Purdue defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen grades players on a 0 to 100 scale after each game.
The following evidence suggests his grades might be rigged. Senior defensive tackle Kawann Short has never scored 100.
This perplexes, bothers and motivates the 6-foot-3, 315-pound senior.
“Coach Wolthausen tells me I’m doing a good job,” Short said. “But there’s always room for improvement. I grade each week around 85 and 90 percent. I would like to get 100 before the season is over. I’m going to do try to do that.”
The later Short gets there, the better for Penn State.
Blocking Short isn’t an easy task. But it’s a necessary one if the Nittany Lions want to leave Ross-Ade Stadium today with a victory.
Ranking high on Penn State coach Bill O’Brien’s list of gameday priorities, is containing Short, a lane-clogging, run-stuffing, NFL-ready player looking to lead the Boilermakers to a turnaround. To complicate matters, Short has a sturdy sidekick in 6-foot-2, 302-pound junior Bruce Gaston.
“Their two inside tackles are very, very good players,” O’Brien said.
Short, who leads the Boilermakers with nine tackles for losses despite having to shed multiple blockers on a regular basis, isn’t a one-year wonder. Assuming the ankle he injured in last week’s loss at Minnesota permits mobility, Short will make his 46th career start today.
That’s four years of flustering players such as steady Penn State junior guard John Urschel, one of the men responsible for handling Short. Last week’s tussles with Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins, perhaps the Big Ten’s top draft prospect, offered a primer for blocking Short.
Urschel’s plan? Don’t expect perfection.
“When you go up against talented defensive linemen like that, they are going to make plays,” Urschel said. “We just tried to minimize plays last week and this is going to be a similar story this week. It’s great to be able to play in a conference where week in and week out you are playing against extremely talented defensive linemen who are obviously gong to be playing at the next level for many years.”
Short could be playing at the next level this year. But the East Chicago, Ind., native bypassed last year’s NFL Draft to return to Purdue, where he ranks 15th in school history with 34.5 tackles for losses.
The total is astounding considering team’s scheme around him and defensive tackles are instructed to move bodies to help teammates make big plays. Any tackles for losses they notch are considered bonuses.
Always a player with immense physical talent — he can dunk a basketball despite his wide frame — Short has started fulfilling his vast potential, according to Purdue coach Danny Hope.
“I like everything about Kawann,” Hope said. “He’s a guy that I think has some ambition about him. He’s been a developmental player.
“He was a long ways away from being a top NFL prospect potentially when he came out of high school. So I give him a lot of credit for the effort that he’s put forth in becoming the player that he is.”