Short to challenge Irish offense, special teams
Allan Joseph | Thursday, September 6, 2012
It won’t be difficult for Irish sophomore quarterback Everett Golson to spot his biggest challenge in Saturday’s home opener against Purdue. It’ll be lined up right in front of him in the form of Boilermaker defensive tackle Kawann Short.
“Short’s going to come off the ball really fast,” Irish senior guard Chris Watt said. “He’s going to get after it and get after us.”
Short, a senior captain and preseason All-America selection, leads the Boilermaker defense by virtue of the experience he has accrued in starting all 38 games in his Purdue career. A physical presence on the line of scrimmage, he burst onto the national scene after Purdue’s 2011 victory over Ohio State with a three-sack performance that garnered him National Defensive Player of the Week accolades. The 2011 All-Big Ten selection is joined in the middle of the defensive front by junior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. Irish coach Brian Kelly said his experienced offensive line will have its hands full with the duo.
“Obviously Short and Gaston are two very, very good defensive linemen – as good as we are going to see during the year,” Kelly said.
Although the Irish offensive line knows they will have their hands full with Short, junior offensive lineman Christian Lombard says going up against a strong Notre Dame defensive line in practice has helped him prepare.
“He’s a long-armed guy, very fast off the ball,” Lombard said. “He’s a great player … going against guys like [sophomore defensive lineman Stephon] Tuitt and anyone else on our team has me prepared for him, but he’s definitely a great player too.”
Short and Gaston anchor an aggressive Boilermaker defense, but they may make their biggest impact on special teams, where they form the core of the Purdue kick-block team. Short has blocked four field goals and two extra points in his career, including one of each kind in Purdue’s season-opening 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky. Gaston sent last year’s Ohio State win to overtime by blocking an extra point. Short said his success blocking kicks relies on his fellow linemates, including Gaston.
“The guys beside me really help me out by getting a push,” Short said after the season opener. “Once we get the push, I basically just get my jump and try to knock it down.”
Purdue coach Danny Hope said it was more than that.
“I think Kawann has great hand-eye coordination,” he said. “That’s a big part of him not only getting some push against the opponent’s [extra point] and field goal teams, but also be able to time it up and get his big paw up at the right time and bat the ball down out of the air.”
As the Irish offense looks to continue its momentum in the rushing game from last week’s romp over Navy, Watt said the offensive line will have its hands full with the preseason All-American.
“We’re always working to get better individually and as a unit, so we know what we need to do,” he said. “In the back of your mind, he’s a big guy. There’s definitely times when we’re going to have to be heavier on him than any other guy.”
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