury, but will receive a medical redshirt.

Kirksey has just one tackle in his three starts, but was the key up front in shutting down Penn State’s offense and the wildcat.

“Everything starts up front and if the d-line wins, we win,” Kirksey said in looking ahead to Navy. “… Up front, I have to be the most dominant player on the field basically like every week. … When I do get cut, I have to pop up and run to the ball and tackle the fullback every play.”

Defensive line coach Jim Panagos, known to show energy in practice, is at a higher level this week in trying to prepare the front four for a significant challenge, Kirksey said.

“Every day – one day we do one step wrong, we get yelled at,” Kirksey said. “He wants us to succeed and be our best on the field.”

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